The Norwich Radical: My One Year Anniversary

The other week I wanted to show Bande de Filles aka Girlhood, to 6th Form students in order to get them to come along to the Feminist Club. They had been keen after having Feminista UK coming in to run a workshop with them. Sadly, my efforts at putting colour-posters up, guying popcorn and even buying the DVD specifically to show the film were wasted at this time. It was rather depressing to hear the music at the start repeat in an empty classroom. I guess they’re overworked. And as an English Mentor, I keep giving them extra reading to do as it is!

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I’ve been writing for The Norwich Radical for a year now, where I look at the arts through a feminist lens. Girlhood was a film I highlighted for its Feminist credentials. So, I thought this would be an opportune time to highlight the articles I’ve written thus far. You can get a whole list by clicking here.

In order of appearance:

I’m Sorry You’re Offended

Sirens at Soho Theatre

Soho Comedy: Women, ‘It’s Like They’re Real People’

Emmy the Great: Oslo, Hackney

The Bechdel Test Fest

Women of the World Festival 2015: Part 1 and Part 2

Three Women Poets

Women Fashion Power: Not a Multiple Choice Question

Woman Verses World

The Place for Poetry: Fragment and Process, Visual Culture and Performance

The Last Word

Soon Every House Will Have One

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To Kill a Mockingbird – Is it Just Me?

In Defence of Telling Girls They Can

Let’s Talk About Sex: The Institute of Sexology and Sex in the Afternoon

Feminist Picks: Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Homework: Molly Naylor and Katie Bonna

Arts Funding: Young People, Women and Intersectionality

Suffragette: The Fight is Not Over

The Hollow of The Hand

Hannah Silva’s ‘Shlock!’

The World Goes Pop

Warsan Shire’s Her Blue Body

Richard Yates: An Accidental Feminist?

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WOW (trigger warning: rape)


100_3584I have been very busy these past few months, but on Saturday 9th March I went to something that meant I had to get back to typing at these keys: WOW Festival. For those that don’t know about this, WOW stands for ‘Women of the World’ and is a series of events and discussions at Southbank, in London. But first, a quick catch up. 

I went to Barcelona during my half term holiday. I stayed with my friend, Laura who is working there at the moment. I also saw my cousin (who was on an exchange) and paternal grandfather (who is Spanish and lives there) and ate out with my parents who holidayed there too.

100_3528It was really relaxing and enjoyable, with the rain holding off and excitement at a glimpse of sunshine.

In other news, I have had a poem accepted into Brittle Star magazine. I’m pretty sure I have been rejected from there before, which makes my achievement even more special somehow.

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I went to see Tim Walker’s exhibition at Somerset House, after the V&A exhibition of ‘Hollywood Costumes.’ The latter was interesting, but honestly, too crowded to enjoy properly. It was like being on a conveyor belt, rather than walking around a gallery. And I was disappointed to see that the red shoes and pinafore from the Wizard of Oz were both replicas. On the other hand, Tim Walker’s free exhibition was fascinating. Showing that fashion is not an inferior art form through his photography, amazing pictures lined the walls of rooms where large objects brought them to life.

Photo0464In the world of poetry, I have been notified of my acceptance to perform at a festival, but I cannot reveal just yet which festival that is, so watch this space!I’ve also been busy organising my latest project: Poetry&Paint. I’m so pleased with the responses I’ve had and excited to launch the anthology at Craft Central’s space, ‘The Showcase’ on Saturday 30th March. There will be performance and discussion from Selina NwuluDaniel Lehan, Greta Healy, Robyn Comfort and Bill Vine. The exhibition is from 3pm and the evening event starts from 7pm.

I have also been working where I am employed, very hard.

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Yet, I have also been organising Photo0467 something else. On Thursday 7th March, myself and Emily Prichard kicked off the International Women’s Day celebrations with the first ‘She Grrrowls’ Feminist Group meeting. We made some promotional hearts out of card and have scattered them around London.

I must also add that I treated my Mum to seeing Bridget Christie at the Purcell Room in Southbank on Friday. I felt very privileged to be attending her biggest show thus far, and both my Mum and I enjoyed her Feminist comedic commentary on our society, including a hilarious physical display demonstrating why we females should be so thankful for the Bic pen ‘For Her’.

The great shame for my Saturday activities at WOW was that I had no company. Not because I didn’t want to be on my own, but because none of my female friends were their for their own interest.

I have managed to visual document the presence of Ruby Wax, one half of Feminist men duo who co-wrote ‘The Guy’s Guide to Feminism, and Bidisha with Lisa Appignanesi. There were such a range of amazing events, but alas, I could only be at one place at a time.

