Posts Tagged ‘international women’s day’

A few thanks: the International Women’s Day all-female slam

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Hayley Shields
The lovely and talented Hayley Shields, reading in Round 1.

So, this happened on Tuesday 6th March.

It almost didn’t. In the 72 hours prior to the event, I had three performers drop off the bill, which obviously threw everything into flux and got me in quite a flap. Luckily, I’m fortunate enough to be acquainted with two extremely classy, very brave and super dedicated female poets who were willing to step into the breach with less than 48 hours to prepare. They are Rose Ritchie and Elizabeth Rimmer, and without them the slam might well have been cancelled! Thank you so much, Rose and Elizabeth. You literally saved the show.

So cancelled it was not. We arrived at the Banshee Labyrinth to find our room beautifully set up for us: chairs set out, a projector screen with my hastily-felt-tipped poster glowing upon it, and even candles lit on stage to provide some ambience! Edd, who runs the Banshee, is the coolest, most laid-back, and most accomodating venue manager I have ever worked with. He’d even rigged up a TV link in the next bar, so folk who couldn’t get a seat in the main room could still watch the action and hear the poems — by my next event (which will almost certainly take place at the Banshee — I can’t imagine ever going elsewhere), he says the bar will have the capability to record performances, too. SO. TOTALLY. COOL. Thank you, Edd, and all the lovely staff at the Banshee. You, quite literally, rock.

It was evident that folk were pretty keen about this whole slam business, because by 7.15pm we were already running out of chairs and the space was full of excited chatter. All my performers showed up, some of them very nervous, but all with notebookfulls of great poems to share. As many of them were slam virgins, I’d emotionally blackmailed three brilliant male poets to volunteer as “sacrifices” — to read first at the start of each round, break the ice and warm up the room for our competitors. This was a pretty intimidating gig for these guys, I’d imagine: a room full of poetry feministas vying for prizes of wine and chocolate! But they stepped up to the plate with aplomb. Total pro Harry Giles went first, followed in the second round by Matt McDonald. Matt took the opportunity to declare himself a rape survivor ally, and his piece was poignant, quietly angry and beautifully hopeful. Many an audience member came up to me to say his was their favourite poem of the night. Finally, Colin McGuire came up to introduce the final and brought the house down, as usual. Thank you a million billion, guys: you are legends.

Then, of course, it was the turn of my wonderful bill of competitors. They’re all people I’ve seen read before, at open mics, stand-up readings or “quiet” slams, and they’re all people whose work I’ve been desperate to hear more of. I wanted the focus of the event to be the promotion of lesser-known female poetic talent first and foremost, and if possible, I also wanted it to be as intersectional — something that can be problematic in Scotland — as possible. I’m happy to say that I think the event succeeded on both counts — no thanks to me, but thanks to the bravery of the women who were willing to say “yes” to my invitations. The stage played host to explorations of such themes as nationality, sexuality, gender orientation, relationships, travel, writing and creativity, and of course, food! The poems we heard were by turns hilariously funny and deeply touching, seethingly angry and sweetly loving. Above all, the quality was consistently, breathtakingly high.
Thanks upon thanks upon thanks upon thanks to Gayle Smith, Hayley Shields, Tracey S Rosenberg, Rose Ritchie, Elizabeth Rimmer, Theresa Munoz, Katherine McMahon, Rachel McCrum, Sally Evans, Katie Craig, Camilla Chen and the last-minute ever-so-nearly-wildcard Lara S. Williams. You were all so excellent — the judges must’ve been tearing their hair out…

…and yes, the judges. Slam aficionados, all of them, and yet scoring these ladies’ words must have been a damn hard job. A great big tip of the hat to Kevin Cadwallender, Jenny Lindsay and Sophia. You did well, young Jedis.

Big thanks too to Stephen Welsh, who helped put up posters, carried things, calmed me down when I raged and fretted, made endless bar trips on the night, and acted as primary score-keeper. And to Helen Askew, who worked as secondary score-keeper, keeping Steve right, as well as taking photos of the event while I bobbed up and down to and from the stage all night. (She also carried some things.) You were INVALUABLE, you two.

Finally, last but by no means least — in fact quite the opposite — THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who sent words of encouragement, who promoted the event on their Facebook or their blog, who spread the word to other interested folk, and who came along on the night. Best of all were all the people who dropped some pennies into our fundraising bucket. From your small change, we managed to make £70 for Scottish Women’s Aid. THANK YOU A MILLION GAZILLION SQUILLION!

Rachel McCrum
The excellent and extremely deserving winner, Rachel McCrum.

Now… what should we do next International Women’s Day?


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Participate!: all-female poetry slam to celebrate International Women’s Day 2012

Monday, March 5th, 2012

No More Nice Girls

International Women’s Day is fast approaching, and I for one didn’t want to be caught unawares this year with nothing to do celebrate (like I was last year — the centenary year! — when all I managed was this post). So, I started thinking: what would I really like to do to celebrate International Women’s Day 2012? I reasoned that I should definitely keep up my tradition of giving as big a chunk of money as I can afford to a women’s charity… and that gave me an idea. Why not do something to encourage other folk to give their money to a women’s charity, too?

