Activists Make Archives Workshop – Join the Discussion

Go down in history with this free workshop which looks into the GWL’s LGBTQ archiving work, the importance of preserving LGBTQ history and how we want our histories to be treated.

Caption: GWL Archive Store with Lesbian and Gay Sticker, Copies of Come Together Magazine and Arena 3, Credit: GWL

February is LGBT History Month in Scotland and Glasgow Women’s Library is holding a variety of events. This one in particular looks at how archiving – preserving and researching primary sources of history – is vital to recording the history of LGBTQ people.

Glasgow Women’s Library has for the last twenty-one years been the home of the Lesbian Archive, originally known as the Lesbian Archive and Information Centre. Originally created in 1985 in London the archive has grown to become one of the most significant collections of LGBTQ history in the UK. The contents range from the 1920s to present day and the archive continues to expand and develop. Every item is donated and the range of contents spans letters, magazines, badges, t shirts, books and many other wonderful artefacts.

The collection lost funding in 1995 as the political climate became impossible to sustain it and a new home was needed. Glasgow Women’s Library was awarded it as they were most able to make it accessible to the public. The archive is vast and an ongoing project has been developed to list and research each item so that they may continue to be accessible and that we continue to learn from this vast and precious resource.

So why is this all so important? Why is preserving artefacts, cataloguing them and researching them so vital?

The preservation of history is part of how we connect to our own personal identities, as well as to a wider community. When a marginalised group – like LGBTQ people – have so much false information, hate and ignorance to fight through, having a well understood and researched history as a foundation is so important. Erasure of LGBTQ people in general from history and individual letters from their own collective history is an ongoing problem that must be rectified, one primary source at a time. People must have access to their own stories and they must have the resources and platform to tell their stories as well. LGBTQ history isn’t taught in schools, is often written out of larger historical events or is reinterpreted by non LGBTQ scholars and historians. Instead wrong and dangerous beliefs (like, for instance that LGBTQ identities are a modern invention and are invalid or unnatural) continue to thrive. The achievements of LGBTQ people are either ignored or the sexualities and gender identities of acclaimed people are downplayed or erased. Look, for instance, at the erasure of the contributions to art and history of a person like the artist Claude Cahun whose work occupies a massive space in the Surrealist and Dadaist art movement, who actively resisted and sabotaged the Nazi occupation of Guernsey, and who died shortly after the second world war as a result of being held in a POW camp.

For history to be preserved and protected, archives are vital. Undeniable proof and connections allow us to reach back in time to really see events and people as they truly were, without the prejudice of secondary interpretations.

The workshop will be discussion and activity based – a non-academic and open space where anyone of any background is welcome to come and have their voice heard. It will showcase a new toolkit developed by the library Lesbian Archive Project worker and GWL volunteers and will discuss both the importance of preserving LGBTQ history and whether or not the issues and values that are encapsulated within the items are still relevant for LGBTQ people today. The workshop is there to provide an easily accessible way to research and learn from the archives and give your opinion about how LGBTQ history should be treated and protected going forward.

This workshop is one of many events for LGBT History Month Scotland, which takes place across Scotland for the month of February. With the aim of celebrating LGBT history and the contributions of LGBT people throughout the years, various organisations hold film nights, talks, discussions, quiz nights and fun celebrations all over the country. The project was developed by LGBT Youth Scotland, the largest LGBT youth and community organisation in Scotland. They aim to connect LGBT people, help them be comfortable in their identities, speak up on issues that matter to them and gain access to a safe and welcoming education.

The Activists Make Archives Workshop is on the 25th of February from 1.00-3.00 pm.

For more information about the event and for other events that Glasgow Women’s Library are holding for LGBT History Month please visit this link.

 

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Welcome Home: Reading, Writing and Rebellious Women

Working with a learner 1:1

I think it was some time in 2010 when I first started volunteering as a literacy tutor at GWL. At the time, I was working in the soul-destroying world of company pension schemes and I felt that the life-blood was being sucked out of me by my day job. Volunteering a couple of hours a week at GWL was like having a blood transfusion with the most nourishing and invigorating blood imaginable – full of healthy corpuscles of encouragement, support, inspiration and cake. After volunteering for two weeks, I realised that I never wanted to leave…and I haven’t.

