Scotland

Breaking down barriers at the Audacious Women Festival

Sky diving women Image copyright Thinkstock

Being audacious means different things to different people. For one of the organisers of a new event in Edinburgh, for instance, it was partly about overcoming her fear of singing in public.

"I was always frightened of singing and I stood up and sang a song," said Sally Wainwright on committing her own audacious act.

"It felt great."

The Audacious Women Festival is billed as a chance to break down personal, political or institutional barriers and celebrate audacious women everywhere.

It is a mixture of workshops, covering subjects as diverse as creative writing and break-dancing, performances and exhibitions.

Image copyright Thinkstock

The original idea for the festival was born out of a friend who having stood up for herself in a situation said that it made her feel audacious.

The organisers wanted other women to have the opportunity to have that feeling, albeit in different ways.

Ms Wainwright explained: "What I love about the idea is that what's audacious for me, is completely different to what's audacious to you, which means it's completely inclusive, anybody can do whatever's important for them."

Audacity, she continued, could cover anything from being one of the first female medics to overcoming a physical or personal challenge.

One of the events during the festival was aimed at using photography to address a lack of statues of women in Edinburgh.


What does audacious mean?

Adjective: 1. Recklessly bold or daring; fearless

2. Impudent or presumptuous


"You can see many statues and they're all men and men on horses," said Margaret Drysdale, co-ordinator of Women in Focus in Edinburgh, or Wifie for short.

The group ran a workshop where volunteers were photographed dressed up as notable Scottish women such as the writer, Muriel Spark - in a way creating something like the statues they believe deserve to be there.

They hope to have the images produced as cardboard cut-out statues and plan to place them around the city for a short period.

"I think putting up the cardboard statues is definitely the audacious part of this project, putting it out there in the public, although it's for a very short time," Ms Drysdale said.

"Saying these women did exist and look at them. They might not be permanent features, but they were there."

Image copyright Audacious Women Festival
Image caption Volunteers were photographed as prominent women from history
Image copyright Audacious Women Festival
Image caption The images will be used to make cardboard cut-out statues

Other events have looked at audacious women throughout history and in the present day.

Professional storyteller Ruth Kirkpatrick, for instance, runs a workshop called "Sheroes," which encourages those taking part to think about people who have inspired them.

"We're so drenched in the culture we're in at the moment to think about how we look," she said.

"The pressure that there is on young women seems enormous, with selfies and constant photographic evidence of what you're doing."

She wants to get beyond that to what women have done and what they are like as characters.

Image copyright WIFIE
Image caption The pioneering medic Elsie Inglis will be celebrated with a temporary statue in Edinburgh

So with a whole festival devoted to audacity in all its forms, will it make a difference?

"It's true that if somebody learns to go and break-dance, it's not in itself going to change the inherent sexism of the world," said Sally Wainwright.

"But I think if we can encourage women to feel empowered in one aspect of your life, once you've done it in one area, it somehow becomes easier to do it in other areas as well.

"The more than we encourage women to stand up for themselves and be audacious, the more we end up challenging the power structures that hold us back."

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