Oxford International Women’s Festival
Oxford celebrates inspirational and pioneering women from 28 Feb – 15 March.
This is the 20th anniversary of the Oxford International Women’s Festival. The theme this year is ‘Pioneering and Inspirational’ women.
The festival will explore issues relevant to women at home and on the world stage. They have a multitude of events designed to entertain, to educate, to question, to enrich and importantly to celebrate women’s achievements, their ingenuity, tenacity, and compassion within all facets of life, as carers, cooks, human rights campaigners, community leaders - in science and the arts, producing a rich tapestry of things to see and to do during the two week festival.
Started in 1990 as part of the City Council’s Events programme with ten events and a large historical 100 Years of Women’s Banners Exhibition from Mary Somerville to the Suffragettes and the anti-Poll Tax banners – the Town Hall was festooned with banners and the festival has tried to retain this subversive tradition reflecting the lives of women who have gone before and those who will come after! In 1997 the festival became independent of the Council but was grant aided by OCC with the support of local trade union branches. Since then a core group of volunteers have continued to organise this annual festival which reflects social change and the issues affecting women in society.
In the lead up to the start of the festival BBC Oxford’s Jo Thoenes looks at some of the Oxfordshire women who are involved with the festival and at how their contribution has made a difference to the county and the wider world.
MONDAY 23 Feb – Campaigning Women
Debi Hollingsworth has a long history of campaigning, promoting and advocating in respect of 'peoples' rights within the trade union movement. As a mature student (2002-2007) she was active within Ruskin Student Union leading on campaigns to secure better facilities for students, against top up fees and against the sale of Ruskin's family accommodation and the Walton St site. She was also awarded the UCU Life Changers award in 2007. She is currently chair of the festival committee, a member of Oxford City Amnesty International Stop Violence against Women group and Oxford Pride Committee to name a few. She is also also a member of Feminist Fightback and Education not for Sale (ENS) and works for Connection Floating Support (Oxford City team) - supporting people to sustain and maintain their tenancy.
TITLE OF FESTIVAL EVENT: Come and Connect with Connection / Women of our world unite, 9th / 10th March, 11 - 3pm and 7pm - 10pm
In 2001 Jenny Stanton left her academic job in history of medicine early, with a small pension, to write fiction, but found herself drawn into anti-war activism and through that into campaigning for justice for Palestinians. "Many of us felt that people-to-people links would be helpful so we set up the Oxford Ramallah Friendship Association (ORFA), with whom I've visited Ramallah three times. We have brought women over to Oxford for International Women's Day: Hadeel Qazzaz in 2004; Janet Michael, the first woman Mayor of Ramallah, in 2007; and this year Hanan Banoureh, President of a health workers' union. We brought over groups of young people from a refugee camp in Ramallah, in 2005 and 2007, and in 2008 a group of nine Oxford young people made a trip to Ramallah.
"I'm also involved in the Network of Oxford Women for Justice and Peace (NOW), Oxford Women in Black - based on an Israeli peace group - and Oxford Palestine Solidarity Campaign. We are tremendously mixed, in background, religion (or not), and so on, but all motivated by a sense of justice, similar to the Anti-Apartheid movement - my mother spent 30 years campaigning on that. It's often heartbreaking, as with the recent Israeli bombing of Gaza. But it can be heartwarming too, in terms of comradeship with each other and with the Palestinian people we meet. I'm hoping to go on an olive-picking trip this autumn, when Faringdon may become linked with a village called Arura near Ramallah. I've completed two novels but haven't had time to polish them up for publication. My two daughters, Katy and Rebecca Beinart, are both public artists, in Oxford and Nottingham."
TITLE OF FESTIVAL EVENT: (1) Building Coalitions Against War (28 Feb, 11am - 4.30pm, North Oxford Community Centre), (2) Women Workers in Palestine (8 March 2.30 - 4pm, Town Hall), (3) Women of Our World Unite (10 March, 7pm, Town Hall)
TUESDAY 24 Feb – Women in the Community
Kashmira Patel says: "It has been just a coincidence and good fortune that I have lived in university towns most of my married life. I love the vibrancy of university towns as they have an international feel to them. I was born and educated in India and then lived in Brazil for eleven years. I have always enjoyed the experiences of learning languages and interacting with cultures. I have been involved with international womens' groups in both the countries and here in Oxford.
Celebrating Holi Festival
"Our group's main focus is obtaining a place of worship in Oxfordshire. As we all know, most of other faiths have their places of worship, and we Hindus now need that space as well. By organising fund raising and cultural projects, we feel we can highlight our need. Holi Festival is a festival of colours. I have very fond memories of this festival from my childhood days. It is a colourful day, celebrating the beginning of spring and the harvest season. It is still very much alive in India. We are pleased to be bringing this festival to Oxford.
"Working in a finance environment, I do a lot of number crunching and cost cutting exercises, so at the end of the day I do feel a bit guilty, and diverting my mind and extra time in community issues gives me satisfaction and gives me that 'giving something back’ feeling. I enjoy the interaction between different cultures and groups in Oxfordshire. Other interests are pottery - having taken part in Artweeks previously - and cooking which is solely for my family!"
TITLE OF FESTIVAL EVENT: Hindu Spring Festival of Colour, 14 March, Lake Street Oxford C Centre, Time 4pm - 7pm
Jane Mercer has lived in Oxford since 1966 (apart from four years in Hampshire from 1978 - 1982). She is divorced and has two sons, both whom live abroad. She became involved with the Oxford Leon Association quite by chance in 1986/87, when she attended a talk on Nicaragua which was given by David Dixon who was the first town twinning officer. He persuaded Jane to go to Leon and would not take 'no' for an answer. She found herself there in 1987 having never been further than Spain before. On the flight to Leon, with a group of other people, only one of whom was familiar to Jane, she describes the whole trip as "a life changing experience."
