A Warm Welcome to AWOMENfest

Raniyah Qureshi

If you asked me five years ago, I would have told you that I didn’t identify as a feminist, let alone that I had decided to set up a feminist arts festival. The strains of feminism that I had encountered up until 2013 had not been diverse, and didn’t really account for experiences that weren’t white, secular, cis, and heterosexual. To put it bluntly the feminism I had previously encountered simply hadn’t been intersectional. As someone who isn’t white and could be described as religious (although how you define what that means is fairly complex) it took a while to see myself in the feminist movement. Thankfully and blissfully, after much digging and research and through endless conversations with many patient individuals, I have finally decided what I want my feminism to look like. I’m so hopeful that open discussion, communication and kindness can get us to a point where slowly everyone engages in intersectional conversations, and intersectional feminism becomes commonplace – where the words become ‘intersectional feminism’ become unnecessary, because they’re implicit in every interaction.

I don’t think anyone is fully ‘woke’ because I think every individual has certain privileges, and views the world with themselves at the centre, but I do think it’s something that everyone should aim to be. This is where AWOMENfest comes in. We want to push everyone, gently and lovingly, to try and understand experiences beyond their own. A play on the Hebrew ‘amen’ (so be it) AWOMENfest focusses on the diverse narratives that compose what ‘womanhood’ (if such a term is useful in 2018) really looks like. AWOMENfest is a weekend feminist arts festival taking place from the 23rd — 25th March at DIY Space for London. Our incredibly magical and supportive team, including Alina Khakoo, curator of AWOMENfest (and co-founder of Cambridge Girl Talk) and Indigo Theatre Productions are helping to bring what was once a daydream and a fantasy of mine to life. We’re creating a loving and safe environment, where we can celebrate the diversity of feminism, and show that even the most radical aspects of feminism are accessible to all. We want all individuals attending the festival, whether they identify as male, or female or as non-binary to feel uplifted and communally celebrate all things radical softness!

AWF.jpg

Our four sessions across the weekend will explore the themes of vulnerability, solidarity, spirituality and desirability. AWOMENfest is a multi-disciplinary affair: we’re showcasing the artwork of renowned individuals such as Alice Skinner, Fee Greening and Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee, alongside performances by the incredible Emma Jean-Thackray, Transgress Productions, and roundtable discussions on topics ranging from ‘forgiveness in feminism’ to presentations of The Women in Porn project. Our whole team fiercely believes that through art, individuals who don’t necessarily care about or haven’t engaged in ideas concerning BME mental health, or the nuances of drag performance, can come and have a great time, and slowly contemplate ideas that they may not have encountered or wished to think about before. We’ve embraced ‘radical softness’ to demonstrate our commitment to being open and inclusive.

The way we view it ‘radical softness’ highlights that feminism is a merging of the political and the personal. ‘Radical softness’ involves embracing the kindness within feminism and using emotional vulnerability as a means of resilience and fortitude. Feminism has given me so much, it’s given me networks and communities of support, I’ve met individuals who not only have the most amazing stories to tell, but have channelled their vulnerabilities, their heartbreaks and their struggles into the most beautiful and overwhelming pieces of art. AWOMENfest holds onto this feeling and tries to encapsulate it in a single weekend. By focussing on ‘radical softness’ we’re showing that all the upsets, and the difficulties of a collection of diverse experiences can be made into something beautiful.

We really hope to see as many Girl Talk readers there. For more information please visit www.awomenfest.com, and buy your tickets, so together we can push back against the kyriarchy, and raise funds for the My Body Back Project:(http://www.mybodybackproject.com/). 

Grad Talk: Framing the Future with Izzy Kent

Izzy Kent graduated last year, having studied History of Art at Trinity, and has already found herself in her ‘dream’ role at the Wallace Collection. Her job varies hugely, from giving last-minute lectures to working in the conservation of the museum’s collection. Here she talks about applying for positions you don’t think you’ll get, the surprising things you learn on the job and the joy of turning the lights on. 

Interview by Xanthe Fuller

So, what do you do now? 

I’ve just started as the ‘Enriqueta Harris Frankfort curatorial assistant’ at the Wallace Collection. The Wallace Collection is a national museum in the heart of London. It’s relatively small but is up there with the heavy weights (National Gallery, British Museum etc.) in terms of quality. My job is a new position funded by the Centro de Estudios Europa Hispanica. As this suggests I specialize in the Spanish art at the museum including some sublime paintings by Velazquez, Alonzo Cano and Murillo.

How did you get there?

There’s a short answer and a long answer to this:

The short of it is I saw the job advert during my revision for finals and decided to apply. I really didn’t expect to get it as they wanted someone with a MA and fluent Spanish but it was such a dream position I thought I might as well. Then I went for interview and a couple of days later received a phone call saying I’d got the job.

The longer answer is a little more sentimental. I am incredibly lucky to have something that I am really passionate about, which is art and culture. There was never a moment, a lecture, book or exhibition where it all clicked and I knew it was what I wanted to do; I just can’t remember a time when I didn’t love it. So really, I’ve just been following my nose and trying to learn as much as I can wherever I can. I’ve done a lot of internships in different areas of the arts so by the time it came to applying for this job I was ready and knew, to an extent, what to expect.

Describe a typical day.

It sounds cliché but there isn’t really a typical day. It’s a small number of people looking after a large collection so I end up doing all sorts of jobs. I generally start off the day by doing a ‘gallery check’, going round all the rooms in the museum and checking that nothing is damaged. I’m usually the first one in each morning, which means I turn on all the lights to reveal the amazing art works – it may seem mundane but honestly it never gets old! After that it really depends. Currently I’m doing a lot with the conservation department, deciding which pictures need treatment and organising a major conference on Murillo happening in May, and giving tours and lectures. I’m also rewriting the gallery books (basically object labels), making audio guide recordings and researching our Spanish paintings.

