New festival dares Scotland’s women to be audacious and outspoken

Nathanael Williams

In a time of Trump, the Audacious women festival opens this weekend in Edinburgh urging women to have fun while reclaiming spaces

THE AUDACIOUS WOMEN FESTIVAL is inviting women all over Scotland to take part in a festival where they do activities that challenge and reclaim public spaces for women.

Taking place over the course of a week from February 18 to 26, the festival will feature a range of over 40 workshops, exhibitions, and performances which all revolve around the theme of inviting women to ‘Do What You Always Wish You Dared’.

Events will range from breakdancing and motorbike workshops to MPS conversations and poetry readings which organisers say is more relevant than ever in a world of Trump’s resurgent masculine chauvinism.

Audacious Women Festival: Programme for 2017

Speaking to CommonSpace festival founder Sally Wainwright said: “We believe it’s easier to ‘Do What You Always Wish You Dared’ when there are other women cheering you on. Public space remains largely male-dominated, so the women-only workshops aim to provide an opportunity to try something out in a supportive environment.”

In politics, business and media women have found themselves still structurally disadvantaged in pay and the power to voice their views freely without the threat of violence or belittlement. Almost a fortnight ago, SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh was barked at in the chamber of the House of Commons while she gave a speech on the recently passed Brexit bill. 

Wainwright had first conceived of the project, now in its second year, with a friend who had mentioned how empowered she had felt after doing an activity she had thought she was too old to do. The word audacious became their watchword and before they knew it a festival had been born.

Its aims are to “break personal, political and institutional barriers, and to celebrate audacious women everywhere” according to its organisers.

Wainwright added, “There’s no one “audacious” thing to do. Instead, everyone has her own starting point. My audacious act might be something you do every day. We believe that helping women take up challenges in one sphere will empower them to also do it in other aspects of their lives”

“We believe that helping women take up challenges in one sphere will empower them to also do it in other aspects of their lives” Sally Wainwright

Nadine Aisha, a prominent Scottish poet and writer in residence for the Young Women’s Movement Scotland (YWMS), will run workshops exploring the meaning of audaciousness and female confidence in her poetry reading and talk, ‘How Dare She? An Audacious Woman Speaks’, on the 20th February in the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Aisha also told CommonSpace: “In the current political climate, and against the backdrop of women’s history, there is so much which seeks to silence women – especially women who are affected by multiple oppression such as racism and Islamophobia as well as sexism and misogyny.

“It is a pleasure to be part of a festival which celebrates women’s audacity – which champions women speaking out and which through its events seeks to engage and inspire other women to be bold, to be brave, to be audacious too.”

The festival can be followed on the social media hashtag of #AWFest2017 where updates of activities will be updated and shared daily.

To crown the programme there will an end-of-festival party on Saturday 25 February in Augustine united church, featuring a performance by the acclaimed Scottish folk artist Mairi Campbell. Attendees will be invited to celebrate and share their audacious acts of the week.

Picture courtesy of Siobhan Redmond

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