Tag Archives: Feminism

Sharon Blackie on the path out of our modern wasteland

9 May
Sharon Blackie

Sharon Blackie ©Calyx Picture Agency

“The world is in crisis”, says Sharon Blackie, author of If Women Rose Rooted, and possessor of one of the calmest voices I’ve ever heard.

I’m here as an unofficial representative of the Patriarchy, which quickly becomes an uncomfortable place to be as Sharon opens with a lighthearted tale of the rape and subjugation of the well maidens of ancient Celtic myth.

They used the water from the wells they guarded to nourish the land, so the legend goes, and so the land nourished us in turn. But then menfolk were invented, and we ruined everything. Continue reading

I was Man for a Day at the Swindon Festival of Poetry

8 Oct

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That sounds fun, I thought, about being a man for a day. But I didn’t expect it to be such a challenge.

I don’t mean keeping the boobs flat (damn bandages kept rolling up), or keeping my ‘penis’ in place, or even perfecting the man’s walk when, essentially, a woman’s hips are different to a man’s.

Yes, these were annoying but all the women poets taking part in Diane Torr’s Man for a Day (Swindon Festival of Poetry) had these problems and it created a certain comradeship between us.

No, what was hard was knowing what kind of man I wanted to be. And this journey – for a while at least – was a lonely one. Did I want to be myself, but male? Did I want to be a man I admired? Or a man I didn’t?

Continue reading

The upside of corruption: Renaissance writer Sarah Dunant at Marlborough Literature Festival

29 Sep
Sarah Dunant at Marlborough Literature Festival 2014

Sarah Dunant

All the events I’ve been to at Marlborough Literature Festival this year have sparkled, and yesterday Sarah Dunant, Renaissance fiction writer, was no exception.

With enthusiastic continental-style gesticulating, Sarah imbued her talk with as many interesting metaphors as in her books.

And to give AC Grayling from Saturday a run for his money, she did it all without a seeming reference to any notes.

Sarah’s foray into Renaissance fiction came after a midlife crisis in Florence. “If you are going to have a psychological breakdown,” she said, “do it in a good city.” Continue reading

Jenny Uglow on pre-Victorian pioneer Sarah Losh, Marlborough Festival of Literature

27 Sep

In a little corner in Cumbria, a nineteenth century church stands testament to the vision of one of the UK’s first woman architects, Sarah Losh.

With virtually none of the usual Christian iconography, it is instead decorated with much older symbols of fertility and is inspired by the burgeoning pre-Victorian interest in geology and palaeontology.

The story of Sarah Losh, The Pinecone, is not only of an incredible women who became an architect about two hundred years before feminism, but also of family, history and giving others a chance. Continue reading

An overlooked hero – Wollstonecraft in Swindon Festival of Literature

18 May

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As with many notable historic women, Mary Wollstonecraft is an overlooked hero.

Sandrine Berges, a French professor flown from her home in Turkey for the Swindon Festival of Literature, has a mission to raise Wollstonecraft’s profile.

Wollstonecraft was a British writer and philosopher who wrote what is probably the first feminist tract.

“Wollstonecraft would have been shocked at how slowly things have moved for women today,” said Sandrine, arguing that Wollstonecraft’s values have still not been fully realised.

The eighteenth century writer and philosopher lived a pretty racy life for a women in that age. She did not deliberately set out to provoke society – she came from a respectable family abeit with issues – she simply wanted the freedom to live the life she wanted to lead. She had two lovers, fell pregnant, fell in love with another man and fell pregnant again. She married the father of her second child but lived apart from him so they could both maintain their independence. They shared childcare of the first child. Sadly for her and for early feminism, she died days after the birth of her second child. Continue reading

War correspondent recalls the achievements of the Great War women – Kate Adie at Swindon Festival of Literature

13 May

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Ask anyone to name a woman associated with the battlefield and you’ll get one of three answers – Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale, or former BBC chief news correspondent Kate Adie – a veteran of Tiananmen Square, the first Gulf War, and the war in the former Yugoslavia.

Apt, then, that Kate has written a book about the women of the first world war. It’s called Fighting on the Home Front, but if the title suggests that women never made it across the Channel, let alone to the front line, then that’s far from the truth – as the author will explain later. Continue reading