When I was made redundant from those pesky pension schemes, I cheered and went back to University to do a Masters in Community Learning and Development, improving my blood supply still further by doing my placement at GWL. As I was finishing the course, the year-long role of Outreach and Audience Development Worker came up so I applied. When Sue rang me and told me I’d got the job, I sobbed happily onto the shoulder of the stranger sitting next to me on the bus. I spent the next year wandering around Bridgeton talking to people (did I mention that I have the best job in the world?).

I was still doing my literacy tutoring, which I loved, and, shortly before my year as Outreach worker was coming to an end, the post of Adult Literacy and Numeracy Development Worker became available so I applied. When Adele rang me and told me I’d got the job, I sobbed happily onto the shoulder of the stranger sitting next to me on the bus.

And I’ve been here ever since. If the funding for this post is ever lost, I’m still coming to work anyway.

Found Poetry Workshop with creative writing group

In my role I’m privileged to be able to support women with their reading, writing and numbers, but it’s about much more than that. Learning at GWL is at the heart of everything we do. It’s about increasing women’s confidence, skills, knowledge and understanding and nurturing their desire to learn more. It’s about supporting women to find their voice and embrace new opportunities. It’s about providing a safe and welcoming space where all women are valued and working with them to overcome the barriers that hold them back from being who they want to be and doing the things they want to do.

We support women with all levels of literacy skills – some want to be able to help their children with their homework, some didn’t attend school for many different reasons, some have started college after a long break from study, some don’t have English as a first language, some want to write stories, fill in forms, take a course, read for pleasure, do a crossword, research history, or simply spend a couple of hours a week doing something they want to do for themselves…the reasons to come are as many and varied as the women themselves.

Umbrella stand painted by Suffragettes in Glasgow’s Duke Street Prison

It’s really tough to come up with a favourite item from our collections as we have so many fantastic museum, archive and library items that call out to me. However, I think that I will have to choose our wonderful Victorian umbrella stand, painted by Suffragettes in Duke Street Prison. The Governor of the prison was said to have been sympathetic to the cause of women’s suffrage and Suffragettes weren’t force fed in Duke Street as they were in other prisons – most notably Perth Prison. So – presumably to alleviate the tedium of their days – the Governor gave the Suffragettes the umbrella stand and some tins of paint, and the women painted the stand in as close to the colours of the Women’s Suffrage Movement as they could get (green – for hope; white – for purity; purple – for dignity).

When Duke Street Prison was being demolished in 1958 a social worker who used to visit the prison and knew the history of the umbrella stand was walking past and saw it poking out of a skip. She dragged it out and, eventually, it found its way to us. As well as being a wonderful piece of social history, for me it also exemplifies how women’s history is often neglected, forgotten and – sometimes quite literally – thrown away. It’s on display in the library space and I walk past it several times a day, hopefully soaking up the positive, militant, rebellious spirit of those brave women who suffered so that I could have the vote. Like me, it’s found a permanent home and it’s here for good.

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Harpies & Quines: 25 years on and relevant as ever

Hi! I’m Charlotte, 25, currently doing an MLitt in Gender Studies at the University of Stirling. For my research placement, I am delving into the world of the 1990’s Scottish feminism (which is a bit daunting, as I’m Norwegian). This is 1 of 4 posts for my blog-series revolving around the magazine I’m focusing on in my placement: Harpies & Quines. In this post, I am using new and exciting materials sent to GWL from the Women’s Marches that took place on 21st January 2017. My blog-series aims to use the magazine as a hook — drawing on themes, organisations, people, and publications I have come across. This post is dedicated to the first two issues and the importance of re-reading feminist media.

