A month of specials and travels

Mamma mia, have the past four weeks rushed by fast. So fast in fact that facing this blog post I feel like not even two days have passed between the last one and this blog post and that it feels like I haven’t done anything even though I actually have. Quite a lot, to be honest. Besides my normal activities at GWL in terms of research for our National Lifelong Learning Project, being at the reception and helping Wendy with the Story Café, I attended numerous events hosted at and by GWL and let’s not forget our nomination and judges’ visit for the Museum Of The Year Award. I will try to retrace them in the following.

 

Self portrait by Scarlett Crawford as part of her “I am Not Asian” series [CREDIT: Scarlett Crawford]
Since my last blog post, the first event I attended was the introductory session of the First Waves series of workshops. At my university, we would talk about inclusive feminism with a view on focusing on non-white women but none of my professors has had the necessary focused research on the subject. Hence, I felt like I lacked information in this area and happily took the chance to attend. Scarlett Crawford, artist in residence at the UK Parliament,gave a well-prepared and interesting lecture on the Race Relations Acts 1976  as part of jurisdiction and a theoretical approach of the government to immigration, and the actual lived experiences of immigrants. Many women in the audience related to those experiences, some of them positive although also sadly the negative side of immigration and the racism they had experienced. Given my (privileged) upbringing, this event was one of the instances that smacked me in the face with the actual harm caused by unjust immigration policies, a lack of measures taken against face-to-face and institutionalised racism. Scarlett’s purpose for the event, however, was not to hold a lecture and then simply disappear. Rather the lecture was used as an introduction to her actual objective, namely the production and compilation of artistic pieces for an exhibition related to the Race Relation Act and its impact on immigrants to the UK. She announced that she would come back for a week of workshops to take photographs of the women, produce an audio file with community languages and much more. The women were highly enthusiastic and so the library became buzzed about Scarlett’s return.

 

Soon after the introductory session for First Waves, it was announced we were shortlisted for the Museum Of The Year award. The nucleus of our staff kept it secret so perfectly, even our volunteers were surprised by it. The announcement party was soon replaced by a collective cleanout party and the excitement and anticipation grew daily. On the 8th of May, the day of the judges’ visit, our library was, of course, spick and span and it all went down harmoniously and we are very much looking forward to the announcement of the winner on the 5th of July.

 

Morag reading out Jackie Kay’s Red Cherry Red

The 8th of May also marked the start for the nationwide Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival. GWL was involved in three workshops taking place in Johnstone and Paisley. I helped with research beforehand and had lots of fun doing so (as well as a few eye-opening insights). In Johnstone, Morag held two Story Cafés. One dealt with a positive stance towards the menopause and the other dealt with new beginnings in life. Naturally, this involved searching for suitable literature and reading as much as I could. My focus was on the menopause workshop. I learnt that the menopause is not only just a medically described phase in a woman’s life kept private by your mum and ostensibly ranted about by any other woman on the planet. Actually, I learnt that the menopause is a highly individual experience whose perception can range from an absolute nightmare to a highly positive kickstart of a new chapter in life. Honestly, now I keep wondering how anyone could dare write down generalisations about it. Apart from the two workshops in Johnstone, Morag and I also travelled to Paisley where we presented Tips for Girls. Tips for Girls was a fun enterprise as it involved researching dating and fashion tips, obscure medical advice and hilarious advertisements from the 1880s until today. It struck me how some things, especially medical and beauty advice, changed tremendously whereas the dating landscape has mainly been given just a slightly more feminist sounding wording without any substantial change.

Dark Times by Ethyl Smith

My involvement in the Story Café also contained a few highlights this month. We held three Specials. At the first occasion, historic fiction writer Ethyl Smith paid us a visit and read from Dark Times, the second book out of her ongoing series. Listening to her was not only enthralling but also made us become part of her 17th century scenery. The Scottish woodlands have never felt so scary and we would be shaken many times by the many Scottish voices. On the second occasion, our dear Donna Moore presented her PhD thesis on feminist writing in the form of crime fiction.

 

 

Salome Benidze’s publication I Wanted To Ask You

For this undertaking, Donna is currently writing three novellas which form the body of her research. Through attending Donna’s creative writing workshops, I already knew she had a way with words but I was astonished at HOW good she was in her very own work. She is a very talented writer and each of our attendants clang ardently to her voice. Not only has she written captivating fiction, she managed to make hearing about practices and architecture in Scottish asylums enjoyable, and her methods for scientific research are spellbinding. For our second Story Café special, we welcomed our guests Helen Mort, lecturer in Creative Writing with a focus on poetry at the Manchester Writing School , Bern Roche Farrelly, Communications Manager  at the Poetry Translation Centre,  as well as Georgian poet and translator at the Poetry Translation Centre Salome Benidze. The trio presented Salome’s latest publication I Wanted To Ask You, a bilingual poetry collection written by herself. Alternatingly, Salome read the pivotal Georgian version of her poem and then Helen read her English translation of the exact same poem. It was the first time I heard Georgian and I learnt about Georgian culture, the position of women therein and political tensions in the country.

Handcrafting at Jessie Newbery talk and workshop in Paisley.

 

To close off this blog entry, I would like to talk about my latest trip for GWL. Morag kindly let me take her place for a talk and workshop on the Glaswegian designer and Glasgow School of Art teacher Jessie Newbery and the textile industry in Paisley, an event organised by the city council for the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival as part of their regeneration programme. The talk was given by two outstanding ladies in the midst of their PhD, the History Girls, and ended with some handcrafting in groups. Our all-female groups were invited to create a poster for a regenerated Paisley in the style of the Paisley textiles introduced in the talk. For this, we used pieces of paper and fabrics of different colours and patterns, glitter, felt pens and more.

 

 

Please have a look at my group’s outcome.

Our group outcome at the Jessie Newbery talk and workshop in Paisley

 

Thank you very much for returning to my blog post and taking the time to read it. Let’s see what the month of June will hold for me at GWL!

 

Jeanette is an intern at Glasgow Women’s Library and involved in the National Lifelong Learning Project and Story Café, among other projects of GWL. She started in April and will stay until early October. Her internship here is part of her studies of English and Gender Studies at the Saarland University in Germany, where she grew up.

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