She Grrrowls does Edinburgh PBH Fringe Free Festival 2017

After my first fringe run, it’s hard to know what I’m feeling, but, I’m so glad that I’ve done it. I viewed it as a learning experience, and wanted to sell some of the 100 books that were delivered to my hostel. I could just about fit the 50 books that were left in my suitcase, so I feel like I did what I set out to achieve. In celebration, I also got my first two tattoos: a heart on my wrist, because that’s where I wear it, and leopard print on my shoulder, to symbolise She Grrrowls.


In terms of learning, I think I could have flyered better in terms of exit-flyering more rigorously. I did well with the Wee Blue Book, but the people taking them weren’t necessarily my audience, and I feel like people who would have liked it weren’t always reached. I tried to pace myself, but as a lone wolf, I saw more shows than people, and could have put myself out there more in terms of meeting other poets etc. Tim Wells bumped into me flyering and stressed the importance of networking, but it isn’t my best skill. For this, I was grateful for people like John Osborne who invited me to hang out at the Book Festival, which I didn’t know much about. Sadly, coming down with a cold meant I had to propose getting well again, but towards the end of the month I was also able to hang out with Tyrone Lewis and Jake Wild Hall from Boomerang Club, and met a few people through them. It was actually BC, along with Joel Auterson who inspired me to take She Grrrowls to the fringe having seen they did it the previous year.

The Fringe is so expensive to attend, even with a free venue, and so I wasn’t expecting to make a profit, or break even, but just hoped to have some money to help me get by. It had put me out of pocket for many months when working in Spain, and it was thanks to a week of teaching work in Wimbledon that I even had money to buy food. I have no savings. The only thing to alleviate the stress what when I secured a couple more weeks of work for September, and started to do interview for tutoring jobs from my hostel kitchen. I was paying over £800 for a mixed 6-bed dorm,  and although this resulted in many sleepless nights due to snoring guests, the location was perfect, and it was pretty clean with a well-equipped kitchen. Doing a solo show I think I’d need something better, but I managed to survive it.

Initially, I was nervous about flyering, and not too excited to have to host the show. I found I surprised myself in both these areas. Flyering was okay when I could be myself, and there were hundreds of others doing the same. Hosting each night felt like I was training a set of muscles. However, there were a few times sexism reared its head. Once a man spoke to me about my event then asked to shake my hand. Except he brought it to his frog-like lips and kissed it. I felt violated. Then there was a time when a guy walked past, whipped a flyer out my hand only to throw it to the gutter – normally, not much to think of, except it seemed a deliberate reaction to the word “feminism” emboldened on the flyer. Just after this a group of guys I recognised (possibly fellow poets) approached me. At first they seemed friendly, but what they said to me was strange, hostile and intimidating. I doubted they would behave the way they did to a man, so regarded it as an act of sexism. And it wasn’t just me: Fay Roberts wrote an account for this problem here.

I did a few feature sets at nights such as Raise the Bar: Poetry Versus and That’s What She Said. Another thing I would have done would be more features and open mics, but this required more planning than I had realised, and I wasn’t quite sure where to look.  I did suffer from “fringe flu” at one point, which was when the wonderful Jane Bradley, host of TWSS, gave me a lovely bag of goodies like grapes and tea and lozenges. When I wasn’t flyering, seeing shows, or doing shows, I was writing reviews for The Norwich Radical (one, two, and three), and applying for tutoring jobs for when I returned to London. This means I’m going to soon become self-employed when I start taking on tutoring clients.

I saw so many incredible shows that it would be impossible to list them all, but I will try now, and did try to tweet about them all during the fringe (categories may cross over).

Comedy

KMT by Athena Kugblenu

Elsa by Isobel Rogers

What Women Want by Amy Annette

Sticky Digits by Pamela DeMenthe

Galpals

The Lol Word

Adele is Younger Than Us

Hurricane Katie by Katie Pritchard

How to be Good at Everything by Next Best Thing

The Conscious Uncoupling by Rosie Wilby

All KIDing Aside by Christel Bartelse

Molesting the Corpse of Traditional Masculinity Since 1987 by Henry Ginsberg

London Hughes: Superstar

Shit! I’m in Love with You Again by Rachelle Elie

 

Poetry

Above the Mealy-Mouthed Sea by Jemima Foxtrot

Circled in the Radio Times by John Osborne

Frankie Vah by Luke Wright

Anxiety and Animal GIFs by Hannah Chutzpah

My Cloth-Eared Heart by Melanie Branton

Neil Hillborn

That’s What She Said

Porky the Poet

Fifty Grades of Shame by Sophia Blackwell

An Evening with an Immigrant by Inua Ellams

No Rest for the Lizard by Gecko

A Matter of Race

Struggle With Purpose by Patrick Shand

Loud Poets

 