Harpies & Quines Issue 1 cover Harpies & Quines Issue 2 cover

Glasgow 1992: Harpies & Quines was released to the public for the first time, a feminist magazine distributed independently all over Scotland. 12 issues are held in the Glasgow Women’s Library archives. The first issue is like a test on the audience and the readers, encouraging feedback through letters and phone calls. The 2nd issue’s first article “Why Feminism?” is a sort of response to why H&Q exists. “I think we should tear the stereotypes to shreds and explode the myths about feminism. I’d like to see H&Q used as a forum for Scottish women to discuss anything and everything under the sun we want to discuss, but it is different from the traditional women’s magazines.” (page 1, H&Q, No 2. August/September 1992)

Women’s March 2017: Approximately 4.8 million attended marches and rallies all over the world, a reaction to Donald Trump’s inauguration, and his blatant sexism and racism. Many feminists attended, but more importantly, all these people marched to defend their own rights, and rights of others. On 21st January 2017 a ‘pussy-grabbing’ white cis-man billionaire officially became president in USA. This election’s media coverage has been a part of a normalising process, which has shown that a sexist, bigoted man can become anything he wants, without real repercussions. In the 1990’s, feminist media like Harpies & Quines found their role important in challenging social norms and to fight back:

“We will campaign for the rights of women, snap at the heels of chauvinists, encourage secret stories to be told and take a cool, hard look at the reality of our lives. Let’s face it, being a Scottish woman is often an uphill battle but it doesn’t have to be a lonely, frightening, boring or humourless one.” (Inside cover, H&Q, No. 1 May/June 1992)

In times like these, this passage is important to keep close to heart – not just for our American friends, but for everyone’s rights which are at stake every day. Trump is a cherry on top, the tip of the iceberg in a world where we are still fighting and defending our rights.

Harpies & Quines page 1 Harpies and Quines

Thankfully, even in today’s context, I can go to GWL to gain some courage and motivation by flicking through Harpies & Quines. An excerpt from a reader’s letter (Sarah in Edinburgh) mirrors my excitement of reading a feminist magazine: “I found all the articles interesting and feel that a wide range of subjects are being covered and thankfully none to do with beauty or hair removing cream!!!” (page 45, H&Q, No 2. August/September 1992)

Harpies & Quines does so much more though – it is an excellent place to find information and can serve as a spring-board for further reading on women’s movements, in for example “The History Lessons That I’d Like” in No 2, p. 42-44. Elspeth King, author of several books on Scottish Women’s History and Scottish feminism, expresses her joy in a reader’s letter too! And, whoever claimed feminists can’t take a joke or have no sense of humour, The Clitoris Awareness Column, Dinah Diner, Agony Aunt Veronica, and Steamie Tales will prove them wrong with some witty feminist banter.

As far as first impressions are concerned, Harpies & Quines is making a good one. Not just for me today, but also for the readers of the 6,000 copies that were sold by the time the second issue was sent to print in 1992!

Further reading, all held by GWL:
Spender, Dale. There’s Always Been A Women’s Movement This Century. (1983) Pandora Press.

King, Elspeth. The Hidden Histories of Glasgow’s Women and The Scottish Women’s Suffrage Movement.

Harpies & Quines Archive at GWL.

Feeling inspired?
Come along to our event at GWL on 21st February 2017: In Her Shoes – Acts of Activism and Rebellion. In this object handling session we will explore women’s creative responses to racist, disablist and homophobic discrimination and prejudice using posters, zines and artworks from our collections.

Did you go to a Women’s March? Do you have any posters, banners or other protest materials to spare? GWL will happily accept them!

Pussyhats Women's March Placard

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Helen Oyeyemi and Boy, Snow, Bird: a Review

Some of my very favourite reads are ones that intricately incorporate rich myth, folklore and fairytale, and Helen Oyeyemi’s novels are nothing if not characterised by her abundant use of all of the above, exploring territories and cultures that such historically mythical possibilities for narratives have become deeply embedded. From the central ghost story of her amazing White is for Witching and the powerful retelling of the myth of the nefarious Bluebeard in Mr. Fox Oyeyemi consistently demonstrates that which I most love about an author – both a roving fascination with the world’s stories and the varied cultures that birthed them, and a strong tendency to fascinate over a niche of suggestive themes that are distinctly connected throughout their body of work. In Oyeyemi’s case, that niche opens itself as a study on identity and identity’s literal and metaphorical manifestations – the constant presence of mirrors, doubles, triangles, juxtapositions and disappearances – that all feed into Oyeyemi’s exploration of the notion of what happens when we have to live without any sense or confidence of self in a world that isn’t kind.

