Harrogate Feminists

No meeting in Oct.
October 16, 2011, 2:43 pm
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We won’t be having a meeting in Oct after all (sorry) but we will in November!


Top 5 Things That Piss You Off About The Patriarchy – please!
April 25, 2011, 10:59 pm
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We’ve had a fair few responses to our last email.

The most common question was “But where is Community House?” This is fair enough – I didn’t know myself until I went to that Social Media surgery.

So it’s here, 46/50 East Parade in Harrogate. There is disc parking on the street outside until 6pm – i.e. anyone can park on the road after 6pm, as long as there’s a space. The main entrance on the corner is usually closed after 5pm – so to get to the meeting rooms, you go down East Parade (on the right and past where the cars are parked on that picture I just linked to), down the little passageway at the side of the building and then it’s the door on your left.

They are going to charge us a small fee for use of the room, but it’s very reasonable given how nice the room is.

Regarding what next for the group: one comment we had was “we probably have the same burning issues.” But do we? I think we need to discuss this! What we need from everyone involved in the group, is your Top 5* Things That Piss You Off (from a feminist perspective).

Whether it’s seemingly trivial, or a frequently-discussed topic on the “Today” programme, isn’t important – what matters is that it matters to you, a group member. Drop us an email and let us know!

*or 3, or 10, or 1…

Addendum: Wikipedia, feminist websites and anthropologists all have their own idea of what patriarchy is; I’m using it here to emphasise that I’m talking about our society generally rather than any particular person, organisation or policy.

Embracing our inner surgeons
April 21, 2011, 8:39 pm
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On Monday Laura and I went to a Harrogate Social Media Surgery.

I was slighly taken aback by being asked on my arrival Are you a surgeon or a patient?

Gosh, I thought, I know the NHS is supposed to be moving to provide cheaper care closer to patients’ homes but is it really necessary now to set up operating theatres in Community House?

If I’d done my prep, of course, I’d have known that a surgeon is simply somebody who knows more about social media than you.

Well, that makes almost everybody in Harrogate a surgeon, I thought, as I don’t know the first thing about social media.

Having realised with some relief that I wasn’t about to be booked in for a quick appendicectomy, I settled down with a cup of tea and some chocolate cake in front of a laptop, all ready to discover the mysteries of Facebook and Twitter.

I have to confess to still being none the wiser about Facebook or Twitter, however, as it quickly became clear that the limiting factor in our engagement with modern technology was not so much an innate inability to navigate social media, as a rather lax attitude on our part to approving comments, tweeting, and all that 24/7 always-on stuff.

So – We’ve decided to embrace our inner surgeons.  As women we’ve been socialised into taking a passive role in all sorts of situations, but the whole point of this group is that we want to do something, however tiny, to change things. And the conviction that we can do something is the first step along that path.

Watch this space.

The group gets bigger

We met again (with a record number of people in attendance!) to talk about the event A Celebration of Women, and to think about what we want to do next.

Good things about the event were:

  • it had a lovely “buzzy” atmosphere;
  • it was (as far as we know) the only event in Harrogate celebrating International Women’s Day;
  • many of us found it inspirational from a creative point of view;
  • there was lots of networking, with the emphasis being on the people and their skills rather than solely on the products for sale;
  • it was particularly great to have Lesley Dalton and her sugarcraft demo / interactive activity;
  • it was also great to have some relevant charities represented, including Amnesty, the Gambia Schools Trust and Acorn.

Ceramics by Karen Fall

We are keen to run a similar event again next year. Things to think about next time, now that we have more people who can help organise it, include:

  • more extensive publicity in advance, using the networks of people we have built up this time round;
  • more live demonstrations
  • more interactive activities, including those for children (face painting, etc)
  • coffee and cakes if possible

As for what we want to do next – we discussed two complementary types of activity:

  • “activism” (perhaps building on our previous work on licensing of lap-dancing clubs; there were also ideas relating to promoting female role models, especially in traditionally male-dominated activities and occupations) – this would probably be on weeknights, once a month
  • “social” type activities such as book swap, film night, picnic etc. – this would probably be on weekends, again once a month

We also felt that we are starting to outgrow our current meeting venue. So we’re thinking about whether we can find somewhere else to meet that might be more suitable. We’re looking into this one and will post an update as soon as we get it sorted out.

