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Arts Council England: International Women's Day

Category: International Women's day, Arts Council England, Theatre, inspirational women, feminism, Arts and culture, International Women’s Day 2022, Celebrating Women, inspiring women, Female Artists

Gender Focus

We spoke with Charlotte and Zahra from our Youth Advisory Board to find out what International Women's Day means to them.

 

 

It’s great to hear from you, would you mind telling us a bit about yourself?

Charlotte: My name is Charlotte, I’m an interdisciplinary artist and theatre-maker from the North-East, currently working in Liverpool. Since achieving my MA in performance, focusing on installation and posthumanism, and my BA Drama and Theatre Studies, specialising in disability studies and invisible disabilities, I’ve set up my own feminist theatre company Bite! Theatre. 

Through Bite! I’ve been lucky enough to produce exciting and quirky performance work rooted in the experiences of local Northern women, while making socially engaged work with young people.

Zahra: Hello, my name is Zahra Malik; I am 25 years of age and live in Blackburn. I am an artist, I have strong creative instincts, a passion for fashion, arts and culture. In my spare time, I love going for long walks, travelling & creative writing. My favourite colour is orange and my star sign is Leo - it's true what the horoscope states because we love bright colours, socialising and (sometimes) being dramatic.

 

Happy International Women’s Day! We’d love to know which women inspire you. 

Charlotte: I’m inspired by the women in my own life and blessed to see every single day how they persevere and overcome any obstacles that they encounter. I also consider myself so very lucky to be surrounded by a community of amazing female artists - seeing what they create really inspires me. 

I can’t not mention my creative partner Chloe, who is the other half of Bite! Theatre. She’s an outstanding dancer and performer, who always supports my creative endeavours and helps me explore even the silliest, craziest ideas. Recently, she has overcome a dreadful event in her life, and her story has become the basis for our new play. Her bravery and willingness to share her story has allowed us to devise a performance and connect with women in the Northwest. 

I also would not be the artist I am today if it wasn’t for Kerri, from Toxteth-based youth group Staged Kaos. She gave me my first ever facilitation job, which allowed me to work with the most amazing group of young people and develop my teaching skills. Her commitment to providing a fun and creative education to young people is incredibly inspiring.

Zahra: When I think of inspirational women, I don’t instantly think about those who have achieved success in a leadership role, as exceptional as these women are. I think about the people who have got me to a place I am at now, people who have made an incredible difference in my life. There are many women who have inspired me throughout life, it being friends, family, teachers but particularly those working in mental health, those who helped shape my life (for the better), those who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, those who told me to follow my heart because life is meant for living and being the best version of yourself. These women are my heroes.

 

Chloe (left) and Charlotte (right) performers of bite theatre on stage performing
Chloe and Charlotte from Bite! Theatre

 

 

And what inspired you to join our Youth Advisory Board? 

Charlotte: Beginning my career as a freelance artist and creative, I found the industry to be a really inspiring and fulfilling space. But it is an industry that can also be very difficult to navigate for new artists - particularly females, people of colour, queer and disabled artists. 

I wanted to advocate for young people emerging into the industry and create more opportunities for everyone. I also wanted to improve the quality of graduate schemes, opportunities for new artists and young people - making sure they are gaining valuable experiences and that their skills are properly appreciated and utilised. 

I felt that there was a tendency to offer these opportunities where it benefitted the organisations more than the artists - and that instead these schemes should always be working towards getting the artist into a properly compensated, artistic position of their choice.

Zahra: I applied to be a part of the Youth Advisory Board to make a change, for an opportunity to have my voice heard. As Malala Yousafzai once said, ‘when the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes so powerful’.

Our voice is so powerful, so let's use it for things we are passionate about and help to create change. A chance to help my own personal growth, to be able to gain access to contacts who can share their networks to help me progress in my career, to develop my networking skills and enable me to establish who I am and what I do.

 

The Youth Advisory Board sat at a meeting table while also on skype talking to other members. On the wooden table they are writing notes on bright coloured paper

Youth Advisory Board meeting at Leeds Art Gallery. Image: Mehul Patel, Reel Monkey Productions

 

 

Are there any artwork/performances/books created by a woman that you want to give a shout out to?

Charlotte: There’s an abundance of amazing female artists in Liverpool! 

  • Flood Theatre is an amazing company of women creating work for and with queer women
  • Political comedy double act Hindley & Amos
  • Incredible fine artist and oil painter Francesca Patterson - mixing traditional painting techniques with surrealist aesthetics
  • Laura Keeley, a musician and facilitator developing her practice of accessibility within the arts for children living in deprived areas
  • Amy Frost, an independent maker and upcycler
  • Rach Hankin, composer and sound designer
  • Writer & performer Martha May Markham’s brilliant play ‘Nympho’ is debuting at Edinburgh Fringe so I massively recommend checking out this beautiful & powerful story

And, if I am allowed to brag a little bit…

Bite! Theatre and their upcoming play ‘Bury the Hatchet’. An intimate, honest and incredibly quirky retelling of a woman’s experience in the aftermath of sexual assault. We intertwine this very personal narrative with imaginative, dark storytelling and the fanciful tale of two madcap female vigilantes on their misguided pursuit of justice and liberation, for themselves and a community of women around them. We are incredibly excited to share this story and connect with local women, offering solidarity, closure, and our unashamed feelings of anger. 

Zahra: I would like to give a huge shoutout to Florence Given, an activist and illustrator who published a book called, ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’. This book changed my life. She writes about body image, relationships and self-esteem for women. This book isn’t purely just based on feminism – it covers many conversations around privilege, LGBTQI+, and the importance of setting boundaries. Reading this book, I felt really empowered and educated, plus her artwork (which is included in the book) is so original and amazing.

 

What do you hope the future holds for you? 

 

Charlotte: I hope I can use my practice to bring about change in both the industry and the wider world. I hope that I can encourage young people to share their thoughts and opinions, and that those in power will actively listen and engage with them. I hope to create powerful theatrical experiences that resonate with women and impact the local cultural scene. Overall, to spend my time creating and learning as an artist.

Zahra: In the future I hope life carries on allowing me to experience new, challenging and exciting opportunities. Good times, good vibes and a healthy life. To carry on pursuing my dream, creating art, staying focused and to keep on going. Great, great things are what the future holds… #watchthispace 

 

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