Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Feminist Create/ Open Umbrella

Hello from Feminist Create founder Jen Steiner!

When I first launched this project back in 2013 I dreamt of it being a world-wide read platform; including many women profiling their work, unique interviews and I also wanted to run a feminist record label, although I had no idea how to do it.
The first goals of the project were realised but the record label never came about.

Recently I researched into what a record label was, and what a publishing company was, and realised I didn't really want to do either of those things but I did want to release my music, and other peoples, via a platform that was at least gender equal, if not biased towards female artist and musicians. 

So this is where I tell you a bit about the new project that I am founding, OPEN UMBRELLA; Open Umbrella is an experimental platform and community, releasing new music for FREE from original, innovative and exquisite musicians and artists. It's mission is to enable independent musicians and artists, especially those who might otherwise struggle to be visible due to confidence or social exclusion such as being disabled or a primary carer; to share their music, widen their listening audience and build a community around them; whilst retaining all rights and copyright to their own work.

I hope the project will be launching in Bristol in March or April 2015 and it's aim is a gender equal roster, or a female bias; however (unsurprisingly) we are having much more interest from male artists and musicians. If you're interested in releasing some music via platform, please do get in touch, follow us via Twitter or FB or email

I am very excited and nervous about Open Umbrella, it seems to open up many possibilities for artists and musicians to have their music out in the world, including me. I struggle to see my self as a 'proper' musician or artist, despite having done it for most of my life, as I have health restrictions which mean I do not gig regularly. The world of music and music sales is very competitive and most of the time I just want more people to get to listen to the work I make! Perhaps this rings a bell for you or someone that you know; for example the hours of unpaid labour that mothers are usually working often means their creative work is seen as unimportant or invisible. 

Let's change the way women's music can go unheard and unappreciated!!

Many thanks for your time reading this, 
Jen Steiner 
Bristol, 11/03/2015

Monday, 1 December 2014

Sexpression 2014

Thoughts from Sexpression conference 2014 from Yas Necati.

We never talk about sex. At least, not openly and honestly. Sex is everywhere. It’s 

in our relationships, on our minds and used to sell things. It’s how the majority of 

us came into this world. Sex is everywhere… but in our conversations.

It was rare and refreshing to be surrounded by a room full of people having 

conversations about sex. At Sexpression’s Annual Conference last Saturday, 

everyone was honest for once. All the workshops were about sex, the gift bags 

included condoms and the whole reason for gathering was to discuss sexuality 

and sexual relationships.

We live in a society where sex is used to sell everything, from holidays to 

toothbrushes. Yet having conversations about sex is still considered a massive 

taboo. We live in a society where gay marriage has been recognised (rightly so!) 

by our government, yet gay relationships are never mentioned in our 

classrooms. We live in a society where porn culture has dominated our media 

and mainstream pornography depicts unhealthy ideas about relationships to 

children as young as 8. Yet Sex and Relationships Education isn’t even 

compulsory in our schools, and consent is almost always un-discussed.

We need to move towards sexuality without sexualisation and sex without 

sexism. And the only way forward is through starting the conversation. The 

Sexpression conference was fantastic. It’s time we bring the discussions started 

there into our relationships, our thoughts and our everyday conversations.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Profile: Lucienne Boyce

Name: Lucienne Boyce

Lives in: Bristol


Create: In 2013 I published The Bristol Suffragettes, a history of the militant suffrage campaign in Bristol, which includes A Walk with the Bristol Suffragettes and a map. I have also set up a Bristol Suffragette Project on my website, which offers further resources. I also hope that people will get in touch to share their suffragette stories. I have given numerous talks about the women’s campaign, looking at the history and how it relates to activism and women’s status today. I’m currently researching the impact of the First World War on the women’s suffrage movement, with a special interest in the peace movement – which goes back to the days of Greenham Common (when I joined demonstrations though I didn’t live in the camp). In 2006 I completed an MA in English Literature with the Open University, specialising in eighteenth-century women’s literature, particularly the work of Frances Burney and Charlotte Smith.

