Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Words And Women is taking a break

Hard as it is to imagine but back in 2011, in the dark days, there was nothing much going on to mark International Women’s Day in Norwich which was why Words and Women was set up. We are not for one moment saying it is down to us, but now there is so much on offer, even South Bank has zoomed in with WOW – the  Women of the World Festival - which will take place in the city in April 2018.  It has become a busy field with increased awareness. 

Of course Words and Women is so much more than a local event. We’ve run projects further afield in other parts of the Eastern region and we have our prose competition which is open to women writers regionally but also nationally (for women over the age of 40). Our anthologies have even been sold in Shakespeare & Co in Paris!

But, ironically, given this is the year when we celebrate the centenary of the partial suffrage of women, granting women a voice in society, we have decided we need to put Words and Women on hold.

Words and Women has achieved much over seven years:

·               We have published 6 books or to put it another way 147 women writers
·               We have distributed £30,000 of prize monies and commissions
·               We have raised money for the charities Leeway, Women for Refugee Women and ECPAT (against child-trafficking)
·               We have put on 7 International Women’s Day events, a garden festival and numerous other reading events around the East of England. These events often involved cross-discipline work with female theatre directors, comedians, film makers, musicians and artists, including Karen Reilly from The Neutrinos, Chalk Circle Theatre Company, Print to The People, Clare Jarrett, Anna Mudeka, Louisa Theobald
·               We have presented a paper at Lit Com: Writing and Communities, we’ve made a short film and have spoken about our work on T.V. and radio
·               We have developed work for the stage and the page with our Arts Council supported project About, and we have worked with young girls in schools, and with over 30 women writers from disadvantaged areas in Norfolk for our Libraries supported project Rural Writes
·               Writers we have worked with have gone on to publish their first novels and collections of stories. We are proud of them but particularly proud of two women from our Rural Writes project who were new to writing then and are now studying writing at postgraduate level

We have also been:
·               Shortlisted for Best Anthology 2014, Saboteur Awards
·               Shortlisted for Best One-Off Event 2015, Saboteur Awards
·               Shortlisted for the Women in Publishing New Venture Award 2015 & 2016

However, Words and Women is run voluntarily. Basically, the organisation is a two-woman gig and neither of us get paid for our time. So this last year, we engaged in an operation to see how we could make Words and Women more sustainable for us. But, as of yet, we’ve not found a way to secure funding.  It is frustrating that core funding for activities like ours is so difficult, if not impossible to achieve.

So we need time away to do more thinking and planning and to recoup. Hopefully we will find a way to continue. It hurts to go dark though. It still feels as if Words and Women has a role to play in supporting and celebrating women writers and other women creatives, in creating opportunities on a community and professional level, in trying to offer public space, and in mixing it up.

It hurts to stop too because, well, a woman’s work is never done. Only last week The Guardian published a letter from 70 women screenwriters deploring the lack of opportunity for women writers in television drama.  We are living through an extraordinary time where sexism and inequality is being exposed in every area of life, and yet, if we really stop to think, the Suffragettes of 100 years ago would probably be horrified at the lack of progress.

It also hurts because there is so much still to do to further women’s writing in our particular way, with warmth, an inclusive ethos, a desire to be exciting and to expect the best, to reinvent, to be passionate, to give young women opportunities and to be non-elitist, and to be kind.

Thank you for being with us over the years. We will be celebrating the centenary of partial suffrage of women with some small but not insignificant projects (please see the dedicated blog page for further details), and we will be holding our last reading for the time being on the 3rd May in Ipswich for the Suffolk Book League, so if you are in the area then please come along to that.

So now it is time to go quiet. As we do so we’d like to thank: our volunteers, our Supporters  and Super Supporters, all of the writers that have been involved with us one way or the other,  project funders (Arts Council England, the Co-Op Community Fund, Norfolk County Council APF), and in no particular order: Chalk Circle Theatre Company, Mary Muir, Melissa Bell, Guinevere-Glasfurd Brown, Isabelle King, Leigh Chambers, Anthea Morrison, Anna Brett, Hannah Walker, Andrew Cowan, Jill Dawson & GoldDust, Sarah Hosking and Hosking Houses Trust, Mary Muir, Anna Mudeka, Ashley Stokes, Unthank Books, Emma Healey, The Book Hive, Norfolk Libraries Service, Jan Holden, Print To The People, Vicki Johnson, Jo Stafford,  Chris Gribble, Sarah Ridgard, Naomi Wood, Emma Claire Sweeney, , Emily Midorikawa, Lilie Ferrari, Charlie Watson, Singular Publishing, Trezza Azzopardi, Heidi Williamson, Clare Jarrett, Louisa Theobald, Karen Reilly and The Neutrinos, Deborah Arnander, Leigh Chambers, Rose Cowan, Meghan Douglas-Ellis, Sophia Egler, Bea Fischer-Harrison, Lucy Ward, Sophie Frank, Moyses Gomez, Nadia Greenwood,  Adina Levay, Sarah Long, Gillian McArthur, Lily Meyer, Sofia Moses, Sarah Passingham, Sarah Poulton, Dani Redd, Beth Settle, Kim Sherwood, Paula Wolfe, Katherine Simmonds, Tom Collin, Jean Hogg, Jane Harris, Madeleine Young, Angela Youngman.