Harrogate Feminists

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.


Heirloom, by Val Smith
March 17, 2011, 9:06 pm
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we are a tidy clan

given to sorting out, cleaning up, chopping down, pruning, throwing away

we are not hoarders

we are also ham-fisted

no set of glasses, no dinner-service, tea-service, canteen of cutlery

nice china fruit-bowl with six matching little dishes

remains a set for long


our household goods and our homely chattels

get used up, worn out, smashed by accident, chucked out on purpose


our only heirloom is the workbox

polished and fluted outside, soberly elegant,

a riot of ornament within


it has three layers

one of tiny boxes in ivory and silver

flowers and creatures blackened with age

the next a little larger, wood-veneer decorated

cut with a fretshaw sized for the fairies

bottom  layer for the work, the endless embroidery


“it came from granma’s junk-shop

you must leave it to your daughter”

my mother hands it over

full of buttons, press-studs, beads, buckles, sequins


our clan is matriarchal

property descends through the female line

a mother’s word is law


the workbox has been stolen

I found the buttons in a ditch

if you find it in a shop

I have the  bit that was broken

third from the left, second layer


please leave it to your daughter

Reproduced with permission of the author,Val Smith

from her booklet of poetry entitled “purl one, slip one, knit two together”

which she produced for our A Celebration of Women event

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

More exhibitors
March 9, 2011, 11:16 pm
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The Boat House, by Sheila Venamore


We’ve had a last-minute rush and now have 24 exhibitors on our list – wow!

Quite a few are bringing their own tables/display boards – so we could still squeeze in a few more, if anyone else happens to be reading this and wants to bring some of their work along – just let us know in advance.

It’s going to be a really exciting event!

Ultra quick update after tonight’s meeting
March 8, 2011, 2:07 am
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Wow! We just had our last-minute planning meeting and at the last count, we’ve got (at least) 15 exhibitors lined up now!

Local women will be displaying examples of their creative work, including painting, drawing, graphic design, ceramics, poetry, sugarcraft, jewellery-making, embroidery, knitting and quilting. The highly talented exhibitors lined up for the event include Karen Fall (ceramics) and the painters Christine Davies and Sheila Venamore. There will also be representatives from the Harrogate and Knaresborough branch of Amnesty International to talk about some of the human rights work they are currently engaged in.

There is still space for more exhibitors, so if you would like to exhibit your work, please get in touch with us ASAP.

And if you’re around in Harrogate on Saturday March 12th, please drop in! The event is free of charge to the general public – everyone is welcome.

A Celebration of Women – more details
February 28, 2011, 12:52 am
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Just updated the A Celebration of Women page on this site (click the link on the left-hand side of the screen) – there are now more details as to how the day will run, including timings etc.

Our next meeting will be on the Monday evening before the event, ie 7th March.


Advice from a seasoned activist
February 7, 2011, 12:22 am
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Yesterday I attended a Global Feminist Activism Workshop.

It was organised by Women for Women International. There was some discussion of what all the various local groups were doing for International Women’s Day; I had to admit that “bridges” sadly do not at present feature in our planned event… However – I am sure we can get a bridge in somehow…?

Anyway, all in all it was a really inspiring afternoon. There was a particularly good guest speaker, Dr Jocelynne Scutt, who had loads of interesting things to say.

Two things she said stuck in my mind.

Firstly, women who try to change things are often told “You are being too aggressive, instead you must learn to be assertive.” She said, firmly, that at least in the context of feminist activism she felt this was “a nonsense”. The distinction between “aggressive” and “assertive” often seems to depend purely on whether the person listening to you agrees with the views being expressed. The idea of the “aggressive women” has, of course, a massive stigma attached, whereas for a man it is often viewed more as a compliment. Go figure.

Secondly, if you do speak out and try to change things, there will always be people who have an interest in maintaining the status quo, or who just don’t like change, and these people can say negative things about what you’re doing. This is why it’s really important to build a network of supportive friends, colleagues and like-minded people whom you can talk things over with when things get tough.

I’ve also added a few interesting “global”-related links to our ever-growing list of relevant groups and organisations (on the left of this page – scroll down, and down…)