Other creative stuff: My first historical novel, To The Fair Land, was published in 2012. A thriller set partly in Bristol, it’s about a voyage to the South Seas.

I’m currently working on a murder mystery about a Bow Street Runner investigating a crime near Bath, and doing research for a novel to be set in 1910, during the suffrage campaign.
I’ve written a play about the suffragettes in Bristol (Follow the Colours).

I blog about suffragettes, fiction, the 18th century, theatre, books etc.

I’m a member of the Women’s History Network and the Historical Novel Society, and I set up and run the HNS’s local group for readers and writers which meets monthly at Bristol Central Library

One thing you love about Feminism... the energy and creativity. 

On Twitter - @LucienneWrite

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Breaking Out Of Isolation #1

I am super, super excited to say that on the 23/03/14 I led a small group of Creative Feminist women in a short workshop in Bristol, UK. The theme was 'Breaking Out Of Isolation'.

The idea for this blog came from my own struggles with feeling isolated as a Creative Feminist and as the involvement of others across the internet and the world increases, this isolation for me decreases. I wanted to experiment with the ideas I use on the blog in a face to face way and decided to organise this workshop. Isolation, as set up through our Capitalist and male-dominated society, is one of the big things that keeps people separate from each other, keeps us set up in competition with each other and struggling to continue to be creative.

The workshop was designed to show a small group of women that that picture of reality is false, that actually we thrive when we're connected and sharing our hopes, dreams and struggles.

I was so pleased about how the workshop went, every woman wanted to meet again and I have lots more ideas about how to progress not only with this group and also ideas about how I'd like to have a basic model I can take into other groups, in the UK and someday around the world.

Here's what some of the women said after the workshop;

"A really welcoming space to talk honestly about creativity and being a creative woman..."

"Honesty... Community... Practice at talking about my self... Lack of competition... A space to not just be a parent.."

"Creative women together... Warm, safe environment... "

" to talk honestly about what I need and how I feel about creating..."

"I liked hearing everyone's experiences... I liked making real connections... Being with WOMEN"

"Hearing all the women: successes, struggles, dreams, goals.."

I am passionate about being with and leading women in this area of creativity, it is an important step in my own development as a creative woman as well as loving being with and seeing the level of hope in group of women rise and rise.

Expect to hear more about this!

Breaking Out Of Isolation #1 was led by Jen Steiner, Founder & Editor of Feminist Create.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Interview: Jane Duffus

Shazia Mirza (Photographer: Sarah Jeynes)

WTF! Audience at Colston Hall

Lucy Porter

Dana Alexander (Photographer: Rouben Freeman)

Kate Smurthwaite

Hello and welcome to Feminist Create's interview with Jane Duffus, Founder of Bristol's very own What The Frock! Comedy Events.

Can you tell me how long you've been doing What The Frock! and about your role?
I’m the founder and executive producer of What The Frock! Comedy. I formed What The Frock! in January 2012 after waking up to the fact that although I knew of lots of incredibly funny women, there were very few women being booked by comedy clubs in the UK, or on TV and radio shows… and I just saw red. It became a case of putting my money where my mouth was and doing something about it myself. It’s very easy to sit about and complain about things, but sadly few people get off their bums and do something about whatever it is that annoys them!

Have you always been in Bristol and what makes it a special place for you?
I grew up in the South West, about an hour outside Bristol, so I knew Bristol pretty well – it was the nearest big city to come to if we wanted to go to gigs or decent shops when I was a teenager, and as soon as I could drive I used to come up here all the time. But then I moved away to Nottingham to university, and then gravitated to London for most of my 20s, and returned to Bristol five years ago. I can’t imagine living anywhere else now… I’ve met my husband here, bought a house here, started my business here, and built a life that I really love here.