A Celebration of Women: personal reflections
March 14, 2011, 11:51 pm
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Silver and glass bracelet - one of my own contributions to the event

I struggled into Harrogate town centre, rather heavily laden with exhibits and party things (balloons, fruit juices, stereo), saying to myself “There are so many ways this could go so very very wrong…”. I kept running through more and more potential disaster scenarios, until Amalia unexpectedly rescued me at the traffic-lights. I was immensely relieved to see her: it marked the point when the event started to turn from a thing that only existed in our heads into an Actual Event with a life of its own. Although I still kept bring surprised when things in fact didn’t go wrong, but went right instead.

First of all, when we arrived at the Wesley Chapel, I was surprised that the venue was already open, even though David the Premises Manager was nowhere to be seen (he did however turn up a few minutes later, while I was looking for him at the Lions Club’s coffee morning which happened to going on elsewhere in the building).

Next, I was surprised that almost everyone who said they were going to come did come, and moreover turned up promptly and enthusiastically with a LOT of exhibits. We really did have painting, drawing, computer design, textile art, knitting, embroidery, beading, ceramics, sugarcraft, poetry, quilting, and jewellery, as well as stands both from local charity Acorn and the Harrogate and Knaresborough branch of Amnesty International. To add to the surprises there was even one woman who turned up unexpectedly carrying a large poster with a poem and drawing. By the time everyone had squeezed themselves and their exhibits into the Lower Hall, there was only just enough space for everyone. Soon there was a cheerful buzz going on in the Hall as people found old friends and made new ones. Laura set up our own stand near the door and talked to lots and lots of people.

The next surprise was the most fantastic one of all. Val M was saying “Sarah, Sarah, you must meet these people” and lo and behold, it was people from the Harrogate and District Women’s Liberation group – est. 1975!  They are an amazing, inspirational bunch of women who still meet up now, and we’re hoping that we can organise some joint meetings with them later in the year.

After that I have to confess my memories are rather a blur of handing out flyers in town (Harrogate is such a polite town: a courteous “no thank you” was the harshest response I got), talking to lots of people in a probably rather confused manner about feminism and creativity, Laura and Rachel organising the exhibitors for one last group photo, and of finally, at five o’clock, feeling surprised that I’d forgotten to have lunch (most unusual for me).

Thanks to everyone who made the event a success: special thanks to Joanna for her design skills. And Deborah for lending the bunting. And Bess and Rachel for the photos. And everyone who blew up balloons (including Louisa, I’m almost sure). And all our exhibitors for being so talented and creative!

My souvenir was Val Smith’s booklet of poems, which she put together especially for the day.


Val Smith’s poetry booklet

Another meeting

We met today and got lots of things decided.

 Our International Women’s Day event is taking shape – if only in our heads at present! – and we’re now starting to invite exhibitors.

Oh and we have all looked at our report on the “feeling safe in public spaces” (or “street harassment”) survey so we’ve now put the whole report on this website (divided into chunks for convenience, so you can go straight to the bits you’re more interested in)

See new links on the site map on the left-hand side of this page!

Notes from our last meeting

We met on Monday, 10th January and welcomed two new members to our group.

We ate biscuits, talked feminism, and got through lots of “business” too – including co-opting a chair, secretary and treasurer.

We talked about the results of our street harassment survey, which we’re going to post up on the website in full when all our members have had a chance to read the draft report properly. We also agreed to send the report to Harrogate District Community Safety Partnership when it’s finalised, and potentially also talk to Stray FM and the Harrogate Advertiser.

We talked about our draft constitution. We thought it was important to say somewhere that it’s fine for group members not to agree with each other, as long as they aren’t disruptive or derailing.

We talked about plans for our International Women’s Day event, on the afternoon of March 12th 2011, for which we have provisionally booked the Lower Hall of the Wesley Chapel in central Harrogate. The event will be called “A Celebration of Women” and we would like to invite women to share things they have made (arts, crafts… etc) as part of a celebration of women’s creativity. Amateurs and professionals will be equally welcome and nobody’s work will be judged against anyone else’s.

Our next meeting will be on Thursday 27th January, time and venue here.