Boy, Snow, Bird, published 2015, is Oyeyemi’s fifth novel and is no different to its predecessors. On the very first page, we are introduced to the sad situation of Boy, a motherless adolescent trapped in that awkward phase between girhood and womanhood, desperately fleeing her abusive father. Boy, with nothing but a shabby rucksack of clothes and an American flag, jumps on the first bus out of New York, not caring where it takes her as long as it’s away from home. She ends up in the little, unassuming town of Flax Hill.

Here, Boy immediately transforms from the high-fairytale trope of the ill-treated waif daughter and into another, in many ways more surprising, cliché—the drifter of 1950s America, identified by her reliance on temporary jobs and hostels. It is at this moment that we recall Boy informing us of her looks; that strange white-blond hair juxtaposed with her humourless black eyes. This, strange description, reminds me, somewhat uneasily, of her surname – Novak. With all these big hints, I surely can’t be the only one suddenly thinking of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, one of cinema’s most horrifying exploration of disguise and duplicity. In many ways, like Hitchcock himself, Oyeyemi is fascinated not merely by what happens when you attempt to pretend you are who you’re not, but in the fragile lines that fall between who we are and who everyone else is. We are not, after all, all that different.

In Flax Hill, Boy meets and marries Arturo Whitman, hoping to be a good mother to his daughter Snow. This fails, however, when she discovers she is pregnant and gives birth to her own little girl, Bird, who’s arrival causes the narrative to change unexpectedly. Suddenly we’re screaming questions of 50s America’s views on race and class as we learn that the Whitmans are actually a light-skinned black family living unchallenged among whites and, more shockingly, we also learn that the Whitmans have a history of banishing their blacker members to try and keep up appearances, quite literally. The ramifications of this revelation leave Boy – once a beaten and neglected Cinderella – transforming into something darker and more villainous – the evil step-mother of her own piece, who effects a new banishment, sending Snow away to join the blacker Whitmans.

As Boy changes, so does the focus of the narrative, verging away from the fairytale and into something more real and political. When Arturo’s mother, Olivia, explains the gap in worlds of black and whites she describes it in terms of its inherent otherness: “All the high-class places we were allowed to go to, they were imitations of the places we were kept out of … at the candlelit table you’d try and imagine what dinnertime remarks the real people were making … yes, the real people at the restaurant two blocks away, the white folks we were shadows of, and you’d try to talk about whatever you imagined they were talking about, and your food turned to sawdust in your mouth. What was it like in those other establishments? What was it that was so sacred about them, what was it that our being there would destroy? I had to know. I broke the law because I had to know.”

Throughout all of this, Bird and Snow are maturing and becoming more curious of the other’s existence and more determined to break the literal and metaphorical distance that separates them. The power of their innocent, sisterly bond is evident from the passionate letters sent between them, and this narrative completely denounces the more expected tropes of vanished mothers, evil step-mothers and abandoned daughters. Doing what she does best here, Oyeyemi suggests the possibility of a kind of personal and social redemption through the assumption of one’s identity, in that they cohere and are completely malleable when we learn to live with the life that we have fashioned for ourselves. This final understanding breaths life into a beautiful, painful and magical novel that ends on a welcome offering of optimism and safety.

I highly recommend it.

Helen Oyeyemi is a London-based Nigerian-born young author who has been lauded as a Granta best of young British novelist.

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Come Together

I’m Alice, and I currently work at GWL as a sessional worker, working specifically on the collection which is popularly known as the Lesbian Archive. My job is to work with volunteers to list and research the collections, as well as to create new online and offline resources which highlight the collections and make them a little more accessible.

Though known as the Lesbian Archive, the collection is actually a pretty wide ranging collection which takes in a range of LGBTQ histories from the early twentieth century right up until the present day. It also charts some of the key campaigns and concerns affecting LGBTQ people and politics through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. To find out more, you can visit our Lesbian Archive collections page, and check out our new online insight pages which we’ll be launching later on in February to celebrate LGBT History Month!

Come Together, Number 5, 1971, Gay Liberation Front media group

Choosing something to highlight for GWL25 from this enormous collection has been pretty hard as you can imagine! The collection has a very large and print and publication collection, and it has been this which has been the biggest revelation to me whilst working on the archive this year. We’ve been able to unearth publications and journals that we didn’t even know we had, so I’ve chosen to highlight one of our new finds, and definitely one of my favourites!

