Audacious Women Festival – Celebrating Audacity, Spoken Word and Music

The by-line of the Audacious Women Festival, now in its 3rd year, is ‘Do what you always wished you dared.’ Sally Wainwright, one of the organisers, introduces this theme by telling us about a singing workshop for those who believe they cannot sing but who managed a 4-part harmony after 2 hours; and a beginners song-writing workshop whose participants were so keen they continued to read out their work in the street afterwards.

The performers and event alike operate in an identifiably female way with pre-planned efficiency, open friendliness, and an intensely supportive atmosphere where intimate confessions are interspersed with poetry, discussion and music. The Festival website states that it is “a chance to break personal, political, institutional barriers”, and the frank language and direct approach of most of the women is refreshing and challenging on all those levels.

The compere, Agnes Török, herself an experienced spoken word artist with a new book out entitled We Need To Talk, solidarity and survivorship starts by encouraging us to whoop and applaud, for all the world like a TV show about to go on air, in order to encourage and appreciate those who will declare. A Swede by birth, Agnes’ English is perfect and she speaks and declaims assertively on behalf of those who are being or have been abused, focusing on the Me Too campaign, and reiterating she is only with us herself because of Women’s Aid.

In terms of material, Emily Still’s Don’t Stand So Close about a female robot wired to be hyper-clever and made by men who want to have their way with her in the lab of an evening, conveys a creepy, inadvertently-cross-my-legs-on-hearing-it reaction. Her wry Fat Poet is also original, in which we can picture her without judgment and see how she is discriminated against by others. Lore, an amusing prose piece about her one-legged great granny falling into the toilet is partly verbalised in her local Leith dialect.

The second half contains a panel conversation lead by Török with Edinburgh Women’s Aid CEO Linda Rodgers and Edinburgh Rape Crisis Sexual Violence Prevention Worker Nadine (celebrating, respectively, their 45th and 40th anniversaries). All 3 women are eloquent, informative, highly informed and sparky. The questions are excellent: looking at the shape of a world without violence against women, recent breakthroughs in legislation, and what each one of us can do to help the cause – listen and always believe women who tell you they have been abused.

Audacious Women Festival website

Mon 26 Feb 2018

Iranian Film Festival – Poets of Life

The heroine of this delightful film, part of the Women Constructing Men series (with English subtitles alongside the native Farsi and a little French) is undoubtedly Shirin Parsi, a farmer and environmental activist extradordinaire. This documentary depicts Parsi at home and in the fields, narrating her life and reading poetry, hence the title.

Shirin Barghnavard, the female director, allows Parsi to take us through rice production, paddie management, intricate family relationships, and her struggle to obtain a permit to mill the rice. I find myself laughing alongside her, and many of my fellow audience members join me to chuckle at the irony of government officials’ decisions, or lack of them, and their staff trying to avoid making appointments with this indefatigable woman.

With beautiful shots of the green plants and yellow farm landscape in Western Gilan, stately trees swaying in the wind, and the vibrant red and orange scarves Parsi wears, we delight in this colourful account of Iranian rural living. We see her cooking and eating with her family, feeding the animals, visiting the nearest town and confidently issuing orders to the male workers, mainly her sons. The scenes of her planting and conversing with other women, all bare feet in the mud, slurping water melon and complaining about the younger generation, are heart-warming and life-affirming.

Highly articulate and not easy to ignore, Parsi collects women together and subtly educates them about the impact some of their farming methods have on the long-term environment. She speaks out as part of the National Association of Women Entrepreneurs and provides persuasive arguments for going organic and using the 260 local varieties rather than the suggested genetically modified type.

What a contrast Parsi is, spirited, comfortable in her own skin and focused on the vital things of life, to the airbrushed model pretending to outrun a wolf in the fabric conditioner advert shown beforehand!

Edinburgh Iranian Festival website

Mon 26 Feb 2018

 

Book Review – A Human Heart by Matt Hopwood

A Human Story is a collection of first-hand recollections gathered by “storyteller and facilitator of sharing space” Matt Hopwood, with a brief foreword by Clare Balding. They are unified by the theme of love “made and given” – love for another, the land, a parent, child or the self. Simple and intimate, these monologues and conversations are touching and, at times, wonderful.

Setting out with only a few possessions and his beard, Matt walked 500 miles from Lindisfarne across the border into and around Scotland to Callanish, the home of the famous standing stones on the Isle of Lewis. “Scotland…where the hard lines dissolve a little and the beauty and spirit of the earth finds an essential space.” He trained in Applied Anthropology at Goldsmith’s, University of London, and is more of listener and transcriber than a writer, inviting his contributors to speak from the heart and not overwhelming their words with his.

This spacious book with its high quality paper and gently informal photos, is divided into 34 chapters, each with an account of love, varied in tone and often entertaining, and a brief piece by Hopwood himself. He describes listening as “an act of profound compassion.” As a reference to his profession there is a chapter on the art of listening.

Travel writing is on-trend, particularly accounts of treks taken on foot in the ancient tradition of the pilgrim or Camino traveller, and this book falls into that category. We walk alongside the author as he delights in the landscape, relying on local kindnesses for his accommodation, and seeking stories.

The book’s publishers, Birlinn, state that Hopwood “admits to having struggled to feel or express any emotions at all until he reached his 30s”, and many of the storytellers address this subject or recount events which demonstrate love without having to spell it out. There is the hospice worker who spent a final 15 hour day with someone, went home to bake a cake, and returned to leave it on the relative’s doorstep; the reluctant father’s intense feelings for his child who writes “It’s the first forever”; and in the last chapter, “When you connect to that other person’s essence,…you’re not alone anymore..”. This thoughtfully presented lexicon of love contains honest accounts from men and women of all ages and offers an antidote to a life where it can be surprisingly hard to say ‘I love you’.

Published by Birlinn.

To share your love story with Matt Hopwood, here is his email

Links

The Wee Review

How to Write About Theatre, Mark Fisher. Review

Book Crossing – sharing books across the world

Tsubook – I am a contributor to this Shiatsu app

Happy Hara – Mark Vroonland Shiatsu blog – Translation revision

Ken Cockburn, poet / teacher

My other blogs and websites:

Travel blog

Shiatsu blog

Crafts blog

My Shiatsu website

The Shiatsu School Edinburgh

Writing

I find time to write every day. I scrutinise my calendar for that time. I borrow and steal minutes on buses and hours in cafes when I could be doing something else.

I do not distinguise between types of writing: sometimes it is a review, sometimes a document; it could be a specialist article, a travel blog, or a postcard to my daughter in London – it is ultimately creative. It is certainly pleasurable. It almost always takes longer than I anticipated.

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” ― Virginia WoolfA Room of One’s Own