And thus, the International Women’s Day 2012 Edinburgh All-Female Slam (catchy, no?) was born.

At first, I wanted to hold a poetry slam simply because I know they never fail to get a good crowd through the door, and that would mean more pennies in the bucket for whatever charity I decided to pick (also, I just love a good slam). But then I realised that a poetry slam might also be a good place to raise awareness about women’s issues within the poetry community.

I’m not for a moment suggesting that female poets have it as bad as, say, the ladies in the photo above. Thanks to the pioneering work of ladies like Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich, Sharon Olds, Maya Angelou, Margaret Atwood, Carol Ann Duffy, Liz Lochhead and many more, these days being a female poet is considered no weirder, really, than being a male poet. Female writers — although we still have a lot of catching up to do — no longer have to fight tooth and nail to be allowed to write, publish, perform and be reviewed. Most of us, I think, just get on with it.

What’s more, my local literary community plays host to a vibrant performance poetry scene that boasts some of the UK’s finest female performance poets: among them Jenny Lindsay, Sophia, Laura Hainey, and numerous others. We’re in Scotland, of course, so things aren’t as intersectional as they are in, say, Leeds or London… and they’re perhaps not as intersectional as they potentially could be. But there’s still a lot of poetry buzzing around and a lot of ladies getting involved.

However: Scotland’s poetry slam scene does still seem to be dominated by men. Our current Scottish slam champion is Young Dawkins, and when I try to think of the really great performance poets Scotland has to offer, I find myself coming up with far more male names than female ones (to mention but a few, Scotland can boast the vocal stylings of Bram Gieben, Colin McGuire, Kevin Cadwallender, Harlequinade, Robin Cairns, Jim Monaghan, Tickle McNicholl, Tim Turnbull and Harry Giles). Furthermore, slam itself could be described as somewhat chauvinistic: the focus is on competition, on “knocking out” one’s opponents in “head-to-head” finals. What’s more, slam has gained a bit of an unfair rep among non-slammers as being all about shouting the loudest or rapping the fastest.

Understandably, this view of Scottish slam puts a lot of performers — and mostly, it seems, ladies — off. I know many a female poet who just “won’t do slams.” And I think this is extremely sad, given that a) slam is a super cool movement with a huge and growing audience and b) Scottish performance poetry is crying out for a greater variety of voices, and is, in my experience, always friendly and welcoming.

Therefore, this slam is about faciliating the female performance poetry that I know is out there. I’ve seen all the poets on our spectacular bill performing at open mics and at traditional stand-up readings (and sometimes at “quiet” or “friendly” slams), and each time I’ve thought, THE SCOTTISH SLAM SCENE NEEDS YOU, LADY! Contrary to what several poisonous detractors (now blocked, don’t worry) on the event’s Facebook wall have somehow decided, this event IS NOT about bashing men and it IS NOT about favouritism towards women. It is about welcoming twelve exciting performers a little further into the performance poetry scene, and providing them with the encouragement they need to get out there and take the world of slam by storm.

If you like the sound of a FRIENDLY, ALL-INCLUSIVE slam featuring poetry from both male AND female performers; if you like the sound of raising a ton of money for Scottish Women’s Aid while sitting in a pub and listening to some fine verse; if you like the sound of discovering some new poets you never knew existed but whose work is guaranteed to blow your tiny mind… well then, get yourself to:

7PM (doors) for 7.30PM (start)

Check out our Facebook event for more details.



One Night Stanzas loves mail. Say hello via NB: I am physically unable to reply to non-urgent stuff unless I have a free afternoon and a cup of tea in my hand. Please be patient!

(Image source)

A few women who inspire me

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

It’s International Women’s Day 2011, and the 100 year anniversary of International Women’s Day to boot! I hope you’re all doing something awesome to mark the occasion. For my part, I a) educated a well-meaning but misguided man when he came to my Facebook page to ask “why do we need a day for women anyway?” (he was mainly disgruntled about the fact that there is “no Man Day” — except, er, there is you guys! Yay!), and b) donated £50 to World Pulse. I’ve also been trying to spread the message about What Day This Is to the people around me, and as part of that, I’ve decided to write a wee post here about the women who inspire me. I’ve taken the idea from my super-talented and fabulous sister Helen, who made the short film at the bottom of this page.

Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood
I don’t really need to say much here, do I? I’m sure you’re all aware of what a huge literary force of nature Margaret Atwood is, even if you don’t love her writing (not meaning to alarm you, but there’s something wrong with you, by the way). As well as being an incredible novelist and poet, she’s also written extensively on the nature of writing as a craft, on Canadian writing and on women’s writing. She is a tireless campaigner for all manner of green and other political issues, and — I’ve met her! — a lovely person into the bargain.

