While it’s still fresh in my mind, I would like to write some words on what a wonderful day I had at the third Women of the World festival to be held at The Playhouse in my home town of Derry/Londonderry.
I booked the weekend off especially and got the bus into town early, heart a bit heavy with Paris and distracted by many things.
Here’s a wee word from WoW founder, Jude Kelly. The big original Southbank Centre London one – which has now spread to 15 cities in 5 continents.
WOW attempts to raise and explore all of our concerns whilst also celebrating the huge potential of girls and women to make a different and more successful society for everyone. At WOW we encourage fun, activism, openness to new subject matter and an opportunity to add your voice to the wealth of stories that girls and women of all ages, backgrounds and experiences are sharing. WOW Derry-Londonderry has become a place where people come to meet, celebrate and take action, celebrating the women and girls of the North West and the rest of the world – and taking a frank look at what still stops them from achieving their potential.
The first event I went to was a Welcome to WOW – here the three big names Sandi Toksvig, Kathy Lette and Baroness Helena Kennedy QC were introducing the festival and, being three besties, discussing the importance of female friendship. This was just something I decided to go to, and I was almost moved to tears and laughing out loud. I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t heard of Kathy Lette, novelist and Baroness Helena Kennedy top amazing lawyer, but hearing their wisdom and wit on a Saturday morning was special and moving, and so heartening. They kept reiterating that female friendship is not a soft, fluffy thing. It is vital to a woman’s life, and relationships may come and go but your friends remain constant and provide such a support throughout life. Sandi, being a major fountain of knowledge told us about female friendships in history that we may not know about. Such as this, which I was so impressed by. Ella Fitzgerald, jazz singer, could not get a gig in New York because of the colour of her skin.
She knew that of she could play the Mocambo Night Club in the 50’s, her career would be made. The owners refused, saying they did not know what could happen if they allowed her to sing there. Marilyn Monroe called up the owner and said she would take a front table every night that Ella Fitzgerald played if he booked her. And the press would know. He agreed, and Marilyn was there every night.
I was impressed by the wise words, advice and hilarity. I came away deeply appreciating my friends. And hoping I haven’t abandoned them too much. Cause I know I need them!!
I was then delighted that my friend Claire could join me to attend ‘Tools for a Stress Free Life.’ (How me is that?!) and we had a go at affirmations and being money magnets and everything. (Load of happy women had just vacated the room after a Menopause Matters talk!)
We then used the Community Room for a little sit down and a cup of complementary tea and a catch up. The community room was a great new touch for people to continue the conversation. It is really cute and quirky with sofas and mismatched mugs and dress up clothes in the corner.
We then heard three local women’s personal stories of overcoming huge health, mental health issues and powerful life affirming stories they were. WOW Bites was really inspiring and touching, I loved author Sinead Cox’s story and Grainne McAnee was amazing in her story of overcoming depression. I was really happy to spot more Women of the World that I knew at this event!
Local heroine of mine, Journo and eight times author Claire Allan held a rather apt session in the Green Room, surrounded my light bulb mirrors, about how the media affects women and girl’s self-esteem. I love discussing this rather scary topic, and although I was shy, my friend Caoimhe did a great job discussing the topic with Claire and Divya, a dietetics student. There was one man at this event and much swooning was done when he spoke passionately about how important the whole issue was and how he would make sure his male friends came to WOW in future etc.
This kind of made me realise that in some ways we were preaching to the converted, I know I’d like my man to be introduced to many of the ideas, and have his eyes opened to some of the issues. There really was nothing exclusive or blaming about any of the events. Just truthful and looking for ways forward for everyone! Anyway, men, I think you should come next year for definite!
In the foyer of The Playhouse there were stalls selling t-shirts and cakes, doing hair, selling Lush Products. Jenni was there with her Little Acorns book stall, selling all the relevant books and SHIFT fanzine,vol.3 in which I have the most cringey poem. I really appreciated Jenni, she was so selfless missing all the events, and so helpful telling us who would be signing what and which were the best books to buy! You should definitely visit her lovely shop in The Yellow Yard.
The two main events were still to go, and I was utterly charmed by Kathy Lette, who is SO glamorous and so funny, and who’s book ‘Courting Trouble’ pokes fun at the shocking way the judicial system has treated rape cases in the past. Her friend and interviewer Helena had read through the book carefully to advise and guide on all the courtroom scenes and we were queuing up to buy the book afterwards. And meet Kathy of course. Kathy opened up about having a son with Autism and she described the hardships, the laughter and the extraordinary thing it is. I love all the by-the-by conversations and side notes and fascinating things that can be discovered when women talk.
We also had tickets for ‘Sandi Toksvig Tells a Yarn’ – with a warning that the show contains live knitting. Basically Sandi went through history to see how women fared. She’s so intelligent it’s a little unnerving. I was afraid she would think us Derry ones not smart. But it was great, and she and the other guests gave of their time voluntarily and that is so admirable.
I am glad these kinds of conversations are happening, that women are getting together to discuss important issues. I was happy that the events allowed myself and my friend to carry on the conversation, and I had to laugh at Claire and me’s avoidance of the same events if we felt it conflicted with our beliefs too much etc.
I have to commend the North West Women’s Collective, Tara Gleeson and everyone involved in bringing the Women of the World festival to the Playhouse so successfully this year. I really adored it, and I know many seeds have been planted and great strength and goodness is spreading.