Theatre

This Really is Too Much

Happy Hour by Jack Rooke

Socially (Un)acceptable

Brutal Cessation

Show Me The Money by Paula Varjack

Jane Doe

Quarter-Life Crisis by Yolanda Mercy

Good Girl by Naomi Sheldon

The Vagina Dialogues

Side Orders

Syd & Sylvia by Claudia Jefferies

At the end of the run I had a couple of nights still, catching the rest of the shows I could, and trying to do some non-fringe stuff. Having had a picnic for dinner on Calton Hill the night before, I treated myself to a lovely meal at MUMS after climbing Arthur’s Seat on my final day, and had my first try of haggis with a Full Scottish Breakfast the next morning (I spread it on toast and finished it, but I’m more of a hash brown girl). After cooking for myself everyday, aside from exactly two portions of chips and gravy, for the whole month, it was a worthy reward. I’d also been veggie the whole time, so meat was quite a treat.

Now it’s onto the next chapter – the book launch at The Five Bells in New Cross on Wednesday 20th September!

flyer-launch

 

 

Feminism in London Conference: Part 4

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At the end of the conference we gathered for the final speeches and the Emma Humphreys memorial prize giving. Much of it was very moving, as well as being informative on some of the work that is happening with regard to violence against women. I didn’t feel it packed a punch in the way that other moments of the day had for me, but this was probably just because the opening talk had been so important and eye-opening for me. Along with the talks on shadeism and men’s role in Feminism, I’m now looking to build upon areas where there are gaps in my knowledge and experience, as opposed to reinforcing what we already know. That said, it is always needed to rally up support with speeches like this where there is a resurgence of energy, to keep us going, to keep us fighting.

I also really enjoyed Sabrina Mahfouz’s poem, which incorporated different parts of the day that she had experienced. Possibly out of paranoia, I had been wondering why I was not seeing the successes of some other poets, and worried that maybe I have been to vocal about my views, that I was being labelled to extreme. In person, I have faced little opposition, but still some opposition, to She Grrrowls – I’ve been told that the logo is scary and off-putting, that I’m creating a problem in what is already an equal community, simply for featuring women in the arts at my event. So, it really helped me to see Sabrina Mahfouz up there, proud to be a Feminist, yet also managing to be an extremely successful poet, amongst other things. Since feeling this fear that I would be jeopardising my career by being so outwardly Feminist (a fear that was expressed in the conference to explain why women would not use the label), I cannot express fully my gratitude at seeing Mahfouz take to the stage and be involved in the Feminism in London conference.

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After the conference, we headed to the SU bar for the after party. I was joined by Rose Swainston and Maeve Scullion (pictured above) to represent Kid Glove. Kate Smurthwaite was also featuring; I mentioned something I found problematic in my earlier post, but other than that, she was the performer I most enjoyed that evening. I also enjoyed the other poetry act, Mabel, and the women who sang Spanish and English songs on her guitar. I felt proud after knowing ‘mujer’ meant ‘woman’ (sadly, due to Duo Lingo, not my Spanish heritage). Without wanting to dwell on negatives, I was really taken aback by a woman who, after a poem on personal experience of a rape-joke, called out ‘I’m not clapping to that, it was awful.’ And soon after, said to another woman ‘are we going?’ She was very near the stage and she didn’t try to hide what she was saying – quite the opposite. I felt close to tears, but as we were rotating poems between the three of us, I had to put it to the back of my mind and tell myself she must not have understood the poem. I stayed for a bit of the Stepney Sisters, but left early as I was tired and had a long journey to go back to the suburbs. I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference and wonder where I will be on the journey of Feminism then.

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Feminism in London Conference 2014: Part 2

Parts 2 and 3 deal with the morning and afternoon workshops that I attended at the Feminism in London Conference, which were on Shadism and Men’s role in the Feminist movement. In the first workshop I wanted to learn from the experiences of WoC (Women of Colour). As I am White European, I didn’t feel I needed to relate any experiences, despite the encouragement from Femi that all people present should speak if they wanted. Sure, I may have had things to say about friends, and about how having a Spanish name and curly hair has coloured my experiences, but I just didn’t think what I had to say was of that much relevance in such a short space of time, other than reinforce the points that were already being made in connection to shadism. I mostly listened, and only commented at the end when I urged people to help with the education, suggesting the TES website as a place to upload texts that could be read for English that deal with issues of race and gender etc. As again and again education is highlighted as being so important in opening a dialogue on these issues, I feel I am currently in such a privileged position and I need to take action.

