Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Celebrating BFN - what's happened since 2011

Back in 2011 I wrote something to help celebrate what BFN does with no money and no time because they believe in the importance of feminism and promoting gender equality in our city. 

The info in that post (pasted in below) still stands. But since 2011, so much more has happened that it's worth re-capping on the achievements of the last few years. 

In 2011 we organised a panel discussion called 'Where are the Women' with Bidisha, me, and Dr Sue Tate. We talked about women's media representation and what we could do as activists to improve things. 

That same year we organised two film and panel on FGM - featuring speakers from the Orchid Project, Forward, Equality Now and Daughters of Eve. 

After a workshop BFN put on with the activists from No Women No Peace, the group put on a rally and march through the city centre to stand in solidarity with the women rights activists of Afghanistan, before organising a letter writing campaign to ensure women's presence at peace negotiations. 

2011 also saw our biggest Reclaim the Night ever. It was a fantastic success with around 400 marchers, speakers from No Women No Peace, Daughters of Eve, BDAF, Bristol Rape Crisis, Bristol Fawcett - as well as a fab party featuring bands such as Hysterical Injury. 

Throughout 2011 our discussion groups continued, including a very popular one on Feminism and Eroticism. 

Throughout 2011 our co-ordinators, me and Anna, spoke at three conferences and ran a training workshop for NUS members. 

2012 kicked off with a discussion on sex education. The discussion group programme was packed as always - with events on FGM, sexual harassment and film. 

In May our sold-out panel discussion on The Future of Feminism invited contributors to my book The Light Bulb Moment to reflect on their feminist pasts, before Chitra Nagajaran from GAPs, Zohra Moosa from ActionAid, Mara Clarke from ASN and Finn Mackay from LFN discussed what's next for feminism. 

July 2012 saw another Where are the Women event - this time a mix of talks from women activists as well as music, art and film from women artists. 

July also saw BFN members organise Bristol's third Ladyfest which was a great weekend of music and workshops. 

Bristol Feminist Network teamed up with Bristol Fawcett to run a workshop at UK Feminista summer school. 

In November 2012 we organised an open space planning event on violence against women and girls. This inspiring day of activity was designed to plan future actions and was a great opportunity to meet new activists.

As a result of the open space, we organised an action in solidarity with UK Uncut and leafleted outside Starbucks about cuts to women's services. We also kicked off a letter writing campaign to local councillors to protect domestic abuse support services. And they did! 

And now - it's 2013. You may have noticed that I just put on a two day Women's Literature festival that included a panel on feminism. We danced our way through One Billion Rising. Anna and I went to the City Academy to talk to young women about feminism. We've teamed up with Education for Choice to run a workshop on pro choice issues and coming soon we'll be working on an event with global feminisms. And who knows what else will happen in 2013!

Often BFN is criticised for not doing enough. But considering there is no funding, it's run by a few volunteers and we all work full time and have plenty of other commitments, the achievements we've had are huge. 

We've consistently produced an exciting and innovative programme of events and brought fascinating people and groups to the city. We've networked, discussed, acted and made real change happen. And we do it all because we care. 

I feel proud to be part of BFN. I'm proud of our history and our legacy. And I'm excited about our future. 

Here's the original article recording what we did between 2007-2011. 
With Deborah Orr’s Guardian article on 16th June 2011 being illustrated by Bristol Feminists, it felt a bit like ‘have a go at feminists day’. So, I have decided to write about the many achievements of BFN, to share with you what we do, what we have done and what we will continue to do in the future.

Discussion groups:

Since we launched in November 2007, we have aimed to have a discussion group at least once a month. Bearing in mind a few breaks, this means we have had nearly fifty discussion meetings.

Discussion is and always has been part of feminist activism. They are educational, consciousness raising, inspiring. They allow us to hear one another’s stories and one another’s truths. We have had discussion groups on the women’s body, FGM, forced marriage, women and prison, intersectionality, porn, rape, street harassment, body image, relationships, education, men – so many subjects and this is just a tiny sample. Discussion groups are led by members, and the subjects are chosen by members. This means that we talk about what the BFN community want to talk about. If you want to set up a discussion group to talk about the issues that matter to you, then you can. Get in touch and we can book a date, sort out the venue and spread the word. Discussion groups are for all members to say what they want to say. Book Group is also a great place to start discussion, share thoughts and experiences and read a good book.


Since we launched in 2007, BFN have put on a whole host of events, including two Reclaim the Nights, four film nights and one gig in collaboration with Indymedia, a pro choice protest, panel discussions, guest speaker events, flashmob activity, research projects and more. We helped organise the council’s International Woman’s Day event and have worked closely with other organisations to support their campaigning activity. We have also worked on public art projects and one member last year organised a series of workshop for survivors of violence.

Other activism:

BFN have organised letter writing campaigns, petitions, attended council meetings to protest licensing decisions, supported and raised awareness of other women’s campaigns, lobbied for parliamentary change etc. It has always been our policy to provide members with the resources they need (online or at organised activist meetings) to ensure that everyone is empowered to take action on campaigns that matter to them. Our members also blog, organise their own activist conferences and events or actions, which we advertise and do what we can to support.

