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Identity, equality and rights – a guest blog from Nottingham Women’s Conference

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I know what you’re thinking, how does Nottingham Women’s Conference fit into a creative website? Well, in my view, it’s harder to be creative when you’re still working out who you are and what you stand for. What do you want to say? How do you want to say it? And do you have the courage and self esteem to get your message across in any medium – whether in business or a pastime. And so often creativity has been the means to getting a point across – art, music, literature, even yarn bombing, has been used to comment, to protest, to stand up and be counted. So we decided to ask the organisers of Nottingham Women’s Conference to tell us what they find important and how they’ll be getting their point across.

September is going to be an exciting time for women in Nottingham. If you are wondering why, check out www.nottinghamwomensconference.wordpress.com for details on Nottingham Women’s Conference and our fabulous fringe festival happening throughout September across the city. With over 30 events on a diverse range of women’s issues, September will see our lives celebrated, our everyday challenges highlighted and our issues put back on the agenda. It all kicks off on 1st September at with the brilliant Mouthy Poets, and we go into the beginning of October with something happening almost every day throughout the month.

When we first decided that we wanted to organise a women’s conference, we had no money and no resources – just an idea that came out of a chat over coffee at Radical Readers, the monthly reading group that meets at Nottingham Women’s Centre. Taking inspiration from the first National Women’s Liberation Conference that took place in Oxford in 1970, we envisioned a day where women would come together to look at ways forward on some of the key issues we face today and leave with an action plan for the future. The fringe was born with the realization that women’s issues are too vast and too diverse to be covered in one day and that we couldn’t possibly manage to do everything on our own.

We formed NFAN – Nottingham Feminist Action Network – to give us a banner under which to organise this conference. NFAN is a flexible group of women and we work on a non-hierarchical, cooperative model. Any self-defining woman is welcome to join and start campaigns on issues important to her. Apart from the conference, a group of women is also organising a Reclaim the Night march and there is a new campaign in the works as well. When we first booked the venue, back at the beginning of it all, we were daunted by the challenge of filling a space which has a maximum capacity of more than 150. At the time, it may as well have been Wembley.

That was then. Fast forward to the present; a month away from the conference and less than two weeks from the launch of the fringe, the conference is sold out with a fast increasing waiting list. The fringe has around 35 events with more being added including everything from a women only line up of comedy at The Maze to an award winning play about domestic violence at the Playhouse. We have workshops and talks on a range of topics such as honour based violence, intersectionality, the importance of women only spaces and women’s history. There is music and drama, poetry and yoga, and even a disco! We are also proud to have some very high profile speakers such as Oona King at an event hosted by Bright Ideas and Casey Stone, the captain of England Women’s football team at a discussion on homophobia in football organised by University of Nottingham LGBTQ Staff Network and Football v Homophobia.

Looking back now, it is hard to believe that only a few months ago we didn’t have any money and weren’t sure if we’d even cover our costs. However, along the way we met some amazing women who put their entire weight behind this project which is the one major factor responsible for our success. The fringe really took off as people took complete ownership of the idea. We had monthly open meetings which allowed fringe organisers to network and find other people with similar passions – some great partnerships came out of this. Organisations, community groups and individuals all came on board and provided such overwhelming support that we still find it hard to believe. This would not have become what it has without this support and we are humbled and grateful.

As a group, we come from a variety of different backgrounds and bring unique experiences to the table. This makes us very committed to being as inclusive, diverse and accessible as possible and we are hopeful that the conference will reflect this. Our flexible way of working means that we have new voices and new ideas coming in all the time. We are very firm in the belief that women are facing an ever increasing attack on their rights and we aim to bring the focus back on the issues that affect us. So join us and be part of the Nottingham Women’s Conference Fringe Festival or if you’d like to get involved, email us at nottinghamwomensconference@gmail.com

Fringe events for the festival run throughout September and the big day is Saturday 21 September. For more details about the full programme of events please go to the NWC website.

 

 


Sue is one of our team of bloggers. She’ll be at various events for Nottingham Women’s Conference so please do come and say hello. Otherwise she can be reached on sue AT creativenottingham.com and followed on Twitter @basfordian