Just to start off, in case you aren’t aware of what shadeism/shadism means, then I’ll give a quick definition. It is the discrimination of individuals based on skin tone, which can be both intrinsic and extrinsic to the race or community. It is heavily connected with the false perception that the closer an individual’s skin is to white, the more superior they are to other members of their race. It is something steeped in historical oppression, and often connects to class and other issues. Its place within the conference is also due to the fact that it often relates more strongly to women, due to the pressures of beauty standards. A film exploring just one aspect of this issue is the documentary ‘Good Hair’, presented by Chris Rock, which I saw a few years ago and was mentioned during this workshop. You can watch the trailer below… although it’s advertised here as a comedy, it’s definitely mixed with a whole dose of tragedy as humour is used to explore something that really is no laughing matter. [Edit! My friend, Natalie Cooper, drew my attention to the fact that ‘Good Hair’ is actually a rip off of ‘My Nappy Roots‘.]

Some of the points that were raised included (text in brackets shows my own points):

-The need for colour-blind casting in schools and in the wider world of acting.
-Comments on hair and touching without permission.
-Stereotypes: people saying they do not “sound Black” or white friends saying they do not think of them as Black.
-Older relatives handing down bleaching cream to young children.
-Members of the family being treated differently due to skin tone.
-The importance of language. It was strongly felt that to label oneself Black and have pride in that was vital in making a political statement.
-In a similar vein, it is up to the individual whether to a mixed race person identifies as either Black or White. This connects to people picking out features that go into either category, and it was asserted that it should not matter, should not be asked.
-The importance of encouraging girls to keep their hair natural until old enough to make an informed decision.
-Self-hatred is an important issue, which is why it is important to still tell young WoC that they are beautiful.
-WoC need more visibility in the media, advertising, in high street shops etc. (To ignore beauty and consumerism is a privilege.)
-The fascination with White people wanting to be tanned. It is that they want to be darker, but do not want the problems that come with being a WoC. White people need to understand the politics of bleaching is very different to wanting to tan. (However, seeing a mixed race tone as the ideal is problematic in terms of it perpetuating shadeism.)
-There are assumptions that Black people don’t care about appearance, when statistically they spend more money on this.
-White people should be able to describe someone as Black, yet it was also noted that this should not be to the extent that these White people do not see anything else.
-Stickers on things such as bleaching or “lightening” products (it’s the same thing, people, which is why I was disgusted at a poster I saw at a sk:in clinic). Consciousness raising.

By the end, it felt like we had only tapped the surface of shadism. We tried to conclude things, to come up with solutions and action plans, but each time women would return to speak more about their experiences. I don’t feel it is my place to even do more than share this list of points, but I hope that this post will be informative for white people, and that WoC who were unable to attend may be able to voice their own experiences and open up discussion, between friends, family and online platforms etc. Lastly, I have since come across an article by Victoria Bond which stated something that resonated with me: race is a spectrum, not a dichotomy.

Feminism in London Conference 2014: Part 1

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This year at the Feminism in London Conference  I was holding a stall and performing at the after party. My wonderful Mum actually held the store most of the day so that I could enjoy some workshops. In hindsight I wish that I had told her to come along to some of the goings on. I was there promoting She Grrrowls and selling books and other merchandise, such as my Nasty Little Intro. I’m going to divide it up into different posts, or else it will be very long!

From the very first talk of the day, this year’s conference felt very important for me. Last year I wrote a blog post where I detailed my thoughts on the ‘Stop Porn Culture’ talk and I was unsure on my views on porn. I hate to say it has actually been my boyfriend whose views have swayed me into thinking that porn is always exploitation of women. This year it was forcefully said that the Feminist movement needed to agree on this issue and it made me wonder whether my desire to accept that there may be such a thing as Feminist porn is actually too much of a compromise. I still feel like I need to do more research in this area. Even speaking on a similar issue with my boyfriend this week, he didn’t see the connection between the exploitation of women in porn with those on the streets. I guess we both still have some figuring out to do!

What I was talking about was one of the biggest revelations of the weekend for me. There was a distinction made between the language of calling what I would normally call a sex worker, with calling someone a prostitute, and then again with the expression ‘a prostituted woman’. This phrasing highlighted the fact that prostitution is not something that a woman does, but rather, as the verb suggests, something that is done to her. So, even when a woman is not trafficked into the sex trade, it is always going to be a form of exploitation. Some may argue that this is not the case. This is why I would really like to see some statistics on the role of choice in sex work, though I’m aware that it isn’t always going to be quantifiable as it is such a complex matter. At the conference it was argued that to call it ‘sex work’ is to legitimise the work. I feel that to legitimise it and for a sex worker to say ‘I am a sex worker and not a prostituted or trafficked woman’ actually comes from a privileged position. This is where other kinds of intersectional systems of power come into play (something that was discussed last year). How much can ‘choice’ be a factor, I wonder, when a woman has suffered physical and sexual abuse, when a woman suffers from mental health issues, when a woman is addicted to drugs, or when a woman is living in poverty? Are there any women out there who are not white, middle class women who call themselves sex workers? Is selling your body ever something to be empowered by?