Networking and outreach:

BFN stands for Bristol Feminist Network. Therefore it is vital for us that we work with other community groups, women’s services and public service providers.
Examples of our networking include working with the city council, the women’s forum, being part of the consultation process with the Women’s Voice strategy, Safer Bristol, the police, the Fire and Rescue service, The Bridge (SARC), Bristol Fawcett, the Bristol Uni Centre for gender violence research, Bristol Rape Crisis, One25, Bristol Indymedia, EVAW Coalition, various political parties, UWE Gender Research group, the Domestic Abuse Forum, local media, Daughters of Eve, the Watershed, the PCT and NHS, UK Feminista, Women’s Aid, V Day, Amnesty International, No Women No Peace, Victim Support, the NUJ and many, many more. We do our best to alert men and women in Bristol to the many services and community groups in the city via the links page on the website:

We currently have representatives of BFN sitting on the council’s committee that is looking at education and how we can improve PSHE around issues of intimate partner violence. We are really excited about the work this strategy group are doing and the impact it could have on encouraging work in schools on this vital issue. Members have also worked closely with the anti-violence groups to try and ensure that the impact of media imagery on levels of sexism and violence are considered and tackled.

In 2009 we sat on the city council’s steering committee for International Women’s Day, working with a range of organisations including SPAN and Silai for Skills.

We will shortly be showing a film about FGM at the Watershed. We have been in touch with women who work in sexual health and education to ensure that teaching professionals come to the event. The day will include speakers and a panel discussion from Daughters of Eve, the Orchid project and the PCT.

Despite being continually attacked in the local press (!) we believe it is important to keep them informed of BFN’s activities. Talking to the local press (be that radio, TV or print) allows us to reach and speak to people who may not have heard of BFN, may not consider themselves to be feminists, but who may then feel interested or inspired by the campaigns we run.

When we organise Reclaim the Night we make sure that we consult a number of organisations and community groups in the city to ensure that our aims reflect what they want from the march. One member produced an extensive database of contacts of women’s groups in the city to ensure that our marches are as inclusive and representative as we can make them.

We also support activism outside of Bristol. We are members of Object and UK Feminista for example, so we are connected to campaign activity all over the country. Our current featured campaign is regarding asylum seekers’ rights and homophobic persecution. We try and ensure that our work and campaigning focuses both on Bristol and beyond.

At BFN, we believe that education is vital to tackling violence against women and girls. We have historically tried to get in touch with schools with the aims of going in and working with teachers to encourage them to talk about consent and respect, media literacy and other feminist issues. We didn’t have any response from the schools so we are now trying new ways to engage. We helped disseminate the Women’s Aid ‘Expect Respect’ teaching pack to schools in Bristol and North Somerset. As mentioned before, members are involved at a strategic council level at looking at what we can do to encourage education around consent and respect. We try and do what we can to engage with educators, be that at school, management or HE level.

BFN is and always has been run by a skeletal staff of volunteers who have full time jobs, lives and other responsibilities. We do what we do because we believe passionately in liberation from patriarchal oppression. We are time poor, financially poor and resource poor. We give up our annual leave, our spare time, our evenings and lunch breaks to make sure BFN is what it is today. There are so many more things we would love to do, love to achieve and I hope that one day we will do. But in the meantime, I am so proud of what we have achieved. We are a respected organisation that has made a lot of things happen. We are able to talk to people high up in the city about what they are doing to tackle gender inequality. We are listened to and consulted on issues in the city about gender inequality. And I am proud that when women and men come to feminism, they can come to us. Lets celebrate what BFN have achieved, what we continue to achieve, and what we will achieve in the future.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Greta and Boris: a daring rescue - excerpt

My publisher, Our Street Books, have posted an excerpt from my book 'Greta and Boris: a daring rescue'.

You can read it here.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Booking tickets for the Bristol Women's Literature Festival

The festival is less than two weeks away so if you haven’t booked your tickets yet – now’s the time to do it!
You can book your tickets by calling 0117 927 5100 or going online to Watershed
So, what will you be booking?
A weekend ticket is available if you want to catch all four fascinating talks – to order yours just call  Watershed on 0117 927 5100 or go directly to the Box Office.
If you would like to hear renowned screenwriter Emilia di Girolamo talk about her career writing for Law and Order:UK and dramas like The Poison Tree, and how she brings women’s issues to a primetime audience you can book online now. Her talk takes place on 16 March, 11am along with a screening of Line Up.
To hear Stella Duffy, Helen Dunmore, Beatrice Hitchman and Selma Dabbagh read from their work and talk about Women Writing Today with Bidisha, you canbook online now. They’ll be on at 3.30pm on Saturday 16th March.
Then, there’s Sunday. To book your tickets to discover the fascinating and often hidden history of women’s literature with Kate Williams, Dr Charlotte Crofts, Dr Marie Mulvey-Roberts, Professor Joan Adim-Addo and Professor Helen Taylor, you can go online now. This talk is happening at 2pm on Sunday 17 March.
And the festival finishes with a discussion on how writers today are bringing feminism to a new audience with Kristin Aune, Debi Withers and Josephine Tsui.Book your ticket now for 4pm on Sunday 17 March.
Individual tickets are £7/£6 and weekend tickets are £25/20. You can book viaWatershed website or by calling the Box Office on 0117 927 5100