Among the new finds was issues of the newspaper of the Gay Liberation Front, Come Together.  Based in London and produced by the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) media group, Come Together charted the efforts of Gay Liberation in the early 1970s. Stylistically the newspaper is absolutely incredible, and was assembled through collaging techniques often combined with had drawn artworks, cartoons and sketches.

In Issue 5 of Come Together (1971), we see some of the key concerns of Gay Liberation in the early 1970s. It foregrounds the complicated relationship which early Gay Liberation had with other social justice movements, in particular the Women’s Liberation movement and working class movements. The front page for example covers a confrontational action undertaken by GLF as both an act of solidarity with the TUC over their opposition to the Industrial Relations Bill – an act of solidarity which would prefigure the solidarity between Lesbians and Gays and striking workers in the 1980s, but which throws up the slightly troubled path that these acts of solidarity had initially:

We were not only there because as a liberation front we aim to help fight all forms of oppression, but also because many, in fact most, of the people on the demo were real male chauvinists themselves, and therefore, our enemy…

Elsewhere in the paper, other actions are also detailed. An action in the Imperial College student union, directed against rowdy misogynistic and homophobic rugby playing students, details members of GLF and the Women’s Liberation movement dragging up and goading the students by kissing each other and ordering beer at the bar. When confronted with a hose pipe, the protesters stood defiant – “It’s only water girls, come on and enjoy it and we did. The places was wrecked, water everywhere as we stood, silent and defiant until they advanced with baseball bats and physically threw us out”.

On the back page a demonstration against the publisher of the book “Everything you wanted to know against sex but were afraid to ask” by WH Allen is described – an action which spoke to the anti-psychiatry motivations of the GLF. This desire to eliminate pathologising, oppressive and unethical medicalized and psychosexual interpretations of homosexuality is echoed in many other LGBT publications of this period notably publications like Arena 3 and The Ladder. The issue was so central to the early efforts of Gay Liberation that the GLF even had its very own anti-psychiatry action group.

The efforts of the GLF to campaign against the policy of one of the oldest and most iconic lesbian bars in London, The Gateways Club, which had banned politics is also reported on. The Gateways which had been in existence since 1945 had long been a bastion of Butch/Femme dynamics amongst its Lesbian clientele. Butch women would be men and femme women would be women. To many in the burgeoning Women’s Liberation movement as well as the GLF, these dynamics were deemed to be a reinforcement of patriarchy – a regressive and apolitical role play. The action against The Gateways involved the peaceful protest of the club, and the distribution of political material in the form of GLF flyers and literature in the club as well as engaging members of the club in political conversation. The protest was greeted with heavy handed policing, and protesters were handed hefty fines and court costs of around £8 (over £100 in todays money). Butch/Femme would become repoliticised in LGTBQ politics, but the action says much not just about the politics of the time, and the ways in which the politicisation of sexuality was not a universally welcomed phenomenon for some.

Come Together, Number 5, back cover, Gay Liberation Front media group, 1971

One of my favourite articles is an incredible letter sent in by a drag queen entitled A Queen Is Person Really. It is a personal account of the exclusion felt by drag queens in movements like the GLF, where increasingly values of camp and effeminacy began to be sidelined, suppressed and diminished. The queen writes:

I am very politically minded and very ‘aware’, so I enjoy the lively GLF meetings and get quite excited when someone stands up, red faced and shouts back at someone else. Then someone says something about screaming queens – BANG – that hurt. I tell myself that queens have a part to play in GLF, and society at large, and all my friends agree. So what am I really worried about? Can anyone tell me??

The letter reflects on something which I think is reflected in many other publications, writings and resources in the archive. Namely about the danger of not embracing the difference within our communities, not just the LGBTQ community. The danger of homogenising radical movements ultimately ends in loneliness and isolation for some. Echoing parts of Sylvia Rivera’s incredible speech during one Pride March in the 1973, the letter speaks to concerns that many had from an early stage about respectability politics and assimilationist politics creeping into a movement which had had to physically fight against the state for so much.

