Femstival @ Empty Shop HQ arose out of a desire to celebrate women. Women, in all their glorious diversity, talent and creativity.
That’s what International Women’s Day means to me personally – it’s not necessarily about talking politics, academic discussions of what it means to call oneself a woman, or teasing out the nitty gritty definitions of gender and femininity, although all of that is absolutely crucial of course. But 8th March is a time for celebration, plain and simple.
Here in the U.K. we don’t celebrate International Women’s Day with the same enthusiasm as many other countries around the world. It started off as a radical socialist movement of working women, but over time has grown and transformed into very different celebrations depending on where you are. Plenty of feminist groups use it as the focal point of campaigns, like the movement for abortion rights in Ireland or the women’s movement that is continuing to build in opposition to Trump in the US. I spent last year in France, where IWD is largely about appreciating the women in your life, in a way not dissimilar to Mother’s Day. I wanted to bring some of that spirit to Durham, and create an event where the focus is on positivity and celebration.
While it can sometimes feel self-indulgent for activist groups like University College Feminists and Amnesty International to create a space in which to relax and just have fun, we believe it’s absolutely vital. Cultural life is intertwined with human rights issues in a fundamental way. When we provide a platform for women’s expression, we are promoting a fairer world, demanding that all voices are heard and valued equally. Creating art can be a powerful way of advancing women’s rights. But aside from that, taking time to recharge the activist batteries, reminding ourselves that there is a supportive community of feminists out there, and de-stressing after the political chaos of the last few months is pretty important too!
There are so many incredibly talented women in Durham; getting some of them together to perform and exhibit felt like the perfect recipe for an amazing evening of entertainment. We’re aiming to create a festival atmosphere, with visual art on display throughout the night and a packed programme of music and poetry. It’s very much a multi-arts platform; our priority is to amplify the voices of women in a supportive and relaxed environment.
The official theme of International Women’s Day 2017 is Be Bold For Change. All of the wonderful women taking part in Femstival inspire me with their boldness and their talent. With Femstival, we’re hoping to use this to create a little ripple of positive change in Durham.
Femstival @ Empty Shop HQ (35C Framwellgate Bridge)
8th March 2017
Doors will open for the exhibition at 7pm, with performances from 8pm