Of red crowns and Highland mountains

Dear reader, thanks for coming back to my penultimate monthly blog post. I know it’s crazy, isn’t it? My last five weeks in Glasgow have dawned: my internship will only run for five more weeks, I paid my last full monthly rent, and I said goodbye to four interns and volunteers I had become friends with, some of which had started their journey at GWL around the same time I had. Many meaningful numbers that all seemed so far away when I first entered the halls of Glasgow Women’s Library. Although it is saddening, let us fill this post with all of the positive experiences and memories I have made in August.

For each month passing, I try to identify columns upon which my experiences are built. You may have noticed that I dedicated one paragraph to Story Cafés, another one to trips to Edinburgh for GWL and plenty more examples. For this month, I captured two columns: the Highlands and Edinburgh International Book Festival.

A replica of Highlander huts can be found at the Highland Folk Museum. (c) Jeanette Lang

In the last few blog posts, I mentioned one project frequently: Women In The Landscapes. For this project, I read many books on Scottish history, customs, nature and remarkable women who had grown up in the Scottish landscape. The many pages I had read inspired me to not only hold a Story Café on Mary MacPherson, a Gaelic singer-songwriter from the 19th century, but also to explore the Scottish Highlands myself. When I told a friend about my plans, they were exhilarated to go along with me and visit in my new home. We met in Glasgow and I showed them around the city for two days before we packed our bags and went to GWL for my Story Café on Mary MacPherson. Usually, I am one to panic about speaking about research I have done or reading something out loud to people I do not know very well so I got really nervous when I saw so many women come in – although the Story Café was something I had desperately wanted to hold. The audience was very welcoming and I received many words of encouragement. Contrary to my perception of my own performance, the women in the audience were impressed by the fact I read out to them in a language that was not my first and even had a go at Gaelic and Scots. And when I think about it, I would have been as delighted as them if someone else did the same thing for me. Sometimes, things seem much better from a different angle indeed… Thanks again to everybody who attended and even sent such amazing compliments my way. It is highly appreciated!

Aren’t the Highlands breathtaking? (c) Jeanette Lang

Truly empowered, my friend and I set off to the Highlands after GWL was spick and span again. We all know photographs taken in beautiful landscapes and we all may have gone to one or two of these places. It is usually evident why people take photographs of these places although sometimes they may look more impressive or vibrant in picture (not least due to the editing done to the pictures before they go online or into catalogues). This scenario did not roll out with the Highlands. Never, not at all, nowhere. We had planned a nice trip around Scotland, starting in the Cairngorms, passing on to Inverness and Loch Ness and spending two days on Isle of Skye. None of these places looked less breathtaking in real life. It was actually the pictures that lost their effect next to the vast meadows, rich shades of green, the blush purple heather coating of the hillsides, the gigantic mountainscapes and the thrilling dark greys and edges of rocks and cliffs. We even spotted fairies dancing above the Fairy Pools – even though I may have heard someone say it was dragonflies. In short, this trip is an experience I will never forget. (Don’t worry, during our return hikes I turned back often enough to genuinely never forget what I had seen.)

A selection of our pretty paper crowns! (c) Jeanette Lang

The last bit of August was marked by the Edinburgh International Book Festival of course. Together with a group of volunteers, we had prepared 220 red paper crowns, decorated with gems, glitter and gold. All of the paper crowns carried the names of Scottish suffragettes and suffragists and were the perfect accessory for the Herland salon [https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/herland-salon-with-glasgow-women-s-library] but also the it-piece for visitors to take home from our Takeover Tent. I attended the Edinburgh International Book Festival not only working for GWL but also as a visitor. When I worked in the Takeover Tent, I greeted people, handed them out our new programme, answered their questions on GWL and helped cleaning and drying the screens for our screen printing station. Of course, I also tried the screen printing myself and now I am the happy owner of a red tote bag with the slogan “SISTERHOOD IS POWERFUL“. I also happily engaged in spine poetry with other volunteers, attended Wendy’s Story Café on the festival site and listened to a school class writing songs together with our talented friend Beldina. If I was asked to detect one single highlight, I would surely pick the panel with Helen Pankhurst and Fern Riddell chaired by Adele,  our Creative Development Manager. As always, she was a captivating host and it was unbelievable to listen to a heiress of the stellar Pankhurst family. The panel not only addressed Helen’s family history but went beyond. Women’s experiences, rights and public dialogue thereabout were addressed and reframed in an inspiring and easily comprehensible way. Another event during my stay in Scotland which I will honestly never forget.

My very own Sisterhood is Powerful tote bag! (c) Jeanette Lang

All in all, August gave me the opportunity to see things and meet people I had never thought of to be in my reach. I spent wonderful afternoons chatting with other volunteers and digging out all kinds of sayings in our first languages but that sound really odd translated into English over crafting paper crowns. I held my own Story Café. What else could I ask for?

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and I hope you will come back for the next one, the final monthly blog post.



Jeanette is an Erasmus 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, and is supported by Erasmus.

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