These are still conversations being had in the LGBTQ community today, and you can draw plenty of parallels between the concerns of a publication like Come Together and contemporary LGBTQ politics, particularly around issues connected with misogyny or sexism, classism or trans exclusion. LGBT History Month is an amazing opportunity for us to reflect on these incredible documents from the past, like Come Together, not just to remember or reflect on what has come before, but to help frame and contextualise our activism today and in the future.

 

 

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A Revolution – On Roller Skates! Celebrating the Audacious Women of Roller Derby

Inside Line magazine, Issue 1, September 2011 (cover)

Inside Line magazine, Issue 1, September 2011 (cover)

Women are often told not to take up space.

Sugar, spice, all things nice, we’re told we can’t (or shouldn’t) throw, or run fast, or get sweaty or dirty when we exercise. In 2017, we’re still told that there are some sports that women just can’t (or shouldn’t!) compete in.

But we want to tell you about a group of women who are asking why this should be; women who challenge these prejudices, who are a real and present danger to the all-too-common stereotype that ‘proper girls don’t take up space’. These are women who demonstrate (in bright colours, in loud voice and on roller skates) that women can and do excel in fast, contact sports . . . we want to introduce you to the dangerous, audacious women of Roller Derby!

What has Roller Derby got to do with audacious women? A relatively new sport in the UK, it is full contact, high intensity, played on roller skates, and boasts a strong and proud history of DIY feminist values.

Roller Derby is one of the few sports where trans women and trans non-binary athletes are amongst the most famous players in the world. Played by both men’s and women’s teams, there are also co-ed (mixed gender) teams, making Roller Derby rare among full contact sports. Roller Derby also has an illustrious history of creating safe spaces for bisexual, gay and/or queer skaters – love in all its forms is regularly celebrated within Roller Derby culture!

“I was very sceptical when my friend dragged me to the Roller Derby intake session. They had been insisting for ages that I would enjoy it, but I wasn’t so sure. I hated sports at school, and the thought of exercising in front of others was terrifying. I was so unfit! I hadn’t played sports in YEARS and I had never worn a pair of roller skates in my life.”

A Roller Derby Participant

The equal, diverse and inclusive Roller Derby ethos also extends to body image, rejecting stereotypes about female bodies, and reclaiming sport as a way for girls and women to get fit, have fun and come together in a spirit of challenge and transgression against prescriptive, damaging social ideals about body size and shape:

“Now I can’t imagine my life without Roller Derby. I have made so many friends, and overcome some big challenges. I am stronger and fitter than I’ve ever been, and the best part is that I feel great. Roller Derby is a sport where all body shapes and sizes are celebrated. Some of the best skaters in the world are women of size, and they are just as fit, strong and fierce as their peers.”

A Roller Derby Participant

Roller Derby dates to at least as early as the 1920s in the USA, and its popularity has grown considerably here in the UK more recently. A dip in popularity was met with a hearty Texan revival in the early 2000s, and it was in 2006 that Roller Derby came to the UK. London Rollergirls, Birmingham Blitz Dames, London Rockin’ Rollers and our very own Glasgow Rollergirls (now known as Glasgow Roller Derby) were the first of many UK teams. Today there are over 90 Roller Derby leagues in the UK, and Scotland continues to be well and truly in on the act – Elgin Roller Derby, just outside Inverness, is just one of the more recent additions to the hall of fame!

Bel Pye – GWL volunteer and Roller Derby woman!

Want to find out more? If you don’t know your jammers from your blockers and can’t wait to learn about the audacious, dangerous women of Roller Derby, Glasgow Women’s Library, in partnership with the Audacious Women Festival, is inviting you to a week-long exhibition of fascinating ephemera, costumes, posters and artwork, a chance to explore the UK’s first permanent archive for the all-female, full-contact sport of Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby based at GWL. The archive, originally developed from a project by artist Ellie Harrison with an exhibition curated by members of Glasgow Roller Derby and Auld Reekie Roller Girls, records and celebrates the stories and achievements of the women who Roller Derby.

The Revolution on Roller Skates exhibition is at Meadowbank Stadium, London Road, Edinburgh from Tuesday 21st February until Tuesday 28th February. If you’d like to book a FREE space at the launch event on Tuesday 21st February 6pm-7.30pm, email rebecca.jones@womenslibrary.org.uk.