Now, to be empowered is something else that was being discussed in this talk. At this point I will say that throughout the presentation I felt like an outsider. It was suggested that the opposition between second and third wave Feminism wasn’t generational, but ideological. However, I cannot help when I was born, that my first experience of any form of Feminism (that wasn’t in history books) was through the Spice Girls and riot grrrl music. I started to feel like I was in an environment where I would be judged for my liking the colour pink, that I shave my legs and get Brazilian waxes, and that I have performed pole dancing routines (not because it was empowering, but because it was fun). I felt that the second wave was being held up as the “right” form of Feminism, and that third wave was too problematic to take anything good away from. I will always be grateful to the Feminists that come before me, but I have always taken issue with some aspects of second wave Feminism, notably the transphobia that has been exhibited by those such as Germaine Greer. On the other hand, more liberal Feminists such as Caitlin Moran have also came out with some problematic things (and, for the record, you need more than a vagina to be a Feminist in my opinion – something asserted during this opening talk).

Negativity aside, I hadn’t thought about radical Feminism and liberal Feminism too deeply. I had always just thought I was a Feminist and not considered the different types within the movement, which may be something I should think more about. I had another revelation whilst listening to the talk. This was with regard to Feminist literature and how the focus has changed through the waves. It was outlined that during the second wave the focus was on the collective liberation of women, whilst now there is more emphasis on the empowerment of individuals. I found this extremely interesting as I am of the view that the Feminist movement is about collective liberation. I think perhaps the focus on individuals has become skewed from introducing a more intersectional Feminism (of which the talk stressed too) and that a collective voice needs to be formed of all individuals’ voices.

What I think is needed is a merging of both waves, perhaps a movement into a forth wave. There was some playful competition between the Dance Squad at UEA and the cheerleaders. Despite being in the former, I found the mockery of the pyramid of cheerleaders problematic. To be a cheerleader is to be underestimated, and as Feminists, we should not do the same. To be a cheerleader, you must train really hard and, like pole dancing, it is essentially a form of gymnastics and it does not need to be sexualised. This is something I have written poetry about and I feel very strongly about. It angers me that the sexualisation of these sports or art forms has created a sense of stigma around it, so that I feel like I cannot be proud about this video. This is precisely what the term ‘slut shaming’ is about. It seemed like this was being misunderstood – third wave Feminists are not saying that women who are called sluts are sluts, they also believe that there is no such thing as a slut. However, what are second wave Feminists doing when they judge the woman who is cheerleading, pole dancing or even performing a burlesque routine? They are slut-shaming. All these activities, I believe, can be done as a Feminist. This does not mean they are Feminist simply due to the performer having a vagina, but that they can play with the art form in a way that does not mean they are being objectified.

I think it is important to critique one another when not supporting the values of Feminism, but sometimes there can be a danger of mocking women in terms of personal taste. As much as I love Kate Smurthwaite and have found a majority of what she says extremely funny and witty, I don’t think we need to make fun of successful women like Victoria Beckham in the name of Feminism. I’m not completely sure where she stands on Feminism now, rejecting it in the past, perhaps due to education on the term, but she has joined the ‘Ban Bossy’ campaign to encourage girls to be leaders. Again, I think hair removal is a matter of personal taste; I don’t think women should be judged either way. I admire women who don’t share their armpits etc. However, I can remove my hair and still be mindful of the complexities of the reasons why I might do this, even though on the surface it feels like a free choice and something I prefer to do in order to feel feminine, or so that I can feel confident and happy with how I look, or simply because it feels nice to have smooth skin.

I think when it comes to sexuality, it can get really complicated. I was disgusted to hear about pornography where a woman was spat on, called a slut, had her head flushed down the toilet whilst penetrating her. I was shocked to hear that these films and photographs were not even that extreme, but easily click-able for pre-teens accessing mainstream pornography (I think this comment referred to boys, but really, it is both boys and girls who are exposed to this, who are curious about sex and who will discover this content). Then again, there was a part of me that questioned how this applies to BDSM relationships. Again, this is not an area I know much about, and anything that may degrade a woman does make me feel uncomfortable. It was simply a question that arose in my mind, wondering where these people may fit into these ideas. Nevertheless, BDSM relationships are not the point here. This is about pornography and this talk did not shy away from making a strong case to oppose pornography. It did more than my unsure rambles can do and so I would like to hear more about the exploitation of women in porn, so I am able to feel confident that by being completely against porn of all kinds, that I am making the right decision.

So, in summary, I have a lot more research and reading to do before I’m clear on where I stand in terms of the sex industry. However, this presentation has had me more convinced that I need to stand against it, if even purely for the reason that we do not know whether women are being exploited – do we really want to take that chance just because 5% of these women claim they feel empowered? This is also so tied up with Capitalism, with complicates the concept of free choice here. I would love any recommendations on where I can go for information and statistics that could persuade others that porn is always bad for women. This talk also made me think more about the distinction between radical and liberal Feminism, and I feel like I am somewhere in between the two and that perhaps we need a fourth wave to emerge in order to be clear that it is individual voices that form a collective voice, that we need to include intersectional perspectives in a way that makes our voice stronger and not weaker. I apologise if I seem to contradict myself, or if this post doesn’t seem well-structured – working out what to think on these issues is difficult when it comes to knowing what is a choice and what is not. One thing remains, that we must stand united as a sisterhood, taking into account all women.