Tell us a bit about your relationship with feminism and more about comedy and women?
I’ve always been a feminist, I just didn’t realise that was the label for it until about six or seven years ago. My lightbulb moment was while I was studying for an MA at Birkbeck College in London, and Lynne Segal was one of my professors. For those who don’t know, Lynne is an Australian woman who came over to London during the 1970s at a similar time to Germaine Greer – although I wouldn’t exactly call them colleagues! Lynne experienced life as a single parent, she lived in a communal home in Highbury and she was influential in bringing feminism to the public consciousness in the 1970s and 1980s. She still works tirelessly now. At the time I met Lynne, she had just published her autobiography Making Trouble, and she was talking about some of the experiences that had inspired her book, which I promptly read… and then I read all her other books. And although I didn’t agree with everything she said, her books led me to books by different women, and there led the snowball effect. I’m very proud of my feminist library now… it takes up the bulk of our living room shelves!
My feminism now has moved away from academic books, which are rather undigestible in my opinion, and onto more practical things – like promoting women in the arts, promoting women in business, campaigning against everyday sexism in Bristol (lap dancing clubs, breast themed restaurants) and addressing casual sexism in general.

Are you a funny woman?
That’s not for me to say! It’s one thing to make your friends laugh informally, but quite another to get up on stage with the presumption that you’re going to be funny for 20 minutes solid.
I have no desire to do that… and I think that’s one of the reasons why What The Frock! works. A lot of comedians start hosting their own nights to create a platform for themselves to perform. But because I don’t have that desire myself, I’m freeing up mental energy to concentrate on promoting the acts, the night and the reason why I’m doing it. That said, we have a comedy workshop in Bristol on March 16, which Kate Smurthwaite is leading, and I’m going to take part… I thought I should have a little taste of what life is like on the other side of the microphone.

Which funny people have inspired you?
Ooh, so many. French & Saunders are my absolute favourite funny women, although maybe that’s a bit too obvious. I briefly met Jennifer Saunders last October and thought I was going to explode with excitement.
I also love people like Jayde Adams, who is our resident compere. Jayde is Bristolian born and bred, and she’s moved from being a fishmonger at Asda to an opera singing, beat boxing, rapping, dancing comedian. Just looking at Jayde makes me laugh, in a kind way! My favourite thing when we have Jayde on the What The Frock! bill is to watch the faces of people who haven’t seen her before… and count how many seconds it is until they convulse in laughter. It’s always less than 10!
One of the things I’m working on at the moment is a book about fabulously funny women, which is coming out later this year. I’ve been working on it since August 2012, and it’s a huge collaboration project between myself, Bristol publishers Tangent, and about 30 different contributors – including Lucy Porter, Kate Smurthwaite, Viv Groskop and many more, celebrating brilliantly funny women through the decades. Shockingly, there has never been such a book before in the UK.

What are you most proud of with What The Frock!?
So many things! That sounds bumptious, doesn’t it? But so many things. Our sixth ever show was at the Southbank Centre in London, with about 700 people in the audience, and was part of the international Women of the World Festival – to pull that off, and so early in the Frock! history, was quite something.
What else? I’m proud that it’s grown so big and so fast. I’m now putting on shows in four UK cities, running the workshops, hosting solo touring shows, hosting comedy improv plays, running one of only two all-female comedy competitions in the UK, and we have the book coming out. Plus I’m currently in the finals for three businesswomen awards.
In just over two years, I’ve put on around 30 events, raised about £1,000 for women’s charities, racked up so much national and local press and publicity to promote women in comedy, and worked with more than 100 extremely talented women. And that’s just for starters… What The Frock! is currently a one-woman business, so there are limitations on how much I can do, but when you put it in blunt facts like that, it doesn’t look too shabby. Which seems very immodest. But women should blow their own trumpets more often. Women are very bad at hiding their talents and being bashful – that’s not going to help us get ahead.

Can you say more about how you went about setting up WTF!?
At the very beginning, it was a complete learning process - I had no idea how to run a comedy event! But luckily there were a lot of very helpful people on hand, like Kate Smurthwaite who we've continued to work with regularly, to steer me in the right direction. I never knew that so much work went into putting on an event - everything from picking an event name, to setting up and managing an online presence, to booking a venue and programming acts, to budgeting and keeping an eye on ticket sales... never mind all the potential hiccups along the way (acts who drop out at the last minute, making sure venues are accessible, responding to somebody who's not happy about something and so on). But it's all good. If it wasn't, I wouldn't still be doing it!

