Posts Tagged ‘women’

You should read this! Mixing The Colours: Women Speaking About Sectarianism anthology

Monday, April 6th, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to Glasgow Women’s Library’s brilliant Mixing The Colours Conference 2015. Mixing The Colours: Women Speaking About Sectarianism is a groundbreaking project, which has been running for about two years now, funded by the Scottish Government and designed to get women talking about one of Scotland’s most taboo subjects. The conference was an amazing day of discussion, performance and ideas, but importantly, it was also the launch-day of the project’s amazing anthology of women’s writing.

I’ve also been working on a project designed to tackle sectarianism: until just a few days ago, when the project reached completion, I was the Project Co-Ordinator for Scottish Book Trust’s graphic novel project Walk The Walk. I worked reasonably closely with staff from Mixing The Colours throughout that project, and so came to see clearly the various ways in which women’s voices have traditionally been erased from discussions about sectarianism.

Think about it for a second. When you read a newspaper article about a story relating to sectarianism, what is the accompanying photo usually of? Chances are, a stand full of male football fans. Perhaps a line of police personnel in their yellow jackets. There might be the odd female face or two if you squint closely, but traditionally, sectarianism in Scotland is considered a “men’s issue,” and all too often, seen as synonymous with football. I’m sure you’ll agree that this hurts men as well as women.

Thankfully, we now have the truly amazing Mixing The Colours: Women Speaking About Sectarianism anthology to add to the conversation. It features poetry, memoir, fiction and drama, all exploring individual women’s responses to their experiences of sectarianism. My favourite story is ‘Paddy,’ written by Ethyl Smith — a bittersweet tale of a young girl who is unwittingly caught up in the sectarianism that exists between two of her adult neighbours, all because she wants to be friends with a wee dog. But every piece in the book is brilliant, and important, and merits reading, re-reading and sharing.

You can get a look at the book by heading over to Glasgow Women’s Library’s stunning new(ish) home in Bridgeton, Glasgow. GWL is located in what was once the Bridgeton Men’s Reading Room, which I find rather delicious. The Mixing The Colours team have also been steadily gathering a collection of other resources that examine women’s reactions to sectarianism, so while you’re there, you can browse the whole lot.

Finally, the Mixing The Colours film gives a taster of what’s inside the book, and as you can see from my conference notes above, gives plenty of food for thought! Here’s a trailer:

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

You should read this: Hallelujah for 50ft Women

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Content note: discussion of sex essentialism.

If you know me at all, then you know I like a good women-only space. I’m currently teaching on the brilliant all-female fiction writing course Write Like A Grrrl!; Making It Home was an almost entirely all-female endeavour; and although I love working with folks of all genders, there’s something a bit special about getting a room full of self-identifying women together and seeing what they can achieve.

For that reason, I am pretty excited to have a poem in the brand new Bloodaxe anthology Hallelujah for 50ft Women, which is edited by the [in]famous female performance troupe Raving Beauties. It’s a pretty stunning looking book, as I’m sure you’ll agree — I’m loving the purple colour, and the typefaces!

The theme of the book is ‘women talking about their relationship(s) with their bodies,’ and my poem, ‘High School,’ is kind of about body dysmorphia, kind of about female competition, but also kind of about the fact that I knew a bunch of really bitchy girls when I was a teenager. I was pretty gobsmacked that it got picked, and even more gobsmacked when I saw it included alongside such truly legendary poets as Lucille Clifton, Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, Sharon Olds and Grace Nichols. Also in there are Warsan Shire, who’s everywhere at the moment and seemingly exceptionally cool, and Patricia Lockwood, of the brilliant — and mega-viral — poem Rape Joke.

I’d really encourage you to buy this book for the truly wide-ranging variety of poetic voices therein. The poets in here are some talented women and their work deserves reading. However, I feel I must apologise to my trans, genderqueer and non-binary friends for some of the content from the introduction. I’m sure it wasn’t intended to be read as essentialism, but I did feel a bit queasy about the “all women have c*nts” overtones in there. I mean, yay for female bodies, and yay let’s not be squeamish about them! But had it been my introduction to write? I’d've been underlining the important fact that not all women’s bodies look or behave in the same ways, or have the same bits.

Happily, I believe the poems themselves make it only too clear that women’s bodies are all different, and all awesome — in fact, they’re awesome in their differentness to one another. Have a read! You might well discover a new favourite female poet!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Making It Home: my photos, my thank yous, and the project films

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Sheena, Making it Home at the Scottish Storytelling Centre

The Making It Home Project officially “ended” in June 2013 (I put “ended” in quotemarks because of course such a project never ends — our films are still being seen by interested eyeballs and there are still ideas for events and other exciting follow-up things in the works. Hopefully more on that soon!). I’d meant to write this post then, as things wrapped up. Then life got in the way, as life likes to do. But I didn’t forget about the post…

Mainly, I wanted to share some of the photos I took at the various MIH events in June, when we took our inspiring band of powerhouse women on the road to showcase their work. For folks not involved in the project, these just look like photos of people… but they’re a testament to the great achievements of everyone involved in the project.

