Susanne Briggs – Celebrating her Sparkle

The animal rights and arts worlds were both diminished late last month with the sudden loss of Susanne Briggs. Photo: Ensemble Theatre/Supplied.

Lynda Stoner, CEO of Animal Liberation, shares a personal account of her friendship with the late Susanne Briggs.

I am fortunate to have been close friends with Susanne Briggs for around three decades.  Not long ago we asked each other where we had met and were unable to pinpoint the location or the date, suffice it to say it didn’t really matter as I felt I had always known her and she likewise with me.

Merran Regan and Susanne Briggs at the Ensemble Theatre’s 2020 launch.  The Ensemble published a moving media release in recognition of her many years working in the Sydney Arts community. Photo: Ensemble Theatre/Supplied

We had so much in common.  Both lefties.  Both animal rights activists for the majority of our lives.  Both of us loved “bling” and shared a mutual enjoyment of sparkly earrings.  It gave me huge pleasure at the beginning of each year to start to find sky blue (her favourite colour) dancing twinkly earrings or clutch bags or even giant face watches that she preferred, in time for the coming Christmas or birthday.  We both loved theatre and I was fortunate to be her handbag on many opening nights at the Ensemble.  She was the PR person and this was her favourite role in the many incarnations of Susanne’s professional life.  Susanne loved all who worked there and in turn, was beloved by them.

Susanne Briggs as a child. Photo: Jamelle Wells/Supplied.

We joked around about our “boyfriends,” hers was Christopher Hitchens and mine was David Marr but of particular note, Eddie Izzard was the man she intended marrying.  I almost had to nail down her customary beautiful glitter shoes when we saw Eddie Izzard live, sitting far too close to the stage for me to feel entirely sure she wouldn’t run at him.*

On the same page too our beliefs in freedom of the press and our support for Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning and our disappointment when Chelsea’s visa was not granted in time for her to be there personally.  We were also movie addicts and another perfect night out was dinner and the movies.

Susanne Briggs celebrating the launch of The Court Reporter by her friend Jamelle Wells.  Photo: Jamelle Wells/Supplied.

But the glue that first joined us and grew and grew was our commitment to the animal rights movement.  Susanne and her mother Gloria were among the first handful of people to join Dr Christine Townend’s Animal Liberation organisation here in NSW in 1976.  Other Animal Liberation organisations around Australia grew and became the first true animal rights groups in the world, all based on the now oracle-like book Animal Liberation by Professor Peter Singer.

Susanne at an Ensemble Theatre work function, with Mark Sutcliffe, Shaun Rennie, and local North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman. Photo: Karen Watson/Ensemble Theatre/Supplied.

Both of us continued to be bewildered by once having shared the atrocities happening to trillions of animals every year whether through being farmed for meat, skins and milks and used in laboratories and for so-called entertainment like circuses and rodeos, that others didn’t automatically make the small changes in their lives to help prevent these things.  Susanne’s great passions back then were ending live export, getting people to change to being vegetarian (the word vegan was barely used four decades ago) and getting birds out of cages.  She became adept at whisking bird and cage out from under the noses of the jailors and many a free-living bird had her/his quality of life enhanced by her courage.

Susanne was involved with sit-ins at piggeries and battery hen facilities to raise awareness of the brutality in these factories, animals deprived of any freedoms and the subsequent mental and physical toll on them just for cheap food.

Susanne Briggs and her mother Gloria were both committed to the Animal Liberation movement. Photo: Jamelle Wells/Supplied.

She was a director of Animal Liberation NSW for around 6 years and the President for four.  She continued to support the work being done by this organisation and Animals Australia.

I am glad she lived to see the boom of veganism across the globe.  In four short decades so much changed since those first days she joined the movement.  She lived to see circuses with animals being relegated to the specks of dusts of history and the promise this new federal government made to phase out the live export of sheep and hopefully into the not-too-distant future the end of all live export from Australia.

Our last emails to each other were to celebrate Alex Greenwich’s Bill going through for dignity in dying, making this long-held dream of hers come true.

Susanne was a pioneer and a woman whose life was rich with many passions and to her friends-family who remain, our lives are less for the loss of her.

Susanne Briggs at Animal Liberation’s 40th anniversary celebrations, held at Giant Dwarf. Photo: Elizabeth Usher.

Lynda Stoner is CEO of Animal Liberation, and was featured in The Sentinel last year.

* NB since this experience, Eddie has more recently publicly confirmed the use of ‘she/her’ pronouns, although emphasising that she is gender-fluid and that it is not a demand.   

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