This exhibition is a partnership between Glasgow Women’s Library and the Audacious Women Festival.

 

 

Rebecca Jones
Bel Pye

 


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Speaking Out Goes to Parliament

Yesterday evening we held a reception at Scottish Parliament to officially launch the project film and engage those in government with the project messages of recognising and celebrating the achievements of the Women’s Aid movement across its 40+ years of history while looking to the future and all that we still need to work towards in order to eradicate domestic abuse.

The evening was well attended by MSPs, with representation from across the political spectrum, and representatives from a number of services and offices including local Women’s Aid groups, the Law Society of Scotland, Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Police Scotland, Zero Tolerance, Engender and a number of others.

Mairi Evans with Scottish Women’s Aid workers Louise and Brenna

The evening was sponsored and opened by Mairi Evans, MSP for Angus North and Mearns, who connected the celebration of past achievements of Women’s Aid, including being instrumental in securing legal protections for women, children and young people, with the history being made right now with the proposed bill to create a specific offence of domestic abuse. Marsha Scott, CEO of Scottish Women’s Aid, then briefly introduced the Speaking Out project, making a point to remind us of the value in looking back and reconnecting with the movement’s roots.

A choir composed of Women’s Aid workers, both past and present, and local community women’s choir members sang a selection of songs including ‘The Lament of the Working Class Hero’s Wife’ written by Lynda Peachey and friends during a power cut in one of the first women’s refuges in Edinburgh in the 1970s. ‘Raising My Voice, Raising Your Voice’, an original piece composed for the event by  song leader Penny Stone and featuring traditional Women’s Aid slogans such as ‘Break the silence, end this violence’ and ‘Women supporting women supporting women’, was also a favourite (lots of feet stomping out the beat!).

The Speaking Out  project film was introduced by filmmaker Helena Öhman and two volunteers who took part in filming oral history interviews, Emma Baker and Kim Nicoll. They commented on how privileged they felt to be entrusted with the stories of the women interviewed and with creating a medium to share those stories. It was especially lovely to have a few of the women interviewed for the film with us last night and to see how positive their reactions to the final creation were. The film really captures the feeling of women coming together to support one another. It’s incredibly moving and inspiring to watch. The film is now available to view here so if you haven’t seen it yet, do set aside 30 minutes and grab a cup of tea – I promise you’ll feel uplifted for the rest of the day!

We are looking to use the film to engage people with the project so please do share it. We are also happy to talk to groups that might be interested in screening the film as part of an event (perhaps in combination with a guided discussion about the history of Women’s Aid and the themes outlined in the film). Please get in touch with Emma Gascoigne to discuss.

It was a wonderful opportunity to bring the history of Women’s Aid to Parliament and to share the stories the project has been collecting with policymakers. Thanks to all who attended and made the evening such a huge success.

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Hitting the Charter Mark

Volunteers and Volunteer Coordinator receiving Award Cerrtificate

Volunteers Maria, Eilidh, Laine and Jane with Volunteer Coordinator Gabrielle

After scooping so many awards in 2016 for our beautiful building and innovative projects, we’re really thrilled to announce the first accolade of 2017 as we become one of only 5 Glasgow-based charities to have been awarded the Glasgow Volunteering Charter Mark.

The Glasgow Volunteering Charter was launched in June 2016 and offers a new, strategic programme which will enable more organisations to involve more people who can support their work with time, energy, and skills.

At GWL, volunteers have always been central to our work and we’re committed to supporting diverse women to participate and contribute to the organisation, and to ensuring our activities are inclusive, our space welcoming, and our materials accessible and representative of the richness and diversity of women’s lives and experiences.

Signing up to the Charter was therefore an obvious fit with our work and it felt like the perfect opportunity to get recognition for the life-enhancing work of our volunteering programme which enriches the lives of dozens of women each year.

One of our volunteers with the Award Certificate

By signing the Charter we’ve pledged to:

  • Create and expand appropriate opportunities for volunteering withing GWL, and
  • Ensure our opportunities are accessible to all sections of the community, and that our volunteer team reflects the demographics of the city.

The action plan outlining how we will fulfill the above pledges and baseline census data about the diversity of the volunteer team can be found on the Volunteer Centre website.

If you would like more information about our volunteering programme please visit this page.