Up at the top there, for example, is Sheena, one of our fabulous filmmaking women. In the photo, she’s addressing the Scottish Storytelling Centre’s cinema/lecture theatre, full of folks who came to their screening of our films. In this photo, she looks like the world expert in her field… because she is. All the women who took part in our project can now call themselves experts in the field of filmmaking. How cool is that?

Making it Home at the Scottish Storytelling Centre

Making it Home at the Scottish Storytelling Centre

Sheena and Stacey, Making it Home Farewell Party at NEA

Some of our women hanging out at our various events. Only a year ago they’d never met, and many of them were daunted by the prospect of working together, especially when filmmaking was such an unknown quantity. In next to no time, however, they formed a hugely productive creative community, achieving gobsmacking things. They — heck, we! I include myself here 100%! — have also formed friendships that, I hope, will last lifetimes. I want to thank all of them equally for their hard work, their courage in the face of the scary cameras and sometimes-tricky conversations, and the wicked humour and energy they deployed throughout. You guys made films that changed the way people (myself included) looked at the world. AMAZING!

Rema, Making it Home at the Scottish Storytelling Centre

Here’s Rema Sherifi, who’s of the most impressive women I have ever met. (Seriously. Just look at her story.) Rema runs the Maryhill Integration Network, where she’s made a difference to hundreds of lives. Without Rema’s expert guidance and great wisdom, our project could never have happened.

Esa, Making it Home at the Scottish Storytelling Centre

Here’s Esa Aldegheri, our brilliant project leader and another super inspiring woman! Throughout the project, she’s been a quiet but vital presence, doing constant hard work behind the scenes, tirelessly plotting and preparing so that the rest of us could carry out our work with minimal disruption. I wish I had even a tenth of her patience and calm… I’m basically convinced that Esa could (and should) run the world! Can we make this happen, please?

Lynda and Vilte, Making it Home Farewell Party at NEA

Lynda Peachey (left) was my closest “co-worker” on the project, and basically, my rock (I mean it) whenever things went wrong. She was always ready with a cup of tea, a filthy joke, or some sage advice whenever and wherever it was needed. She was also there with hugs and smiles when things went right, which is just as important! I’m starting to keep a mental list of the various Wise Women in my life, and Lynda tops that list.
And Vilte Vaitkute (right) is just a sickmakingly talented filmmaker and facilitator of all-things-film-related. While the rest of us get all nostalgic about this great project coming to a close, Vilte’s still working hard to keep our films in circulation, and to get new eyeballs in all sorts of exciting places to see them. Her colleague Catherine Weir — who managed to avoid all my photos! — also deserves tons of credit for this work. They’re a fearsome and brilliant team!

Jane, Making it Home at the Scottish Storytelling Centre

A few more fine folks who deserve praise: first up, Jane McKie, who some of you may already know as a bloody excellent poet, winner of the Edwin Morgan Poetry Prize and all sorts of other accolades. Jane worked as my opposite number on the project, working her magic in Maryhill while I kept an eye on things in Pilton. I feel really privileged to have worked with such a fine poet and such a genuinely lovely person. Thank you, Jane!

Rachel, Making it Home at the Scottish Storytelling Centre

Next up, Rachel Farrier — who looks like a 1940s movie star all the time, incidentally, not just in this photo! Rachel was another vital presence on the project, working away tirelessly to make our lives as straightforward as possible. She also co-ordinated much of our events tour in June, and got loads of real actual human beings to come and sit in seats and watch the films the women made. Massive props to her partner in crime David Farrier, too — another person who apparently avoided my camera at all times, but who deserves to be warmly thanked and celebrated here nevertheless!

Lucinda, Making it Home Farewell Party at NEA

Lucinda Broadbent is another of these women who’s so impressive you feel like you ought to be a bit frightened of them. Look at all the amazing stuff she’s done! However, being frightened of someone so warm and smiley is rather tricky. Instead you just feel chuffed to have met and worked with such a total pro.

Sheena and Stacey speak at the Making it Home Farewell Party at NEA

And last but by no means least is Alison Hughes, who was at my side almost every minute of the project, making sure that the women and I had all the help and support we needed. Without Alison’s presence, I would have felt considerably less confident in our various workshops and discussion sessions — lady, you really were invaluable. (PS: Alison is also a GREAT yoga teacher, and if you’re in Edinburgh, you should go to her classes!)

Finally, I need to thank everyone else who was even vaguely involved with making this project work — staff from Maryhill Integration Network and the Pilton Community Health Project; all the folks from our partner organisations who aren’t mentioned here; Alan Lennon, and all our Sponsume donors, who helped make our book a reality… and any friend or family member who supported anyone involved as we worked through our exhausting and rewarding year!

Ahlam, Augusta, Lucinda and the MIH posse, Making it Home Farewell Party at NEA

Here we all are, dancing with proper, unfettered joy at our final screening and farewell bash. If you’ve read this far, you surely want to see what all the fuss is about… please do scroll down and take the time to watch the four films that the fabulous folks above all worked incredibly hard to create. (You can also watch the Making Of Making It Home right down at the bottom.) If you like what you see — if these films make you laugh, cry, think differently about the world — please do pass them on, share them, and widen the conversation. The wonderful women of Making It Home made these films for you. I hope you love them.