Feminism in London Conference: Part 3


Feminism and men: Working Together for Gender Equality?

Sandy Ruxton and Nikki van der Gaag

For this workshop we were shown a presentation and then got into groups to discuss different questions.

What’s improved?

Thankfully Feminism has done some positive things over the years. There have been changes within the legal system (though still far from perfect), women have the vote (although not in Saudi Arabia), girls’ access to education has improved generally, and in turn women’s employment prospects. These progressions can be why some people think we are equal already. Women and girls have changed a lot, whilst men and boys have not. There is not one country that has achieved true equality yet, and current rates of progression suggest that it will take 95 years to achieve gender equality according to the UN.

What still needs improvement?

Everything that has improved is still not perfect. One of the biggest problems stopping further progress is a culture of sexism and misogyny, all too clear on the web, but, equally prevalent offline. Violence against women is still a big global issue, and along with this is the maternal mortality rates in the developing world. Women do a majority of care work, which is often unpaid. One way to move forward would be to gain more political power; although having women in power doesn’t necessarily mean that women’s issues will be put at the forefront, it would be a massive step forward. Along with this, the glass ceiling still exists when it comes to women moving up the career ladder.

Examples of Men’s Involvement:
He for She
UNFPA, CARE
Instituto Promundo and Sonke Gender Justice
MenEngage
Men Care

What does men’s involvement not mean?

-It does not mean shifting the focus away from women and girls.
-It does not mean men are less powerful than women (Men’s Rights Activists tend to express the view that women are now more dominant).
-It does not mean men should lead on gender issues, but rather that they are standing besides women and supporting them in the fight for gender equality.

The European Context

Ruxton has focused on Europe, and so he delivered some information about the context here. He noted the impact of the financial crisis has in turn seen a rise of right wing populism and racism. One big issue is sexual exploitation and again, the cultural landscape of patriarchal dominance.

Problems:

-Men may be apathetic or resistant to change, either from benefiting from patriarchy, or being in denial.
-Men’s Rights Activists can be hostile towards women.
-There can be a distraction from support for women.

How to encourage men to get involved:

-Men obviously need to see that there are benefits for men too. Sadly, talking solely about women can lead to defensive attitudes.
-The diversity of men’s experiences needs to be taken into account e.g. class, race, mental health issues.
-A focus on opportunity moments in men’s lives and what they can do practically.
-Assertion that gender equality is right in terms of a a wider concept of social justice.
-It is important to address real problems that men experience and open a dialogue.
-It is vital that alliances are built with women and women’s groups (to avoid being an MRA).

Examples of ways men can get involved:

-Individual acts.
-Through education e.g. Great Men Value Great Women.
-Caring for children.
-Anti-violence programmes e.g. White Ribbon.
-Involving men at senior levels in organisations.
-Government initiatives.
-Thinking internationally.

Now for the group discussions…

Unlearning patriarchal masculinity:

Due to traditional gender roles being part of the patriarchy, it is important that men do not take over what women are saying due to their position in society. A good point to focus on is that these gender roles exist for both men and women and that this is a problem as it restricts us all as humans. This was the first discussion group feedback that highlighted the significance of education, and it was not the last. It was stressed that fatherhood is a key time to communicate and pass on an awareness of notions of masculinity in a way that deconstructs the norm. This group commented on different models of power, and that questioning and challenging problematic views was better than being defensive. This was also noted with regard to group situation. The difficulty of this was noted due to the fact that men are often the beneficiaries of the patriarchy.

Obstacles:

The desire to conform was highlighted as a big obstacles, as well as the idea that it is often not seen as a men’s issue too. This also goes in hand with education about Feminism and why it is important to keep the label. One of the men in the group disagreed that Feminism was something that needed “selling”, but perhaps this isn’t reflected in the opposition that women and Feminists are often faced with. It may be a sad fact that we do have to be aware of how we package it. The concept of the invisibility of privilege was also discussed (which also reinforces the idea that we need to present Feminism in an accessible way).

How can we foster men’s involvement?

Some of the ways to do this came up in the discussion on obstacles, but again, engaging different groups of men was stressed, and doing so in cross-disciplinary ways. A method of engaging men from a young age, or even with those with an outdated view of Feminism, would be to find the language to engage with them without the barrier of the label and then saying ‘hey, well that’s Feminism!’

What actions can men take?