The introduction to Saturday’s WOW was called ‘The Keys to the Castle. One of the most interesting speakers for this section was space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, and I immediately thought how great it would be for her to talk to the students at my work (I work at a school). It was really inspiring and I even learnt things that I didn’t really know about space. Well, 96% of space is undiscovered, so there’s a lot of work to be done in that field!

Next, I went to Michael Kaufman’s talk on The Guy’s Guide to Feminism. He read extracts from the book he co-wrote with Michael Kimmer, and commented on these extracts in an interesting and amusing way. Part of this intention must have been to promote the book – an easy-to-read A-Z of Feminism for the male reader – and it certainly made me want to get it for any male friends and the boyfriend! I highly recommend it, and I haven’t even read it yet.

The next talk that I went to was so powerful and emotive that nothing to follow could be more important to attend. This talk had the simple title: Rape. Chaired by Southbank’s artistic director, Jude Kelly, it began with Joanna Bourke’s revelation of shocking facts and statistics surrounding the subject matter. These things included:

1/ Marital rape was only made illegal in Scotland in 1989 (the year I was born).

2/  The rest of the UK followed suit in 1992.

3/ 1 in 3 films contains rape.

4/ Also reported by The Guardian: “one in three people believes that women who behave flirtatiously are at least partially responsible if they are raped.” (2005)

5/ There are more convictions of rape nowadays but 85% of rape cases go unreported.

6/ 1 in 5 females will be raped in their lifetime. If you know over 5 females, you do the maths.

7/ Some myths about rape: ‘no’ can mean ‘yes’, you can’t rape a resisting woman, some rapes aren’t serious, women ‘ask for it’ and women lie. Do not believe these things.

8/Research into false accusations shows a risk of just 3%, which is in line with all other crimes. 

9/ We need to talk about rape and educate young people about it.

10/ A woman’s biggest risk of rape has little to do with stranger danger. Most rapists know their victim; they are either friends, boyfriends, family or work colleges. This is why men need to speak out about things like rape jokes, and casual misogyny. If you don’t, you just placate those that do and normalise rape, deeming it acceptable. If you are male, you can make a pledge to fight against violence towards women through the White Ribbon Campaign.

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The audience then listened to the stories of real victims of rape (although none of them like to think of themselves as victims). One woman sent her story by email because after nine years she did not feel ready to tell it. I was shocked not just by the horrific atrocities these women had suffered, but the poor state of the legal system, where visible physical injury, and an eyewitness lead to a judge telling the jury to consider if they wanted “to ruin this young, talented man’s life” before making their decision, then to be acquitted of the charge. It also pained me to hear journeys they had been through to come to this stage and their determination not to let this incident define them.

One major point to come out of this discussion was the need to talk about rape and to educate young people about it.

After this harrowing topic, I contemplated a talk with teenagers about the term ‘Feminist’ but then decided to go to ‘Aint I A Woman’ which saw a panel of women discussing black women and popular culture. Speakers included Hannah Pool (chair), Kieran Yates, Angelique Kidjo, Miki Turner and Shirley Tate. It was really interesting, and I found Kieran Yates to be particularly on point throughout. The statement that sparked off the talk stood strong to the end: the struggle to end racism and the struggle to end sexism are intertwined. Although this is something I like to aim for in my brand of Feminism, I feel that, as a white women, the involvement of other races is necessary for Feminism to truly reflect the experiences and problems of all women.

The penultimate event I attended was Ruby Wax’s ‘Out of Her Mind’ which was the perfect blend of tragedy and comedy, about a topic that interests me: mental illness. The importance of communication was expressed again. Wax concluded that now at her dinner parties, when asked how she is, she explains ‘the same as you: dealing with heartache, death and loneliness… Hors d’œuvre?’

Lastly, I listened to women such as Bidisha and Lisa Appignanesi read extracts from ‘Fifty Shades of Feminism’ (another must-have read). I then rushed home for a nice big dinner and discussed the day with my Dad, who talked to me about all the topics, giving me some historical background (being a history teacher) and revealing that he is a Feminist… though not in those exact words, the conversation still had me beaming with pride to have such amazing parents. I then re-told and re-discussed with my Mum on Mother’s Day over a game of Scrabble.

xxx

Savage Messiahs of London City

I have just updated my status on TweetDeck that I am “craving drink and fancy dress. instead i’m attending talks and blogging. oh, how grown up i have become since time/money have been eaten up”.  I am actually too tired to write this blog now so I’m going to start/finish it on Thursday, if I remember…