“The Shortest and Sweetest of Songs,” by Team Sami, Maryhill


“It Could Happen To You,” by the Dream Team, Pilton


“Choice,” by Team Choice, Maryhill


“Come Home,” by The Sweeties, Pilton


The Making of Making It Home

Budding writer? Creative person in need of a fun job? Check out the various resources and services at Bookworm Tutors. Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Making it Home: we’ve (nearly) made it!

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

An update on the Making It Home Project, which I blogged about a few days ago: YOU ARE ALL WONDERFUL PEOPLE.

On Sunday, we reached our funding target of £1,000, which means we can make our magical book a reality. Thank you so much to anyone who read about the project, shared the link, sent folk in our general direction or best of all, donated a tiny little bit or a whole great big lot to help us make our book a reality. YOU ALL ROCK.

However, we’re not done!

There is still time before the funding deadline passes. There is still time for you to give us some money.

But why? I hear you cry! You’ve already got what you need! And yep, you’re right. We have the money we need to create our book and print a few copies and distribute them about the place, hopefully for free. BUT! There are various ways that, with your help, we can make our magical book even more magical. They are as follows:

- Right now, we’re only able to budget a very small amount for graphic design, which means we’re having to call in favours from our pro graphic design friends. We’d love to be able to afford more, so a) the book can look fancier and b) we can pay the people involved a proper rate.

- More money means a larger print run, which means more folk can get their hands on free books. FREE BOOKS are what make the world go around, amirite?

- While the fundraising’s been going on, we’ve been busily collecting quotes from printers and other book-creation folks. If we raise more money, we’ll be able to go for the option that’s best for us and our book, rather than just the cheapest options.

- Fancy binding! Fancy papers! END PAPERS! Basically a much more fancy, pretty, lovely book for all of YOU to read!

Convinced? Click on the title in the widget below (or click here) to head to the donation page! Not convinced? Click it anyway — it’ll take you to a video that shows you some of the amazing work our two groups of women have been doing. You can also read more about what we hope to achieve with this project, and that might help you to make up your mind about donating. Can’t afford to donate? Please don’t worry. You should still click on the link, because there are other ways you can help. Below the video are a series of tabs that will allow you to tweet or Facebook details about the project, or share them via email. Spreading the word is just as important as giving money… really!

Here’s the link:

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Budding writer? Creative person in need of a fun job? Check out the various resources and services at Bookworm Tutors. Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Got five minutes? Help me create a magic book! (Please.)

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

wswmih

Hey ONS-ers. I have a big, big favour to ask.

I don’t often ask you guys for stuff. I’ve never run ads here, and I even took down my tip-jar ’cause I felt bad about it. But now I’m asking for your help, because I know you’re all super-cool individuals who know a damn good cause when you see one.

I’ve spoken a bit before, here (scroll past the inevitable cake pictures!) about the totally life-changing (really!) work I’ve been doing over the past year with a thing called The Making It Home Project. I won’t say too much about it here, because I want you to go and read all the details at this link instead, but I will say: this is the sort of creative work that I deeply, passionately believe in. Forget fancy book launches, forget big anthologies, forget even the humble poetry slam. This is what poetry ought to be doing with itself: opening up amazing new creative possibilities to people who might otherwise never have read a poem in their lives.

I’m being mysterious, so go see what I’m talking about! But first, listen to the following, heartfelt plea…

You guys all know the power of books — you wouldn’t read this bookgeek blog otherwise. You know there’s something about a book: they’ve got a special sort of magic that no other object has. And a lot of you know how much more magical a book becomes if it contains something that you yourself wrote… right? Well, we want to make a really, really magical book. It’ll be a book we can give to the incredible women we’ve been working with, so they can also experience how awesome (literally) it feels to hold and read and share a book that has your words in it. It’ll also be a book we can give to all of you — for free! — to show you the amazing work these groups of women have been doing.

I’d like to ask you to do three small things.

One: watch our video.

RST Poetry Film taster from media co-op on Vimeo.

Two: click on the link in the image below, go and read more about what we’re doing, and how we plan to make our book.

Three: if you can (and only if you can), donate a pound or two to our cause. Any donation over £5 gets a reward… the more you give, the bigger and cooler your reward will be. If you can’t afford to donate, that is totally OK. But I’d be super grateful if you could spread the word around to anyone you think can help us.

These three things will take you what? Five minutes? If that. But your five minutes will make a massive difference and I promise, I will be very, very grateful to you!

Thanks guys. You rock.

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You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

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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One Night Stanzas loves mail. Say hello via claire@onenightstanzas.com. 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!

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:

THE BANSHEE LABYRINTH
on
TUESDAY 6TH MARCH
at
7PM (doors) for 7.30PM (start)
and
BRING YOUR FRIENDS, YOUR APPLAUSE, AND YOUR GENEROUS DONATIONS

Check out our Facebook event for more details.

SEE YOU THERE!

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One Night Stanzas loves mail. Say hello via claire@onenightstanzas.com. 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)