I was in this group and I ended up speaking first from a personal experience where I had felt silenced and wished I had the support from my boyfriend and male friend. Whilst we all agreed speaking out against sexism and misogyny was integral to the fight for equality, it was also seen as important to think about barriers that stop men from doing this, such as the need to conform. It was also highlighted that we needed to eradicate the association of guilt and shame with inequality; it is not a case of men vs. women, and individual men need not take on the burden of representing the patriarchy, but should instead unite against male dominance in society for a more egalitarian environment. Again, an education of Feminism both past and present is a a vital way to take action. A focus on positive actions is needed in order to go with this idea of rebranding Feminism, so that it is not misunderstood, as it often is. Again, there was an emphasis on joining men’s groups with women’s in order to form alliances.

Additional Comments:

Some books were mentioned, including ‘Tackling Macho Values’ and ‘Why Some Men Hurt Women and How Some MenCan Help.’ Some final points were noted about men believing we have equality and having a confusion about Feminism, and with that not making men feel like they are the enemy just because they are ignorant to this. Anger was brought up and there were mixed views on the impact of anger, with some men saying that it could be off-putting, whilst others showing an understanding that it a normal reaction to injustice. A woman commented that anger comes from a position of powerlessness and so it is important to recharge by coming together with like-minded people to talk about these things. It can be exhausting going to yet another boyfriend and explaining why you’re a Feminist and why he should be too. I thought that anger is sometimes inevitable, but it is important to hone these feelings of upset and anger. So, instead of it taking its toll on personal relationships, you can make videos and blog posts about these issues. Then you can show others what you think in a more articulate way than within arguments that make occur spontaneously from conversations on gender equality.

I felt close to tears, but as we were rotating poems between the three of us, I had to put it to the back of my mind and tell myself she must not have understood the poem. I stayed for a bit of the Stepney Sisters, but left early as I was tired and had a long journey to go back to the suburbs. I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference and wonder where I will be on the journey of Feminism then.

 

Secret Garden Party

100_4112A run down of my time at Secret Garden Party…

The Good

1. So, I guess number one has to be my performance… even if I do say so myself, haha! But seriously, after Latitude my nerves had calmed and I actually managed not to spend the three days leading up to my performance stressing. I really enjoyed my time there and could definitely have gone on longer!

2. The lake – the first thing we did was go boating in the lake, and on Saturday we picked the perfect time to brave the water and take a dip. There was a funny moment when a dog jumped in, but it got annoying pretty fast – luckily the owner got it back eventually. It felt so good to swim around as the morning sun shone down on us.

3. More than music – my favourite parts of the festival were the randoms little things that went on. As well as the lake, we hula-hooped, joined the community choir, held snakes and chameleons, painted with watercolours, did some shiatsu and meditation, and watched an impromptu acrobatic show. There was also the “Dave Off”, which was silly and hilarious. We also had a bit of a dance to some African beats as our campsite neighbours got chatting to us and got us to come down to the Feast of Fools where they were playing.

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4. Favourite performances – fellow poets Emma Jones, Amy Acre and Amy Blakemore performed in Poetry Period on the same stage as me. I didn’t know they were going to be there until the day (let alone any other poets other than ‘Dead Poets’ Mark Grist and Mixy who we saw a couple of times). The last night we shared a  second Roaming Rotisserie meal, plus some churros, and settled at The Amphitheatre where we saw a great range of acts including an open mic final with an incredible beatboxer and freestyle rapper (he managed to deal with the horrible audience-given topic of ‘Hitler’ perfectly), a hilarious comedy show from Le Pain (I think that was the name), and an energetic musical performance from Classy-Cool.

5. Music – I have to say a couple of my favourite music acts were ones I stumbled on – Swell on the first night, and Denai Moore who I hope to catch again at Camp Bestival. I also saw Kwabs, Kyla La Grange, Foxes and Public Enemy.

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The Bad

1. The laid-back, chilled vibe of the festival meant that there was a slight issue with the organisation of everything. My set was cut in half, and it’s not that I would have minded having a half an hour set initially, but having prepared an hour of material, it resulted in me missing out all the more light-hearted poems and only realising the tone of my set afterwards. Still, two people who weren’t my boyfriend said they liked it. I had told someone earlier that there was a clash of the dance workshop and me on the board, which I’d also mentioned at the start of the festival as I wasn’t in the programme, and although the times on the board were changed, the fact of the matter wasn’t realised until just before I was due to go on, resulting in the cut of time. Although I thought they could have cut 5 minutes off everything and made up an hour of time, I didn’t want to appear The Diva – I was merely a competition winner after all.

2. Stage communication – in line with the organisation side of things, I felt like it would have been better to have poetry in one place. I didn’t realise there were a load of poets on the Forum Stage (I think) and that space would have probably been more better to host poetry, as it was very difficult to compete with the loud music from surrounding areas, children and drunk/drugged-up people running around and not knowing whether people further away would be able to hear. Those in the Poetry Period had a lot more to contend with in that respect.

