Sheroes Scottish Storytelling Centre
*** (3 stars)
This evening at the storytelling centre on International Women’s Day was devoted to sheroes – who, according to http://www.sheroesunited.org are female heroes; women who display strong heroic traits under tremendous pressure and are triumphant over their circumstances. Our host was Ruth Kirkpatrick but we were all invited to join her in telling of our personal sheroes. Nearly everyone contributed an anecdote, a story, a song, or a memory of someone who meant a great deal to them, to whom they looked up, from whom they had learned a lot or drew courage and inspiration. I was interested to note the high proportion of people who chose to spoke about their grandmother – jealousy here, as mine both died before I was born…
The stories included that of brave Janet who was prepared to face and conquer unknown terrors to rescue her lover, Tam Lin, from the Queen of the Fairies; little Tipingi, who outwitted her stepmother’s scheme to give her away into slavery; and the Cuban twin girls who managed to win fire from the old woman who was jealously guarding it from all comers by turning them into stones.
We heard of real life sheroes – Chrystal Macmillan, a Scottish pacifist, Suffragist, Liberal politician, barrister, and the first female science graduate from the University of Edinburgh, and Dorothée Pullinger, an engineer who ran an all-women munitions factory in WW2 which was converted in peacetime to produce the Galloway car, which she designed and developed – “a car for ladies built by ladies”. Both women were refused personhood on the grounds that “the word person means a man and not a woman” – Chrystal when female graduates were denied their male counterparts’ right to vote for the MPs who represented the University and Dorothée when she applied to join the Institution of Automobile Engineers. From more recent times, a Danish ex-punk squatter remembered being blown away by his first encounter with the young Bjőrk, while reminiscences of Mo Mowlem prompted an audience member to ask that Nicola, Ruth, and Kezia be added to the growing list of names in front of us.
Songs about sheroes in which we joined in the choruses lauded Chrystal Macmillan; told how a young woman walking happily by herself along the shore was kidnapped by a ship’s captain but sang captain and crew to sleep and escaped, taking with her all his gold, silver and treasure; celebrated the kindly doffing mistress in Ulster who looked after her young doffers who carried the heavy linen spools once the thread had been spun; and remembered a daughter who died when she was seventeen, and shared the fear of “fading memories” being lost for ever.
My own sheroes? After seeing Battle of the Sexes recently, realising just how much Billie Jean King risked when she took on the might of the men’s tennis association to demand equal pay and equal treatment for women: and Martina Navratilova for speaking out on so many occasions and refusing to hide her sexuality. And Nicola for admiring my multicoloured Docs when she talked to me during her tour of the blood donor centre on Lauriston Place in which she highlighted the campaign to get more Muslim people to give blood – another amazing woman simply doing her job…
It was a real pleasure to spend a quiet evening with friends previously unknown to me telling stories, sharing songs and memories of women who were important to individuals and who thus became real and important to all of us. It was an evening celebrating the power, strength, warmth, tenderness and loving kindness of amazing women from the past and the present: a fitting way to celebrate on International Women’s Day.
Sheroes Scottish Storytelling Centre – Run Ended
Review by Mary Woodward