International Women’s Day

Today I delivered a short presentation for Salford City Council’s IWD2019 staff event. Below is two images from the prezi I made for my speech and my instagram blog about IWD2019.

Other speakers included: Debbie Brown (Director of Service Reform) and Magda Sachs (Principal Policy and Equalities Officer).

Image depicting a mountain. Text at the top reads: D 3 – Democracy Disability and Devolution, Manchester Based Women’s Project, Breakthrough UK – Gemma Nash (Trustee)
Image of a leaf. Text on the leaf reads: Why? According to the Fawcett Society, only two women MPs identify as being disabled people – under half a percent of the House of Commons! 42% of women in Greater Manchester who reported sexual violence were also disabled (Voices of Survivors Project 2018)

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The campaigning theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Balance for Better’. But for many disabled women, our lives are literally ‘Hanging in the Balance’. Last month I learnt a shocking, if not surprising, statistic: 42% of women in Greater Manchester who reported sexual violence were also disabled (Voices of Survivors). . . The safety of women in Greater Manchester is a key area of concern for the newly launched Pankhurst-Fawcett Scorecard. The Scorecard identifies 10 key measurements around gender equality across Education, Employment, Safety, Participation and Culture. Led by Helen Pankhurst and the GM4Women2028 Coalition, the plan is for the data to be compiled and shared annually to 2028 (which is the anniversary of equal franchise). . . One of the biggest reasons why the safety of disabled women has become more of an issue over the last few years is due to cuts in our welfare state (Sisters of Frida). In Greater Manchester, for example, many disabled women have reported a 25% reduction in their social care package, sometimes this has been reduced to 50% or even 0%. . . Unfortunately it is also more common for women to have no other method of funding their own care, making them more at risk. According to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, just under half of disabled women are neither employed nor actively seeking work. . . This is a particularly difficult situation for any women in an abusive relationship, as they can end up forced to rely upon their abusive partner to provide ‘care’. . . Anyone can become a disabled person and I always think it’s worth remembering that our fight for representation and is also your fight, or those before you – many suffragettes, for example, became disabled through their activism. Many ended up incarcerated in institutions alongside other disabled people at that time. So these brave women were again denied the right to vote, because they were disabled. #internationalwomensday #girlpower #womenempowerment #balanceforbetter #events #feminist #women #art #empowerment #feminism #iwd #womeninbusiness #artwork #sdg #celebratingwomen

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Sonic Pixels: The secret history of the radical female shopper…

Rosa May Billinghurst used her tricycle chair to ram police at protests.

Step into a world of sound with Sonic Pixels. Wander through the stunning Victorian shopping mall, trigger speakers in real-time and experience what it feels like to be right at the heart of sonic compositions.

Member of the Cornbrook Creative team setting up the LED speaker system

Working alongside Cornbrook Creative,  my latest sound piece is a feminist interpretation of Barton Arcade.

Built in 1871, you might think of Barton Arcade as typifying the luxury culture of the nineteenth century, with a carriage entrance and raw iron gates. It is certainly not considered a particularly radical space. However, like many other similar arcades it was once one of the few places women could move freely without being chaperoned by a man.

Historian Erika Diane Rappaport explains that it was during this period that ‘a family’s respectability and social position depended upon the idea that the middle-class wife and daughter remain apart from the market, politics, and public space’. Shopping itself may have been fetishized into women’s greatest pleasure, but for many middle-class housewives in Victorian Britain, shopping was their first taste of real freedom and therefore marked the starting point for their push into public life. Barton Arcade was a place in which, for the first time, women were able to share ideas and meet in public without being accompanied by a man.

Whether it was the Women’s Emergency Corps meetings, Pankhurst’s shopping trips, or female pick-pockets, my piece will explore the secret history of the radical female shopper. Using archived materials, and “found” sounds, I will re-imagine the groups who met here; the conversations that may have taken place and bring to life the stories of the women that occupied this space.