I’ve got a spare half an hour at the moment, so am updating in chunks.  On Halloween, I went to a discussion about Laura Oldfield Ford’s Savage Massiah; a book where her work from 2005, in the ‘zine of the same title, has been collected and formed into a linear format.  I travelled straight from work and so had to eat dinner out.  I went to a Thai restaurant called Mae Ping which was a welcome change from my frequent Nando’s trips (much as I love them, I had eaten there the three days prior to this).  I ordered pretty much straight away, from the ‘express’ menu, and it took a mere five minutes before a steaming plate of Prawn Pad Thai was in front of me.  It was quite spicy and had nice big prawns, and absolutely delicious, and cost just £7.15 (including a 65p service charge).  I was able to pay quickly, and had a lovely little after dinner mint. I was disappointed that Laura didn’t give a reading from the book, but it was an interesting, thought-provoking discussion.  I had wanted to see her since in my undergraduate Creative Writing modules, I had been compared to her in terms of writing.  The book is set out like a graphic novel; with Biro drawings alongside poetic musings.  It is definitely on my Christmas list.

…Another chunk.  I liked the ideas of Laura showing her work on different levels.  Something I had been thinking about starting, and will experiment with soon, is hand-made poetry booklets.  I was inspired at the talk to try out fly-posting, and one idea I have had is to go on walks around residential areas with photocopied poetry sheets, and post them to different houses, as it’s always nice (and rare) when you get something actually interesting through the post-box.  I agree it is important for art to be communicated with all kinds of people.  Laura also stated that her views tend to polarize people.  This is where I felt conflicted.

I have been irritated by one of my friends who always comments on me being ‘middle class’.  It is not so much me having a problem with the label, but just the assumptions that my friend makes of people with this label, that just make it appear that she has a chip on her shoulder… herself and her partner are educated to a high degree, and she has lived in a nice country house, and is in a financial position to live out of her family home.  Middle-class-me is very fortunate to be able to live in the suburbs with my parents, but I cannot afford to move out and am working in a lower-ranking job.  Here, the boundaries of class are mixed up.  This is why I think that Laura was talking about this subject without acknowledging these elements of confusion – the students that are all in debt (and the future who will face more debts) and the classes where “Daddy” doesn’t pay for everything .  I’m not complaining about my deal, as I said, I think myself very lucky.  I’m just saying that the reality is that if I or my friends (including the one I mentioned) wanted to live in London, we would not be able to.  She seems to consider herself ‘working class’ and I ‘middle class’.

Laura referred to ‘yuppies’ but, essentially, there is nothing wrong with working hard and doing so in finance, or what was called the ‘creative industries’.  She later rephrased this term by stating she meant ‘the rich’ which makes more sense to me.  She spoke very eloquently throughout, yet this term ‘yuppy’ took her backwards because it is, basically, a derogatory term, poking fun at those better off.  In fact, very few people are rich, and she would be faced with a lot more understanding if she used the simple term ‘rich’ because it includes the majority.  Otherwise, like my friend, she appears to have a chip on her shoulder.  What she was really talking about, it seemed to me, was opportunities for artists to work in the system we have.  That is why she is criticizing Capitalism.  I agree with her opinions on Capitalism, but, we need to work with what we have got as well.  She is aware of it, as shown by the fact that her work does operate in galleries as well as the street, and that the audience had to pay £10 to attend the discussion (£5 for me, being a student).  This point was brought up in the questions section and although I thought it was quite clever, Laura seemed defensive… then again, you would be a bit because it does kind of undermine your opinion in this case.

Well, I’m just going to wrap this up quickly because I have actual important stuff to write, like one of three 3000 word essays in for January that I’ve only written under 400 words for after over 3 hours of work.  With just two days free, and those mostly taken up by seeing my boyfriend, I don’t really have that much time on my hands.  Not that I’m complaining, I love my boyfriend.  It just means I need to work out how to stop writing so much in my blog entries whilst still saying everything I want to!  I went to a talk on the relationship between poetry and visual art on Wednesday.  I didn’t know of the artists (should probably look these things up) but it was interesting and I made some notes on it.  The picture above is by the artist in the discussion, Simon Lewty, and the poet was Peter Larkin.

I’ve bumped into a couple of people recently on my way to my MA. One was a guy from college, and the other was my friend Tom.  It was great to bump into Tom, and we ended up having dinner at Woodin’ Shades which was nice.  It’s my dad’s birthday today so, happy 44th birthday to him!  Now, off to do a bit more essay, call the boyfriend, and have a take away, hopefully watch some TOWIE!

xxx