And so we made a feminist festival. Again.
As the final show was packed away, leaving Project O stranded in Lancaster for another night as the last train left before the get out was quite done, committee member Gerry Harris explained over a celebratory drink that when I first approached her with the idea, she very enthusiastically said yes, while all the while thinking it was never going to happen.
When at the end of our Arts City supported pilot, I said ‘let’s do it again next year’, she said yes again to being involved, and once again she told herself it wasn’t going to happen again.
I’d be lying if I said that since we began planning the project back in May 2015, I hadn’t had any doubts it would happen again. Not being certain that it was going to work out is precisely why I was so bloody minded in looking for the people and partners who would join me in making it work somehow…
There are so many reasons why Hear Me Roar could fall flat on its face. Feminism can be perceived as a dirty word, or simply not understood. It is multifaceted, layered, complex. It hasn’t always done a great job of including everyone… there are feminist groups and practices which do not acknowledge the challenges – the struggles – of trans-women and/or BAME individuals…
There isn’t a large audience, ready and waiting for contemporary performance on the matter…There are lots of other things for people to do… Maybe they don’t know that yes, they can come, even if they are men, if they have babies, if they’ve never been to the theatre or to a conference or if they can’t afford it…
We didn’t get financial support from Arts Council England until we submitted our proposal for the second time. We weren’t chosen for funding by a number of trusts & foundations and there are many people and places we didn’t get around to asking for support from…
The idea also first formed in a young gay man’s head… what does he know?
What I do know is that equality is not a thing right now.
What I do know is that women make up half of the world and that there is not a single place where they are treated as equals to their male counterparts.
What I do know is that women are diverse and that achieving equality for all women is achieving equality for everyone.
What I do know is that change begins with people, and that a festival is an opportunity for people to get together, to think together, to celebrate together.
What I do know is that if we can begin to imagine a different future, we will have better chances of actually getting on with writing it.
That – that’s why every time I’ll think “someone should do something about this” enough to wind me up, I’ll read this again and remind myself that I am someone… and that if someone should do something about this, I can do something about it. And then, as for Hear Me Roar, I’ll go looking for the people who will make it happen with me.
We’ll set up camp in the library and we’ll help someone who forgot their glasses read something before asking them if they’d like to help us re-imagine a game of Monopoly which playfully disrupts the capitalist logic of the well known board game and transforms it into something closer to its historical roots…
We’ll throw a party where people can choose to wear a dress and flowers in their hair even if they are read as “male” most of the time… We’ll throw a party where allies acknowledge their privilege in bold black letters on their T-shirts: STRAIGHT WHITE CIS-SCUM
We’ll be moved by a piece of a music played in unison by a group of women and girls aged 9 to over 60. We’ll be allowed to interrupt a performer talking about breast cancer, her fear of death and take to the stage to give her a hug, if we’d like to. We’ll be allowed to leave the room if we decided it’s not for us. We’ll hear letters we’ve sent to our past or futures selves, made to tell a story woven with other people’s words, in someone else’s mouth.
We’ll get old and have sex, or we’ll get old and we won’t want to talk about sex. We’ll sing songs. We’ll work with people whose parents hadn’t met when we started our theatre company and learn from them as much as they learn from us.
We’ll reclaim Shakespeare, being called ladies, being angry and madness… We’ll agree that we can only ever speak from our own perspectives and experiences… We’ll create safe spaces and blow whistles with equal fierceness.
We’ll imagine our little sister building her feminist identity from Instagram posts, hashtags and status updates. We’ll imagine raising a child as a single mother. We’ll re-write lullabies and take our politics to pre-school. We’ll unapologetically take up all the space that we need.
We’ll roar until our throats cannot take it anymore. Sometimes roaring won’t look like shouting at all. We’ll roar and cause uproar until we can talk of this age of inequality like nothing more than a bad dream.