3. I didn’t sell any books, therefore I don’t really know how much people liked me. I want to be liked. LIKE ME!!!

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& The Ugly

1. The toilets. Having just come from Latitude, the SGP toilets were lacking in comparison. Mostly, there was a lack of toilet roll, but I also preferred Latitude’s type of port-a-loos with a lever-pull, but maybe they just needed to clean them up because they piled up way too high, and there were a couple of occasions where vomit and excrement were in places they shouldn’t be.

2. The drugs. I know that alcohol can be worse in many ways and I do drink a bit, but drugs still scare me a little; behind straw-bales and in the hidden sunflower field there were people lying on their own, near-dead to the world around them. This could also be to do with that the music went on until 6am and was really close to the campsite. I used to be pretty hardcore when it came to yearly trips to Reading Festival, but I just can’t hack that anymore.

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Overall

Looks like the good is the winner here! As someone who usually goes to festivals for the music, the many adventures that were to be had at Secret Garden Party meant that I was more relaxed and happy to go-with-the-flow. The chilled out vibe must have had an effect on me as I was more calm about my performance and despite the distractions, I managed to get into my set and would have happily carried on and on and on…

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Latitude 2014 – New Voices

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This time last year I was performing at Larmer Tree festival, and now I’ve just come back from Latitude Festival, where I performed as part of the New Voices. It will be the first of five festivals that I will be performing at this summer, and considering how nervous I was and how surreal it seemed, it went really well.

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Fellow New Voice: Charlotte Higgins

Some of my highlights from the festival include…

FRIDAY:
Poetry: Charlotte Higgins, Talia Randal and Page Match
(I didn’t see much else but poetry this day)

SATURDAY:
Music: Catfish and the Bottlemen
Poetry: Dizraeli
Other: Josie Long

SUNDAY:
Music: Haim
Poetry: Luke Kennard and Raymond Antrobus
Other: Eric Lampaert and Sophie Wu

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So, Friday I arrived at the performer campsite after taking a mini-bus after my coach and a nifty little buggy (wasn’t quite so swish on the way back). In the glorious heat, I put up my tent and made my way to the poetry stage. I got there in time to see Charlotte Higgins, another New Voices poet. I loved the way she conveyed such powerful words in her softly spoken manner, and I felt this was even stronger on her Sunday night performance as her passion permeated the audience. Next up was Talia Randal and as she spoke of journeys through London, I immediately wanted to book her for She Grrrowls.

I stepped out to watch the end of Kelis and then Crystal Fighters. I was on my own and feeling a bit lonely and anxious of what lay ahead of me. I ate a Twister lolly that was more expensive than my book, but whilst I have employment, I don’t need to worry about that. Bohdan Piasecki was next up and, being the leader of the Roundhouse Collective, I then felt at home. I stuck around for Peter Hayhoe, Raymond Antrobus and Rosy Carrick’s impromptu set (which I was really happy about, so thanks George The Poet). I saw Andy Bennett, who also made me feel at home, and he gave me his food voucher, which I later spent on chilli with Ray and Hollie McNish. My anxieties were fading away fast.

I was told that Two Door Cinema Club were replaced by Lily Allen, who had already had a secret show slot. I waited too long to find out that the rumours were true. She even did a cover of a TDCC as I was walking away. I used to like her, and I liked ‘Hard Out Here’ as a song, but I don’t think her reaction to racism criticism was positive. Also, I find the rest of the album as a whole a tad boring. But, I do kind of feel I cut my nose off to spite my face and probably would have enjoyed the set. I just feel that as horrible as it is to hear accusations of racism, it is important to engage with that criticism and be open to it,because the complexities of race are just as complex as gender and we all need to learn. Just because someone does something wrong, doesn’t mean that can’t redeem themselves. Anyway, I went back to the poetry tent and watched Andy Bennett and Attila the Stockbroker, ending with Page Match, which was all amazing fun!

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Saturday I slumped on a sofa to watch Josie Long, who was brilliant, and I then headed to the Poetry Stage to catch Rebecca Goss. It was incredible to hear her poetry since reading Her Birth. I watched John Osborne‘s New Blur Album for the second time and next it was Luke Wright before me. I was hoping he would do his garage track and he did! I was next up and after expecting to see the crowd dissolve, Rosy had done a lovely job of bigging me up, and there were more people left behind than I expected. The crowd was lovely and I left the stage feeling happy. I sold two books, though when I finally managed to meet my friend despite the lack of phone signal, I was told I forgot to say exactly where I would be. This meant I didn’t meet my friend straight away; I watched Richard Marsh’s show, Wing Man, as I was compelled by the subject matter and wasn’t sure whether my friend was also still in the crowd. I made my way back to my tent, meeting Peter Hayhoe and Dan Cockrill along the way. I shall blame them rather than my brain for not seeing Conor Oberst, who I was told did Bright Eyes songs to and is one of my all time favourite musicians. Still, this is part of the whole surreal experience of Latitude as a performer.

