Saturday, 7 March 2015

Chapter 68: The "F" word.

"What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives"
Anne Morrow Lindbergh (author and aviator)

So true. Life is an act of juggling compromises. I had to miss the last unicycle class this week as I was working through a science experiment examining sound and vibrations with my son. The one where you make walkie-talkies with paper cups linked by a piece of string, and use juggling balls to explain molecular action. Obviously. And I really missed the class. Circus Space is such a familiar part of my landscape now, it's hard to believe I have been going there barely a year. Tomorrow, 8th March is, in fact, our anniversary.

A year to the day since I rolled up with a dozen girlfriends in tow, for a "circus experience" afternoon. It also happened to be International Women's Day, which hadn't registered initially but was so apt as we were a complete hotchpotch of nationalities, just the ticket for the BBC crew that turned up there filming and interviewing for a travel programme.

Lucy Ribchester at the Brixton Book Jam

As we march towards that date again, I have found this week to be a celebration of sisterhood and friendship. And I swear by the "F" word.  Feminisim. That marmite word you either love or hate. Feminism may signify to some dungarees and DMs, the man-eating Miss Guided. For me it signifies a reclamation of space and redressing the balance. A positive celebration of female empowerment does not connote a castration of manhood. Because I am more, does not make you any the less. And this circus adventure over the past year has brought it home.

Recently, reading Lucy Ribchester's "The Hourglass Factory" a page-turner of a conspiracy set amidst the suffragette movement  (click here for post: Circus Strongwoman) has brought home how far we have come since the days when women were either stuffed into corsets or stuffed into Holloway. Funnily enough I met Lucy this week at the Brixton Book Jam at Hootananny's, after watching her on stage read aloud from the prologue, where the suffragette trapeze artist, Ebony Diamond, is preparing for a leap of faith in more ways than one. It struck me that a circus woman historically has been regarded as a figure of emancipation. Independent and strong.

Superheroines - the artists
But while we have the vote, sexism pervades all areas of life. That was brought home this week on a trip to the South Bank where I was meeting up with the founder of Boylexe (click here for post: Boylexe - Man, I feel like a Woman) for coffee at the BFI and talk turned to recording and witnessing personal stories verbatim - as in the Burlexe show he had also produced to great acclaim. Afterwards, joined by my circus buddy/partner-in-crime Anne, we bumped into the founder of Femme Fierce (click here to access the Facebook page) being interviewed in the Vault tunnel by Waterloo. As a mother with a teenage daughter Ayaan was struck by the male dominance in the street art scene, where cartoonish figures of nipped waists and blossoming boobs prevail,  and has instituted this festival that reclaims space for women. Last year, in aid of Breast Cancer Care, they painted the tunnel bubblegum pink and then sprayed graffiti over it. This year the charity being supported is the children's charity Plan, and so their signature blue will be used as the base. Ayaan was joined by Austrian, whose ceramic street artwork - a hyena encrusted with dollar signs - Anne recognised from a recent trip to Berlin (you can also find it in Tokyo!). We also met Mariana, an artist over from Greece, and a couple of students recording for posterity. It was quite simply a moment, a meeting, an inspiration.

Anne and I left them and walked all the way home, some 7 miles. The journey became a sort of cultural pilgrimage as we dipped into a friend's art gallery en route, bumped into one of my static trapeze teachers from Circus Space,  and generally set the world to rights.

As Jude Kelly (Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre) said in her talk at Battersea Arts Centre last week: "We all have a chance, all of us, to do something to make the world a bit more positive". So if you are free tomorrow, Sunday 8th March,  join the women and girls for some or all of the painting, which begins at 8am in the morning at the Vault tunnel. Make your mark.

8 March 2014
NOTE: Kaveh Rahnama (pictured) was our course instructor that afternoon. Fitting then that a year on, to the day, we will be going to see his directorial debut of Genius Sweatshop's Lab Rat and mind-altering puppetry in the Firsts Festival  at the Little Angel Theatre, Islington, tomorrow (and on Monday too) click here for more information: 

*Post Up-date*
Sunday at the Vault Tunnel with Femme Fierce was a truly incredible community experience. Took my girls and we met women, and men, who had travelled from all over the world for this inspirational event.

Read more about it here in my circus partner-in-crime Anne's superb blog post and sign up for next year!
On Femme Fierce, International Women's Day, Leake Street and more Gorgeous Graffiti

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