Do you think the model of WTF! could be expanded to other creative areas?
I'm sure it could. In Bristol, there is already an all-female theatre group called Hecate, who have been going for quite some time and seem to be doing very well indeed. And there are a lot of other successful all-female initiatives in Bristol - whether in the performing arts or elsewhere, we're very lucky here.

And what's coming up in the near future for WTF!?
On March 14, we have our next Bristol comedy club at The Mauretania (9 Park Street). Alongside our regular MC Cerys Nelmes, we will have sets from Jessica Fosteskew, Alice Frick and Tash Bartlett (Tickets here -

On March 16, during the day, we are running a comedy skills workshop at Halo on Gloucester Road, which is led by Kate Smurthwaite. It's an all-female workshop, and it's a rare opportunity to attend a comedy workshop outside of London. In the evening, there will be a low-key comedy showcase for all the course participants to try out their new skills infront of a warm and friendly audience. (Tickets here - and here

On April 4, we're putting on a comedy showcase at The Bell Inn in Bath as part of the Bath Comedy Festival. We have Cerys Nelmes as MC, and we also have seven hugely talented rising comedy stars on the bill, including Bethan Roberts, Annabel O'Connell and Helen Thorn, who were placed in the top three of the What The Frock! Newcomer Award in 2013. (Tickets here -

On April 11, it is the award night for the What The Frock! Newcomer Award 2014, at the Mauretania (9 Park Street, Bristol). Cerys Nelmes is again our MC, and she's also a judge, alongside myself, Alex Lovell (BBC TV) and Laura Rawlings (BBC Radio). We were inundated with entries from all around the world, as this is one of only two all-female comedy competitions in the UK. (Audience tickets here -

Then on May 16, we will be throwing our second birthday party, again at the Mauretania (9 Park Street, Bristol). Cerys Nelmes returns as MC, and we will also welcome Ada Campe, Hatty Ashdown and the return of our beloved Jayde Adams - who has amassed an enormous local following since we started working with her early last year. Tickets are not yet on sale, but will be on this link -

And then in the autumn, we're currently booking in more shows at The Lantern, at Colston Hall, Bristol - after a fabulous sold-out event there last autumn, which Lucy Porter headlined for us. Oh, and we've a book coming out! There's a lot going on.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Profile Submissions

It's really easy to submit a profile to FeministCreate, simply copy and paste the form below into an email, fill in the information you want to and send it to: 

*What's your name or the name of your project
*Where do you live
*What's your email 
*Write about you or your creative project (max 150 words) 
*Tell us any other creative stuff you do (go on give us a list!)
*Tell us one thing you love about Feminism or Feminists!
*1-3 images of you or your work
*Any links to youtube or soundcloud, or your blog or website you'd like to include

Feminist Create only works when creative feminists want use the space as their platform, there might be lots of things that could hold you back from emailing us about you or your creative project but we would really like to hear from you!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Interview: Sian Norris

Emilia di Girolamo, Sian Norris and Biddisha, Bristol Womens LIterature Festival, 2013

Hello and welcome to our first interview of 2014 with Bristol's Sian Norris!

Sian, can you tell us something about your daily life at the moment?
Well, in my day job I'm an advertising copywriter. I work for lots of different charities, writing their fundraising creative advertising. It means every day I get to come up with ideas and then write lots of inspiring words about a whole range of different topics, from human rights, environmental issues and health. 

Outside of my day job, I'm a writer too. What this generally means is getting up early on the weekends, turning on my computer and working on my novel. Sometimes I'll mix it up with a side project or a short story, but right now the novel really has to take priority! 

Part of being a writer is reading. I read a lot. I don't know anyone who reads as much as I do! I can quite happily spend the whole day in the same position on my sofa and read a book. Reading helps me to understand more about telling stories, about how to use language. 

My day job does this too. Every day at work I have to tell emotive, human stories - sometimes in 35 words, sometimes in 2,000. 