 

Images courtesy of fabimagesphotography.co.uk

 

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Nominations open for ‘Outstanding Women of Scotland’ 2017

Nominations are now open for the ‘Outstanding Women of Scotland’ awards, a partnership between the Saltire Society and Glasgow Women’s Library. Launched in 2015, the campaign celebrates exceptional women from all walks of life alongside Scotland’s unsung heroines.

Ten outstanding women are inducted annually in to the  ‘Outstanding Women of Scotland’ community on Alongside the First Minister; other inductees include Annie Lennox and  Scotland’s Makar Jackie Kay. Responding to her nomination, the First Minister said she hoped ‘the achievements of all those featured will inspire many more Scottish women to fulfil their dreams’.

The public is being invited to submit their nominations for next year’s list. Nominees must be living, contemporary examples of Scottish women who have made a significant contribution to Scottish culture and society. Nominations can be made by completing an online form on the Saltire Society website,  hard copy nominations forms will also be available from the Saltire Society and Glasgow Women’s Library and nominations will also be accepted via social media.

The 2017 Outstanding Women of Scotland will be announced at a ceremony on the 7 March 2017  (the eve of International Women’s day) held at Glasgow Women’s library, which will be each of our inductees presented with a limited edition print by emerging printmaker Jessica Crisp.

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Support our Play Amnesty to showcase female playwriting talent

Glasgow Women’s Library and Stellar Quines have launched a Play Amnesty to showcase female playwriting talent.

The Play Amnesty is a call out for plays written by women. As we both champion female voices we are asking people to donate copies of plays and scripts written by women that have been published, produced and/or performed for a new drama shelf.

To reflect the rich diversity of the GWL collection, plays are sought from female writers of any nationality. The Library is particularly keen to receive plays that have a female focus, or strong roles for women, and writing from the Trans community and Women of Colour. Plays not written in the English language are also welcomed.

Plays can be posted to or dropped off at GWL or donated at one of the Amnesty Drop Off points listed below.

Alongside the public Amnesty we will be working with Stellar Quines to ensure culturally diverse voices are represented in our collection of plays, identifying women playwrights and sourcing plays. The plays will be available to members and will be used by the Library’s Drama Queens Group for readings. The project has the support of two of Scotland’s leading playwrights Linda McLean and Lynda Radley who have commited to donate their work to the drama shelf.

Linda Maclean, playwright:

When I was growing up I didn’t know that it was possible to be a playwright and a woman and alive. And while I comfort myself that things are changing I often meet people who cannot name a female playwright. I am so glad Stellar Quines and Glasgow Women’s Library is having a Play Amnesty.  It is such a positive step towards recording the many plays by women, living and dead, who have contributed to the body of Scottish Theatre, and who deserve to shine.

Lynda Radley, playwright:

I am delighted to donate copies of my published work to Glasgow Women’s’ Library, an organisation I have been aware of since I first moved to Glasgow eleven years ago. Glasgow Women’s Library provides excellent tailored resources including safe spaces for women to learn and to grow, resurrects fascinating local her stories and curates a programme of work that celebrates and challenges. Their values mirror those of Stellar Quines, an organisation I have also had to pleasure of being nurtured by, and I feel honoured that my work will sit alongside that of other female playwrights in Glasgow Women’s Library. 

The Amnesty will close on the 28th February with the drama shelf unveiled on the 8thMarch to mark International Women’s Day. A launch event at GWL will include readings by the Library’s Drama Queens group, and workshop sessions with playwright’s Linda McLean and Lynda Radley as well as Stellar Quines Artistic Director and CEO Jemima Levick.

Play Amnesty 19th January – 28th February 2017

DROP OFF POINTS

Glasgow Women’s Library, 23 Landressy Street, Glasgow, G40 1BP

Stellar Quines

Playwright’s Studio

Tron Theatre

Traverse Theatre

Dundee Rep Theatre

Shetland Arts

Horsecross Arts

Or post plays & scripts to:

Play Amnesty 

Glasgow Women’s Library, 23 Landressy St, Glasgow, G40 1BP

Drama Shelf Launch

Glasgow Women’s Library

Wednesday 8th March, 2.00 – 4.30pm

Free – all ages welcome

 

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