Who’s that girl? In conversation with Tamara Hill-Norton, founder of Sweaty Betty

Tamara Hill-Norton is the founder of the women’s sports brand, Sweaty BettyIt’s the ultimate active-wear brand, battling against Nike, Adidas and Puma. But Sweaty Betty is different: founded in 1998, the focus has always been on women’s activewear, rather than it being a twenty-first century after-thought. Since its launch it has gone from strength to strength, winning countless awards (one for healthiest employees!) and opening shops on both sides of the Atlantic. Here Tamara talks about the empowering effect of exercise, the endorphin-filled day-to-day of a CEO, and why she went for the name Sweaty Betty.

Interview by Xanthe Fuller 

Hello! Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. First things first: how are you?

I’m really well, thank you!

To start a business is always a courageous move, but a brand exclusively for women’s activewear, that’s bold. What’s the story and how did you get there? 

I started Sweaty Betty in 1998 after spotting a gap in the women’s activewear market. At the time I was working as a buyer for Knickerbox. We started to do a little bit of sportswear, and I discovered some amazing female sportswear brands, which you couldn’t find anything like on the high street. Activewear for women was very bleak and dark at the time, there were just big, male-oriented sportswear stores. So, then, I thought, ‘Right, this is a proper gap in the market.’ After being made redundant. I took the opportunity to evolve the concept to create beautiful clothes for women who live active lifestyles.

How important is it for you that it’s a brand for women? And why? 

Incredibly important, we aim to empower women through fitness and beyond and achieving this is definitely the most rewarding aspect of my job. I love that we help women find their confidence and that we support them in their journey to becoming fitter and stronger.

Continue reading Who’s that girl? In conversation with Tamara Hill-Norton, founder of Sweaty Betty

Swimming Lessons

“He seemed to see, with a cartographer’s eye, that string of swimming pools, that quasi-subterranean stream that curved across the country.” John Cheever’s short story, The Swimmer.

Words and Images by Abigail Smith

I love swimming. I love propelling myself to the bottom of a pool, flipping onto my back, and staring up at the world through a glistening lens, the light streaming down through rippling water and reflecting off my too-tight goggles. There is something surreal about being underwater, where everything is quiet except the bubbles.

I can pretty much map out my life through swimming. As a child, I would spend summer holidays leaping into the pool, trying out my most daring dives and splashing unsuspecting holiday-makers. Any holiday we went on was defined by how much I liked the swimming pool. I couldn’t wait for school swimming lessons, and grew even more excited when a friend had a birthday party at a pool, which meant friction burns from plastic slides, and lukewarm chips to be eaten afterwards. In my mind, there was nothing better.

Then, as I entered my teens, I began swimming competitively. I trained 6 times a week, blearily waking up to get to a 6am training session, and trying to think of convincing lies to miss out a particularly tricky set (yes, my goggles are leaking again, why would you doubt me?) Sundays were spent in the hot, damp confines of leisure centres, waiting hours to race just a few lengths (a special shout-out here goes to my Mum for never missing a single race). I would leave either tired and happy with a new personal best, or disappointed and resentful at a bad swim. Either way, swimming still had that same emotional hold over me.

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Jubilee Pool in Cornwall

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Grad Talk: Football focus with Ceylon Hickman

Ceylon Hickman graduated from King’s College this summer, where she did an undergrad in Human, Social and Political Sciences. Less than a year out of Cambridge, her day-to-day has taken a bit of a turn, working in increasing women and girls’ participation in football. Here she talks about finding her feet in the professional world, the feminist sports podcast you need to listen to, and the joys of conversation at Cambridge.

Interview by Xanthe Fuller

So, what do you do now?

I’m currently the National Football Development Coordinator for Women and Girls’ football across Further Education. It’s a brand new position that’s a direct result of the increased FA investment into the women’s game, and part of their strategy to double participation, grow the workforce, and increase diversity by 2020.

I work for an organisation called AoC Sport, who are the FA’s sole Further Education partner. Our aim is to increase participation in football across colleges in the UK, whilst using football as a tool to allow young people to reach their potential and realise how beneficial football can be in all aspects of their life.

How did you get there?

I actually applied for the job with no belief that I’d even get shortlisted. I thought it was pitched for someone with way more experience in the industry than me: the fresh-faced graduate who was frightened by the prospect of the real word.

I was applying for lots of roles at the time and had actually woken up to three rejection emails on the morning of the Cambridge Open Days, where I then had to present to hundreds of parents and tell them how employable Cambridge students were. Fortunately, I was invited to interview at Wembley Stadium (I have horrible flashbacks of my car breaking down on the North Circular whilst I was en route), and knew I was in the right place when I faced an all female interview panel. I remember feeling so at ease throughout, and thankfully, received a call a few days later from my now line manager to offer me the job.

In terms of my experience prior, I’ve played football since I could walk and have held various positions in the different clubs I’ve been with. I grew up playing for Luton Town, and then the University Blues at Cambridge. Apart from that, I had little other experience when it came to the football industry. My role as President of King’s College Student Union equipped me with a wealth of transferrable skills, as well as the skills gained from working with young people through various Cambridge Access programmes.

A goal at Women's Football Varsity
Ceylon’s goal celebration at Women’s Football Varsity

Continue reading Grad Talk: Football focus with Ceylon Hickman

The Subversive Power of Female Silence

By Kitty Grady

From calling out and speaking up to mansplaining and ‘calm down dear’, the dynamics of contemporary sexual politics are increasingly being defined through a schema of silence, speech and being heard.