 

What do you like about it? 

I love the diversity of the work. I’ll be handling a 400-year-old Mughal dagger one day, and researching a Velazquez painting the next, or visiting a conservator and seeing our paintings under the microscope. My colleagues have also been so supportive, teaching me about their areas of expertise and what it takes to look after the collection. Continue reading Grad Talk: Framing the Future with Izzy Kent

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

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

Grad Talk: Becca Naylor on a different kind of law

While many interpret working in anything remotely corporate as ‘selling your soul’, Law graduate Becca Naylor shows that there’s more to a traditional Law firm than meets the eye. Having always been passionate about human rights, Becca managed to make it the subject of her everyday professional life as a full-time Pro Bono associate and Reed Smith’s Pro Bono Manager across Europe, The Middle East and Asia. Snatching a moment in an international tour (of the Reed Smith offices), Becca speaks to Cambridge Girl Talk about serendipitous school talks, hockey, and her anything but ordinary professional life.

Interview by Xanthe Fuller

So, what do you do now?

I’m a pro bono lawyer at Reed Smith, I’m responsible for managing our pro bono work across Europe the Middle East and Asia. Pro bono is the free legal advice we provide to charities, non-profits and low income individuals. We work alongside amazing charities to support refugees, prisoners, victims of domestic violence and work on projects to combat human trafficking and female genital mutilation.

Becca Naylor

 

How did you get there?

Nick Yarris came to speak at my school when I was 16, he inspired me to study law. Nick was on death row for over 20 years before he was exonerated. I was shocked by this and other injustices. I started to follow the work of Clive Stafford Smith and Reprieve.

I went on to study law at university, applied for vacation schemes and training contracts and did the LPC in London. In the gap before starting my training contract I  volunteered at Reprieve in their abuses in counter terrorism team, assisting with their work on Guantanamo Bay, drone strikes, and torture and rendition cases. I then started my training contract at Reed Smith and at the first opportunity went on our pro bono secondment to Liberty where I worked in their advice and information team. During my training contract the pro bono role became available and I applied for the job, I then did my training contract and the pro bono role for a year and when I qualified I became a full time pro bono lawyer.

Continue reading Grad Talk: Becca Naylor on a different kind of law

Grad Talk: Life beyond the bubble with Leaf

This week on ‘Grad Talk’ we’re chatting to Leaf Arbuthnot, who graduated from Magdalene in 2014 with a degree in French and Italian. Now a feature writer for the Sunday Times, here she discusses her life as a journalist, the perks of internships and why it’s ok if you don’t land your dream job as soon as you graduate.

Interview by Kitty Grady

So, what do you do now?

I’m a feature writer for the Sunday Times. I write interviews mostly but also general features, book reviews and occasional news pieces. I do new poetry collection reviews for the Times Literary Supplement and have written a novel, which has just won the Pageturner Prize and will (touch wood) be published next year. I’m about to start a book review show on Talk Radio and I do news shows for them quite regularly, running through the day’s top trending stories.

… and how did you get there? 

I spent lots of my summers since I started at Cambridge interning in different newspapers and magazines to work out what sort of work environments I vibed with most. That was helpful in that it narrowed my options down – I realized I liked newspapers most of all, and wouldn’t thrive in monthly women’s magazines which have more languorous deadlines.

In terms of practical journalistic experience I did quite a bit at Cambridge – The Tab, the Cambridge Globalist, my own College’s magazine which I co-edited. I spent my year abroad at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris and wrote art exhibition reviews for a paper there.

I guess I tried to study hard enough to maintain decent grades while at Cambridge, which was instrumental in helping me to win the Henry Fellowship in my final year. It’s a scholarship that supports students who want to do a year at Harvard or Yale. At Yale I did some teaching, a broad range of classes and worked on its newspapers – focusing more on economics and making podcasts. After Yale I interned at the Financial Times then got a job at the Sunday Times, where I’ve been since August 2015.

leaf 5.jpg
Leaf’s desk at the Sunday Times: “Taming a conversation into a feature-length article is challenging, in the best way.”

Continue reading Grad Talk: Life beyond the bubble with Leaf

Grad Talk: Life beyond the bubble with Rhian

The spotlight of this week’s instalment of Grad Talk is on Rhian Williams, who graduated from Jesus in 2016 with a degree in French and Spanish. Uniting her love of food and writing, Rhian started a blog in her final year of Cambridge which she now continues to work on post-Uni. Here she tells us about life without a 9-5, her entrepreneurial aspirations and what she’s learned about getting internships.

Interview by Kitty Grady

So, what do you do now?

I graduated less than a year ago, but I’ve already done lots of different things since then. I’ve worked at a local café, a healthy baby food start-up (which included a couple of days working in their factory in Wales), and I’ve also done some freelance writing. I left a job a few weeks ago, and am currently looking for something else, working on my food blog (www.rhiansrecipes.com) in the meantime.

Describe a typical day.

I’ll usually cook something during the day as I tend to test out at least a few recipes per week. I’ve recently started to work more on my food styling and photography, and taking decent photos takes quite a lot of time! In the evenings, I usually write blog posts, do blog-related admin like scheduling social media, as well as working on articles for the freelance writing I do.

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 22.29.10
Some of Rhian’s recipes and food photography from her blog

Continue reading Grad Talk: Life beyond the bubble with Rhian