Then there's my literature festival which involves coming up with a concept for an event, researching speakers, liaising with writers and the venue, and managing publicity. 

How does creativity get to be part of your life?
I'm really lucky that I get to think creatively in my day job as that means every day I am thinking and writing and using my creativity. This helps me to be creative outside work too. I've found that since doing creative work in my working week, I've had so much more energy to do and make more outside of work. 

I've always wanted to be a writer, it's all I've ever wanted to do (except from be a ballet dancer but that's another story...) and so I can't imagine it not being part of my life. I love writing, I love creating stories and using words. But it is hard work. My job is very stressful and very intense, so I have to be very motivated to get up and  turn the computer on and get writing. But once I do, once I enter the world of the story, I don't want to leave! It's exciting. 

What do you love about what you create?
There's a real satisfaction about seeing something finished - from a book to the literature festival events. And then knowing that other people have got something out of it, that it has had an effect on them. I think to do creative work - especially writing which is very solitary - you have to be very self-motivated and so you have to feel proud of the work you've done.

Where or how did you learn you creative practices?
I don't know really, that's quite a hard question. I haven't had any formal training in creative writing - I've just always told stories and written stories. When I was five I made a book about a duck and I never stopped. So I never did a course or an MA or anything. I guess I learnt from reading - reading great novels and classic novels and trashy novels and bad novels, reading books that no one reads and reading books that everyone reads. Books teach me to write. 

I've always been quite bolshy about 'doing' things. So when it came to the festival, for example, I didn't think I couldn't do it because I had no training or experience. I was just very determined to do it, to make it happen. So I just started asking people and luckily lots of women said a huge, resounding YES! I've always had this confidence that I can and will do creative things - which is weird because there are areas in my life where I don't feel confident at all. But with creative work I've always felt like I need to make it happen and I will make it happen. There's no sense of 'no, I can't do it', because I am so determined to ensure I do. 

Work helps as well - I learn a lot on the job. 

When did feminism come to be a part of your life and what did you do about it?
I've always considered myself a feminist but there was definitely a point in my life when it stopped being a theoretical concept for me that I read about, and instead became a way of life. I started getting involved in activism in 2007 when I was 22/23 and organised Ladyfest Bristol. From there, I got involved in the Bristol Feminist Network and then ended up running it for six years - organising discussion groups, marches, protests, awareness raising events. Loads of things! Plus writing my blog. And now I don't run BFN anymore, but I'm focusing a lot of my activism on cultural femicide through running my festival. Most of my feminist writing focuses on issues around VAWG. I think VAWG underpins everything. 

How would you describe how creativity and feminism combine for you?

They're inseparable. For women to create in a world where women's creativity is de-valued - that is a feminist act in itself. Men dominate the creative world - from creative depts in advertising agencies (only 3% of creative directors are women) to Booker prize lists (although that is improving...but even with a women-dominated list last year all the MSM articles led on Crace and Toibin). Recently Elizabeth Jane Howard died and so many of the obits introduced her as "Kinsley Amis' ex". As if her own work was subordinate to her former marriage! It is so present, this de-valuing of women's creative contribution that we don't even notice it. 

Feminism has always found creative forms of protest too, and that's important. Writing, publishing, art, exhibiting, performing - this has always been part of feminism. 

In my own way I try to combine the two by giving creative women a platform at the festival, and by writing interesting (i hope!) women and girl characters. 

Can you say something about your experience of DIY and feminism?
I don't really feel part of any DIY scene. I have done a lot of things myself, such as the festival, with no money. But I worked closely with existing creative businesses and had a lot of support from Watershed, Festival of Ideas and Foyles.  I think it is really inspiring that we have these places in Bristol that nurture and foster creativity in our city - it's a really important aspect to what makes Bristol such an interesting and creative place to live. There are so many creative communities in Bristol. It's inspiring to know that these communities are there, supporting innovation in the city. 

I think it's been - and continues to be - an important part of feminism - finding ways to create and perform and publish our work, lifting our voices up in a patriarchal and capitalist culture. Finding a way to hold on to and express our creative power. 

I'd love to hear about something you are really excited about and pleased about you and your life at the moment?