Whilst historically the voices of women have been silenced or overpowered, with the recent spate of allegations against sexual harassment, today they appear to have reached a deafening crescendo. The #MeToo hashtag has been used tens of millions of times on Facebook and Twitter, harmonising with their counterparts #balancetonporc in French, #YoTambien in Spanish, وأنا_كمان# in Arabic and #quellavoltache in Italian.

With this proliferation of womens’ voices, leaps and bounds have been made against the structural oppression and institutional silencing of women in Hollywood, Westminster and the European Parliament. The literal and metaphorical noise made by so many courageous women jars with the guilty silence of sexual predators such as Weinstein, and the failure of response hashtag movements #IHave or #ItWasMe to properly get going.

In this clatter we are starting to hear every micro-instance of misogyny being called out. Hosting an episode of Have I Got News for You, Jo Brand silences the schoolboy giggles of her male panellists who scoff at women’s accusations against unwanted sexual behaviour: ‘these are hardly high-level crimes’, chortles Ian Hislop. Killing their ‘joke’, an unimpressed Brand calls them out, highlighting the in fact pernicious and grinding effect of such unsolicited treatment.

And long may this continue. Yet within this noise, it is also important to analyse the immense and insidious power women can gain through a pronounced, dignified and unadhering silence. Especially when speaking out doesn’t necessarily mean you are being heard.

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At the End of Week Five: On fireworks and perspective

By Eleanor Pitcher

On bonfire night, as so many others did, I attended the annual fireworks display on Midsummer Common with my friends. It was an excuse to escape the library for a couple of hours, and enjoy one of the first events of winter. I’ve always loved fireworks – completely ignorant to the science behind them, I find them enticing and beautiful. Exploding in countless colours before an entirely black backdrop, they silence the rest of the world for a few minutes. It seems like nothing else really matters, nothing but the enthralling eruption of light and colour before our eyes.

That night, a friend’s comment resonated with me- as vibrant and, often, scary as fireworks might be, they are temporary, and in a few short minutes, the sky will return to a state of clear blackness with no record of their ever being there. It was week five, and I thought this analogy applied ever-too aptly to life at Cambridge.

Since arriving here, the ‘it’s not the be-all and end-all’ philosophy has kept me (mostly) sane and (hopefully) grounded when it comes to work and deadlines. I attempt to keep a level head (attempt being the operative word) and not slave away over pieces of work I don’t enjoy. However, when too many deadlines, duties and dramas all come to a head at once, it can feel like nothing else exists outside of our little stress- and panic-fuelled bubble. Especially mid-term, everything seems to erupt in one go. We know too well that this feeling of helpless dread and worry will fizzle out come week eight, but for now, nothing else matters. Just like fireworks, I suppose.

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In conversation with Caitlyn Jenner: ‘I like being on this team’

Interview by Kitty Grady and Alina Khakoo

Awaiting our interview with the world’s most famous trans woman, Olympian, reality TV star and outspoken Republican, we concur that Caitlyn Jenner is a contradictory and divisive figure. When we first catch sight of her at the Cambridge Union Society, wrapped in a Tom Ford bodycon dress and strategically lit by a photographer’s floor lamp, she fuels our cynicism. Perhaps sensing our apprehension, she ushers us into armchairs, pulling our voice recorder towards her before sharing her experience of transitioning. She makes us feel at ease, inspiring an unexpected sense of camaraderie as we collectively nod and high-five. In her own words, Jenner is happy to be ‘on this team’, and on this matter we find it easy to agree.

We’ve read that you consider yourself to be a spokesperson for women’s and LGBT+ rights. How did living sixty-five years under the name of Bruce inform this?

I have lived a very interesting life. Not many people can say they’re a men’s Olympic decathlon champion and Glamour’s Woman of the Year. I’ve seen the world from both sides.

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Jenner winning the gold medal for men’s decathlon at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. Photo credit: Instagram @caitlynjenner, http://bit.ly/2hRxaSo.

You have a very unique perspective.

I think women are generally brought up differently to men. They are brought up as the so-called ‘weaker sex’, physically and emotionally, told to be in the background rather than out in front, and I think that’s engrained in them at a very young age. It’s very difficult for them to get away from that. My journey into womanhood was very different, so I see the world very differently. I don’t think women realise the amount of power they should have in all areas of society. I want to encourage them to stand up for themselves.

Continue reading In conversation with Caitlyn Jenner: ‘I like being on this team’

Diss Talk: Emma Veares on the Harlem Women

At a small exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery early this year entitled ‘Black Chronicles: Photographic Portraits 1862-1948’, a white printed caption on a black wall read: ‘There’s nothing like a photograph for reminding you about difference. There it is. It stares you ineradicably in the face’. In the exhibition’s selection of over forty photographs capturing snapshots of black lives and faces, the sheer size of some of the glass plate prints demanded that we face their near life-sized subjects eye to eye. Some were welcoming, and others hostile. What stared at me ‘ineradicably in the face’ was not so much their difference, but their familiarity. I was curious, not to see how vastly unlike mine their lives were, but to discover to what extent I might be able to understand their view of the world. How far was it possible to read stories from faces?

Camille Silvy, Sara Forbes Bonetta, captured aged five by slave raiders in West Africa, rescued by Captain Frederick E. Forbes, then presented as a ‘gift’ to Queen Victoria, 1862. Paul Frecker collection/The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography.

Continue reading Diss Talk: Emma Veares on the Harlem Women