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Austrian Empress inspires red parasol parade planned to mark International Women’s Day

Dr Sarah Lowndes with a red parasol in front of Cromer Pier. Dr Lowndes is organising Esplanade: A Procession for Women to take place in the town to mark International Women’s Day 2018. Picture: Stuart Anderson

Dr Sarah Lowndes with a red parasol in front of Cromer Pier. Dr Lowndes is organising Esplanade: A Procession for Women to take place in the town to mark International Women’s Day 2018. Picture: Stuart Anderson

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Women carrying red parasols are set to parade through Cromer for an International Women’s Day event inspired by a legendary Empress of Austria.

Empress Elisabeth of Austria - also known as Sisi - visited Cromer in 1887, when she was 50 years old. She is pictured here aged 30. Picture: Public domain Empress Elisabeth of Austria - also known as Sisi - visited Cromer in 1887, when she was 50 years old. She is pictured here aged 30. Picture: Public domain

Dr Sarah Lowndes, who last year launched an arts venture called Kunsthalle Cromer, is organising the March 8 event called Esplanade: A Procession for Women.

Dr Lowndes, who lives near the seaside town, said she thought up the project after reading about a visit to Cromer by Elisabeth of Bavaria - also known as Sisi - who became Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary when she married Franz Joseph I in 1854.

Dr Lowndes said: “She was a non-conformist who didn’t take well to court life; preferring instead to absent herself to go riding and hunting and to travel widely.

“When Elisabeth visited Cromer she was 50 years old, and deeply concerned for her safety due to the growing anarchist movement in Europe - perhaps she came to Cromer seeking some peace.

“She brought her horses and even her cows and every morning a cow would be brought onto the Promenade beneath her window in the Lower Tuckers Hotel where it was milked, and the uncontaminated milk taken directly up to her suite. She spent many long hours on the beach, reading and staring out to sea.”

The procession of 100 women and girls, which will start at 5pm, will wend its way from the zigzag path on Cromer’s West Promenade before heading to the pier and onwards to the Hotel de Paris.

The event will also mark the centenary of some women - those who were householders over the age of 30 - getting the vote in Britain.

Dr Lowndes said: “I’ve had a great response from Norfolk girls and women, ranging in age from students to pensioners.

“Many of these girls and women are taking part in the procession with friends and in cross-generational family groups, with grandmothers, mothers and daughters all joining in to promenade in Cromer together on this special day.”

Dr Lowndes said the red parasols would represent celebration, pride and unity on International Women’s Day, and they would also evoke a sense of revolution and the Victorian tradition of promenading. She said there still may be some parasols for women wanting to take part, email kunsthallecromer@gmail.com for more details.

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