As I say, I'm working on a novel which I'm really excited about. But it is hard work and time is an issue. It's going to a long process, but that's ok. And I've a couple of side projects going on but I can't say too much else about them until a few things are confirmed! And I'll continue with the festival - I plan to do some one-off events this year and then hopefully a longer programme in the future. 

Can you name some of your creative and feminist influences; living or dead!

There are so many! At the moment I am really inspired by Gertrude Stein. She was a genius and she knew it. But although her work was ignored by publishers for a long time, she never stopped in her single minded determination to to do with writing what Picasso was doing with art - revolutionising everything! She also was an incredible mentor and teacher for modernist writers but unfortunately her importance has become subordinate to those very men she supported, and she's largely ignored. The fact of her being a woman and a gay woman can't be ignored in this. Living writers - I'm really inspired by Ali Smith, and Margaret Atwood - they are two of my favourite authors. I love how Ali Smith plays with form and the shapes of words and sentence. 

And please say more about the literature festival, what inspired you, did you already know the people you wanted to be involved, what are your dreams for it?

The seeds of the idea came from a panel discussion I organised with Anna Brown back in 2011. It was called 'Where are the Women' and it featured me, Dr Sue Tate and Bidisha talking about cultural femicide. The fact that women are so overwhelmingly absent from our cultural stage - from Glastonbury line-ups to the fact only one woman director has EVER won Best Director Oscar to literary festival line ups. There was a literature festival happening at the same time as the panel and the gender imbalance was so shocking. 

I've always believed very strongly that if I can do something about an issue I care about, then I should. And I care about cultural femicide and I love literature - as a writer and a reader. So I decided to put on my own festival, showcasing women's creativity and celebrating women's writing. 

It was important to me that I had a range of panels to cover lots of different subjects, with a diverse range of speakers. I also knew they had to be panels that interested me - after all, if I wasn't inspired by it, why would anyone else be? I also knew I wanted it to have a feminist angle. 

In terms of who I wanted to be involved - yes and no. I knew I wanted Bidisha involved because she is such a champion of women's creativity and activism. She is an incredible woman who I feel very lucky to work with. Then, I thought about what panels would be interesting and what writers I love and admire and it all went from there. I was also approached by some writers/publishers and that was fantastic.

Since the weekend programme I've organised a one off event on Jane Austen and I plan to do a few more one-offs over 2014. And then, hopefully, another weekend long programme. The response I had to the festival was so brilliant, it's inspired me to keep going with it. 

Also I'd love to hear more about what you did with BFN and your decision to step back?

What didn't I do! I co-ordinated BFN for six years. In that time, I organised and supported a range of member-led discussion groups on all sorts of issues - from body image to men in feminism to abortion to FGM. These discussion groups were the core of our work - they involved consciousness raising, awareness raising - they gave us a space to talk with confidence about our own experiences, learn from one another - as well as discover new perspectives and new issues. The solidarity and sisterhood I often felt in discussion groups was very special - particularly ones around harassment where we shared tears and laughter about our own experiences. 

I also co-organised three Reclaim the Night marches, a huge amount of work which I am very proud of. I spoke at conferences, went to visit young women in schools, and organised a range of awareness raising events on FGM, violence against women in the Congo, cultural femicide - so many issues! I also organised a series of women's performance nights. 

Then there were the petitions, the letter writing campaigns, our work campaigning to protect VAWG spending in the council, our campaigns around Hooters and sex entertainment venue licensing. 

We also had day long workshops, worked with other organisations to deliver feminist content, wrote articles, had a pro choice vigil - we really did so much and I am so proud of everything we achieved with BFN. 

However, after six years I really felt that it was time to move on. I am now so busy with work, with my own writing and with the festival that I couldn't commit the physical and emotional energy to BFN that I once could. It was a hard decision but it was the right one. 

Thanks so much to Sian for taking the time to do this interview and to you for reading it, and remember Feminist Create has an OPEN SUBMISSIONS policy; which means anyone can get in touch if you'd like to tell more creative Feminists about you or your work/project.