At that time she was studying for her A level Spanish and, following her first visit to Leon, wrote about it for her GCSE/A Level assignment. The second visit was in 2002 when, with other members of the Link, she attended a conference of all the European towns which are twinned with Leon. Since her retirement in 2003 Jane has become involved in VSO, and spent two years teaching English in China from 2004 – 2006. Over the years Jane has worked mainly as a fund-raiser for projects in Leon. These have been many and various, including housing, health and sanitation projects; education; conservation and work with children with disabilities. "Currently we are very concerned about the rights of women in Leon, with special reference to the new law which has criminalised abortion on any grounds."
TITLE OF FESTIVAL EVENT: Viva Leon, 6th March 7pm - 9pm
WEDNESDAY 25 Feb – Women on Art
Amantha Edmead is a multi talented local actress. Following school she went on to study at the Guildford School of Acting. Her credits arise from work with Talawa, London Bubble, the Orange Tree and Little Angel theatre companies. She also develops her own work.
Her repertoire ranges from classical Shakespeare to television soaps, from singing mezzo soprano to performing using a range of accents. Amantha’s credits in the theatre include: Bianca in ‘Othello’ and Ariel in ‘The Tempest’. In televisio she's had character parts in popular television series such as Eastenders, The Bill and Casualty. On screen, Amantha has appeared in training and corporate videos and took the lead part in the student film ‘Picking up the Linen’ and the budget movie ‘Losing It’.
Amantha will take part in Candlelit Cabaret where she will take on the role of performance poet, with a series of short readings from the work of the late published Oxford poet Amryl Johnson.
TITLE OF FESTIVAL EVENT: The Backside Monologues, Sunday 1 March, East Oxford Community Centre, 8pm
Lizzie McHale is a dynamic performance poet and artist in education. She writes rants that rhyme and uses drama techniques to enable other people to rant too. Her theatre in education company is called Speak Out and works to give people a vehicle for self expression and the self confidence to use it.
'Dreamweavers' is Speak Out's weekly drama club for 4 - 7 year olds. 'Good Grief It's A Goddess' came about as her annual contribution to the festival and her desire to provide local women with a friendly and supportive environment in which to try out their talents - and have a riotous good night with all her mates!
TITLE OF FESTIVAL EVENT: GOOD GRIEF IT'S A GODDESS, Saturday March 7th, 7.30pm - 1.30am East Oxford Community Centre.
THURSDAY 26 Feb – Women in Science
Ann Clark first got involved with Oxford Women's Training in 1994 when she turned up and enrolled on a computer course, having just seen her youngest child off to school and never having set eyes on a PC in her life before.
"Since 1996 I have worked for the organisation in a variety of roles. During this period the organisation itself has undergone a number of changes. Originally set up by the City Council, housed at Northway Centre, it then became independent for five years before being incorporated into Oxford and Cherwell Valley College, based at BBL. It's aim has always been to encourage women and girls to develop skills in fields from which women were traditionally excluded, particularly technology and construction related skills, with a view to gaining employment in these sectors.
"In recent years OWT has expanded its role and we now work with women right across the spectrum from school leavers to graduates and post graduates. The common factor is that the women want to develop an interest in science, engineering, construction or technology. I am currently the Project Co-ordinator for the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology, the south east hub of which is based at OWT."
TITLE OF FESTIVAL EVENT: 21 Years of Inspiring and Empowering Women, 2nd March, 10am - 2.30pm
Georgina Ferry is a science writer and broadcaster who has lived in Oxford for more than 25 years. She began her career as a journalist on New Scientist magazine and for many years was a presenter on Science Now and other science programmes on Radio 4. She is the author of the biography of Dorothy Hodgkin, Britain’s only female Nobel prizewinner in science, who herself lived and worked in Oxford for most of her career.
Georgina has a particular interest in women scientists, who often face difficulties in staying at the forefront of research if they also have family responsibilities. Her most recent book is Max Perutz and the Secret of Life, the story of an Austrian refugee from Nazism who came to Britain, founded a world-famous research laboratory in Cambridge and won the Nobel prize. Both Dorothy Hodgkin and Max Perutz were pioneers in studying the structure of the molecules that make up the living body, work that continues today at Oxfordshire’s Diamond Light Source – until recently under the direction of another leading woman scientist, Professor Dame Louise Johnson.
TITLE OF FESTIVAL EVENT: Dorothy Hodgkin Memorial Lecture, Wed 11 March, Oxford University Museum of Natural History, 6pm
FRIDAY 27 Feb – Women in Politics
Susanna Pressel is the Lord Mayor of Oxford. Susanna’s parents were socialists in Austria and became refugees during the war. When they came to the UK they became members of the Labour party, so her interest in politics was there at an early age. Through her parents she realised that your life might depend on politics. She joined the Labour party at 16 but wasn't active till later, being a teacher of French and German for about 30 years. She always thought local politics was boring but decided to stand for a local seat and went along to some of the meetings. She was so impressed by the dedication of the councillors that she became a keen local politician. In 1996 she became a city councillor for the first time - she sees her job as an important voice of the community and feels it is important to encourage people of all ages to be active in their political community. She is Lord Mayor until May.
TITLE OF FESTIVAL EVENT: Women in Politics – Olive Gibbs, Oxford Town Hall, Sunday 15 March, 2 – 4 pm
last updated: 27/02/2009 at 16:19
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