After catching one song from Conor, I watched Chimene Suleyman and then tried to contact my friend, managing to finally get through in time for First Aid Kit. We hung out with her boyfriend and brother (who bought a book – thank you!) and we watched a bit of Bombay Bicycle Club and Catfish and the Bottlemen, who were particularly great live. We saw a bit of Damon Albarn and parted ways. I returned to watch fellow New Voices Ben Norris and Tommy Sissons, Mark Grist and Dizraeli. Ben was on form and the crowd showed their appreciation with a massive queue for his Nasty Little Intro. I had seen Dizraeli years ago, but he was truly phenomenal and his time on stage whizzed by. Beat-boxer, Reeps One ended the show and I left in the middle as the rain started to fall, and after being up talking to poets until 4am the night before, I wanted an early night (in comparison) before my Sunday set.

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I wanted to see Michael Rosen, but despite being up hours before, I didn’t leave early enough and the tent was full by the time I got there. Instead I watched Eric Lampaert and Sophie Wu on the Cabaret Arena and I was glad I saw them because I loved them both. I watched RSC: Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again after seeing a bit of Selena Godden. I enjoyed bits of it, but I was insanely tired after having four hours sleep, and had my prescription sunglasses on, so I nodded off now and again. I heard other people saying they didn’t quite understand it all, so maybe it wasn’t the brief few seconds I missed before I jerked awake. It was interesting and quite poetic in its expression. I wanted to see The Molinogroup, but I ended up needing to swap signed copies with non-signed copies of my Nasty Little Intro. On my way back I caught some of the film about Amanda Palmer, which I enjoyed as I’ve loved her since The Dresden Dolls. I then saw Andy Bennett and was excited to hear some of his epic poem, to be published by Nasty Little Press. Luke Kennard was amazing to watch; at first I wasn’t sure what to expect, but he was just as entertaining on the stage as on the page. Next I saw the lovely Deanna Rodger before heading off to watch Parquet Courts who were great. So great, in fact, that a drunken man came on stage thrashing a chair to the floor, jumping around in joy, and left waving his cock at the audience. I wished I wasn’t on my own and tired and standing on the edge rather than in the mosh pit. Oh to be young. I felt very old looking at all the teenagers, despite being told on my return at Tesco in Wimbledon that I looked sixteen.

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I walked over to the poetry stage via Woman’s Hour, annoyed at my disappointing noodles, but happy to catch some Roger McGough. I watched Haim who were incredible live, and got ready for my final set whilst watching Lemn Sissay and Jonny Fluffypunk from backstage. I felt nervous again, and I think I built up my expectations and left the stage not feeling as good. I didn’t get a big queue like Ben, but I hold on the the moment where one of the audience members asked for a hug, saying thank you in a way in which it was clear something I said had moved him. I clung onto that to make myself feel better about not selling as many books, not realising how much I wanted people to like me and my poetry and validate me by buying my book. I told myself that this hug was what poetry was all about (and not because he fancied me, Ben!)

I didn’t bother coming out for The Black Keys, and watched James Grady, Tim Clare, Charlotte Higgins, Ben Norris, Raymond Antrobus and Scroobius Pip. I hadn’t seen James before, so it was great to see him. I had seen part of Tim’s show, but seeing a whole hour was fantastic. I got a bit emotional at one point… strangely identifying with Tim’s anxiety but in a very different way as he is more extrovert and I’m more introvert. I’ve said Ray was one of my highlights from that day because he really stepped up the the pre-Scroobius slot and it went perfectly. We all stood up for the final act of the night and enjoyed the familiar spoken word until he was played out with ‘if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.’ I failed miserably at talking to Scroobius Pip, unsure how to say ‘remember when I judged you at that slam…’ a story I regularly drop into conversation when the man in question comes up. Instead I spoke to some merry Northern poets, introduced myself to John Cooper Clarke, and hung out with Ben and Bodhan until I couldn’t face dancing awkwardly anymore, and had an early night at 2am.

I ended my time at Latitude with a 40 minute trek, with my camping gear, trying to find where to get my bus from. The directions were very very poor. I should have waited for a buggy and told it to take me there. I set off at 7.50am and didn’t get on the bus until 9.35am and being the last one on, they weren’t even sure if there was room. ‘Er, that’s my coach, I am getting on,’ I thought. The journey back was fine and I nodded off a bit, unable to read Caroline Bird’s beautiful poetry as I had intended. Overall, it was a brilliant weekend and couldn’t have gone much better! I was so tired each night, I even managed to sleep through thunderstorms. I am truly thankful to Luke Wright and Tania Harrison for putting me on the bill, as well as all the many poets who made me feel part of the family.