Setting up and getting going: Film-maker, Sue Reddish and I had met earlier to discuss the filming and go over the plan for the evening. We arrived at the venue in Manchester at 6. There were 10 young women there plus 2 youth workers. Hebe the artist and youth worker came at the same time. And then another young women then joined us. Hebe is well known to the group and I had met some of them before, I also know the youth workers well.
We did a quick name round + our chosen pronoun + whether people been on TV or radio/ round which raised some laughs and generated some curiosity about why people had been on TV etc. I introduced Sue and she talked through the consent form and the way that she would do the filming. 2 young women did not want their faces to be filmed but were happy to be recorded, otherwise everyone was happy with the filming.
Time travel: We then introduced the project and talked very briefly about the 1980s at that point. We did another game introducing ourselves plus our date of birth to a 1988 Top of the Pops soundtrack. We also had to say one thing that happened in the eyar that we were born. The dates of birth in the group ranged from 1951-2003 so this got us talking about the decriminalisation of section 28, the new labour landslide victory, the 2002 commonwealth games, the introduction of the right for gay people to adopt, the release of the film Body guard, John Major and Spitting Image, rationing and the end of World War two, the 1999 solar eclipse and the release of the first Toy story film. A lot of discussion was then generated about the 1980s and 1990s. We mentioned the miners’ strike, Greenham and Section 28. Section 28 generated more discussion about sex education now and the difficult discussions that are being had in Birmingham and in Manchester around the rights of parents and faith groups to have a say over the Relationships and Sex Education curriculum.
Who am I? Each person was given a Who am I? sheet to complete and used the answers to create a soundscape. Hebe encouraged the group to draw something on the sheet that describes or represents you in some way, something that is important to you or a symbol or shape that you associate with yourself. This generated more discussion about identity.
- I am an activist
- I am Israeli,
- I am a student,
- I am resilient,
- I am happy, I am a lesbian
- I am autistic,
- I am a non-binary woman,
- I am brown,
- I am wonderful,
- I am a daughter,
- I am a sister,
- I am patient,
- I am a walker,
- I am a community member,
- I am 16 years old,
- I am a good friend,
- I am indecisive,
- I am a woman,
- I am organised,
- I am a friend,
- I am frowning,
- I am kind,
- I am an aspiring gardener,
- I am a youth worker.
Warming up: We then broke for coffee and started again with a warmup moving game – creating a rainstorm with tapping, clicking, stamping, jumping. There was lots of laughing.
Working with data: We introduced some interview extracts that I had chosen from the selection that Niamh Moore had used during a workshop at Sapphormation – a festival in Manchester for ‘women who love women’. The extracts were taken from the one interview in the archive with a young women, Hannah, who explicitly identifies as ‘gay’ plus one extract from the interview with Sarah whose first sexual experience was with a woman.
The young women split into groups of three and each had a look at a couple of extracts. They read the extracts out loud and talked about the data. The brief was to see what stood out for them, to highlight it and talk about it.
The young women were really engaged with the material, sitting on the ground and pouring over the interviews. I went around, clarifying anything and trying to provoke more discussion. After about 10 minutes of lively discussion in the small groups, we asked them to tell us what they thought. They were interested in the short extracts and they were happy to read them out, to talk about the questions and how the interviews were conducted. They felt many of the questions were intrusive.
We then sat down at the table and used the interviews + magazines to cut up and create collages or poems or whatever- this created much more discussion.
We read the poems out, we talked about words and phrases that had meant something to the young women. We talked about the magazines – they were intrigued by the notices of meetings etc.
Hebe talked to the group about how we could take the project forwards. She suggested making some kind of banner that the group could put up when they are in session as part of the ritual of coming into the space and setting up the session. She suggested a table cloth but left this open for further discussion. The poems could be a starting point Hebe suggested, we could edit them down further to identify key words or to create an image- like a young women’s group coat of arms of the things that are important to us. Hebe opens things up to the group and we agree to think some more.
We said good bye – a quick post–it note of one word feedback on the session: Insightful, open, exciting, powerful, intriguing, brilliant, fantastic.