Mrs. Pankhurst in Wall St. (LOC)
Emmeline Pankhurst
Again, I’m sure most of you have at least a vague idea of who this lady was, but for those of you who need some clarification: Emmeline Pankhurst is one of the most influential female political figures of all time and has been named one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century. As the founder of the WSPU she played a leading and pivotal role in the UK women’s suffrage movement, campaigning tirelessly and, controversially, sometimes violently to gain political agency for British women. Along with her daughter Christabel and her dedicated legion of WSPU followers, she changed the face of British — and by extension, world — politics forever.

Marie, Lady Stubbs DSG
Marie Stubbs is an inspirational Scotswoman and a fantastic teacher and educator (now retired), whose story was recently told via Ahead of the Class, a TV film starring Julie Walters. Stubbs took over the governance of St George’s Roman Catholic Secondary School in Maida Vale following the shocking murder of its former head teacher Philip Lawrence, and after regulatory bodies had rated the school’s education provision and learner engagement and well-being as dangerously poor. Stubbs took a radical new approach, with the motto “every child should be intrinsically valued,” managing to execute a truly inspirational turnaround in the school’s fortunes, engaging learners and staff in innovative new ways. As a teacher, she’s one of my heroines.

Gabourey Sidibe
Gabourey Sidibe
I’ll be honest — there aren’t that many Hollywood actresses I’d fancy going out for a pint and a chat with (though there’s another exception below), but Gabourey Sidibe? FOR SURE. Although I’d probably be totally tongue-tied when it came to the ‘chat’ bit, because I think this woman is a frickin’ goddess. She shot to fame a couple of years ago in the movie Precious, but unfortunately it was apparently impossible for critics and audiences to talk solely about her acting abilities. This woman must have faced more scrutiny about her weight and appearance than half of the rest of Hollywood put together, and I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for her to be nominated for an Oscar but only able to read articles with headlines like “who the hell is going to dress Gabby Sidibe for the red carpet?!” Sidibe is not a trained actor and Precious was her first role, yet she has handled the immense (and often negative) media attention like a pro, managing to maintain the air of a genuinely nice person at the same time. Personally, I think she is super-talented, absolutely gorgeous and seriously inspirational.

Kate Winslet
Kate Winslet
I love Kate Winslet as an actress — she plays the female lead in what is possibly my all-time favourite film, and has also portrayed one of my all-time favourite literary characters. However, I also love her for her tireless campaigning for women — Winslet is one of very, very few Hollywood actresses prepared to speak out about the damaging beauty standard perpetuated by her profession. She is a very vocal supporter of eating disorder charities, has spoken out on numerous occasions about the airbrushing and retouching of actresses and models in the media, and speaks regularly in interviews about her disdain for beauty and fashion magazines and their direct negative impact on the self-esteem of women and girls. And even if this stuff isn’t something that bugs you, you have to admit… she’s a great actress.

Melissa McEwan
Melissa McEwan is the founder of my all-time favourite blog Shakesville, founded in 2004 as Shakespeare’s Sister. I won’t say too much about Melissa herself, because she’s only one of a small but hardworking group of contributors and a much wider and even more vocal group of commenters who keep Shakesville going, and who keep it awesome. But I’ve picked her out in particular because it’s usually her posts, thoughts and comments that particularly chime with me. Shakesville has fundamentally changed the way I look at myself, other women, men, the media and politics. Here’s a little more about it, from their “About” page:
Shakesville is a feminist blog, and a feminist’s blog. It is a progressive blog. It is a safe space. It is a community. It is a blog whose contributors are resolved to be willing to self-examine and learn, and whose community members are expected to do the same. Forward movement, progress, on cultural, political, and individual levels is woven into the fabric of Shakesville. Our key objectives are equality, liberty, and justice for all, empathy, self-awareness, growth, momentum, compassion, and laughter. We blog about domestic politics, foreign policy, high culture, pop culture, books, film, telly, food, the patriarchy, oppression, repression, religion, philosophy, parenting, not parenting, marriage, cats, why women’s trousers have so many buttons, and anything else that we feel like discussing. With photos. Many of them doctored for maximum hilarity. All are invited. Whether you are welcome is up to you.

Naturally, this is only a tiny selection of the women who inspire or have inspired me at some point in my life. If I listed them all here, this post would never end, so I’ll sign off at that — though not until I mention a few other supremely inspiring women in my life. My late grandmother, Pauline Annie, whose loud, proud, rude, crude Northern voice is forever in my head; my mother — likewise, only without the ‘rude, crude’ part; my awesome colleague Lorna, one of the coolest teachers and most fabulous ladies I have ever had the pleasure to meet; and finally my baby sister, whose International Women’s Day 2011 film (below) is only the tiniest tip of the iceberg of her talents. NOW GO CELEBRATE THE WOMEN IN YOUR LIFE. They’re amazing.

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