Tell Your Feminist Story with the SFN and the Sheffield Archive

The Sheffield Feminist Network is collaborating with the Oral History Society and Sheffield University to set up Sheffield’s first feminist archive. If you self-identify as a feminist, and have been involved in feminist activism in Sheffield, either currently or in the past, we want to interview you, regardless of age, gender, or occupation!  I work with LaDIYfest Sheffield and the Sheffield Feminist Network, and am particularly keen to hear from people who are involved in sex-work, sex-work activism, or who are genderqueer or trans. Get in touch with Geo at gwalkerchurchman at googlemail dot com for more information.
Cheers everyone!
Geo xx
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What’s So Interesting About Toilets?

This is a guest post from Jenny Slater, Principal Investigator, and Charlotte Jones, Research Asssistant, on the Around the Toilet research project.

When the Sheffield Star reported on LaDIYfest’s big event in 2013, they overlooked the workshops on gender and anti-fascism, online misogyny, and sex worker solidarity, as well as the funds raised for the National Ugly Mugs; instead their main concern was with LaDIYfest’s ‘over’-fascination with toilets. In some ways they weren’t wrong, it was something the organisers had agonised over and discussed at length, trying to ensure the toilets were a safe(r), comfortable and accessible space for everyone attending the event – but of course this conversation was nothing to be ashamed about. With the limitations of the building’s infrastructure, they thought about what the toilets themselves contained (e.g. urinals, sanitary bins, handrails, mirrors) and how they were labelled. But even after all these discussions, they knew that unfortunately the changes made to the signs and the toilets’ contents weren’t going to work perfectly for everybody, that there might be other/better ways of doing things, and that signage is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to issues of accessibility.

Mention toilets, toilet practices, or indeed toilet politics and you’re bound to be met with a titter and a giggle (and not only when you speak to the journalists at the Sheffield Star!). Yet the topic becomes less funny or trivial when you’re in town, searching with a full bladder for a place for you or your five year-old to pee/poo and you notice the diminishing numbers of free toilets in public places. Government and council cut-backs mean that public toilets are getting shut down, and other places where we may choose to spend a penny, such as public libraries, are also facing closures. On top of this, for some, finding a suitable, accessible and safe toilet space is more difficult than for others. For those who are disabled and/or non-binary, for example, their bodies/identities are often excluded from these essential facilities.

A photo of the illustrations drawn by Sarah Smizz at the first Around the Toilet workshop.

Around the Toilet project

Around the Toilet is a research project which uses the arts to highlight the importance of having access to a safe toilet space. We’re exploring the relationships between toilets, identity and belonging – starting with the experiences of those for whom access to a toilet may be difficult (perhaps increasingly during a time of austerity). Funded by the Connected Communities strand of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), researchers from three universities (Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Sheffield, and the University of Leeds) are working with three community organisations in Manchester (Queer of the Unknown Arts Collective, Action for Trans* Health and Greater Manchester Coalition for Disabled People) to think particularly about experiences of toilets in relation to gender and disability.

Between now and September 2015 the team are running a series of workshops and events around toilets and access (find out more here). The first workshop took place on Saturday 30th May. We met with participants who identified as queer and/or trans* to share experiences of toilet use. Participants discussed problems of the gender binary reflected in ‘male’ or ‘female’ toilets. Stories were shared of being harassed or thrown out of venues when others made oppressive and violent assumptions around gender, and therefore presumed that participants were in the ‘wrong’ toilet. The need for gender neutral facilities was stressed.

We also thought about other anxieties around toilet use – worries about being overhead or walked in on when toilets don’t offer enough privacy (especially when in school). We discussed how perceptions of ‘normal’ are reflected in the built design of toilets: a lack of accessible toilets for disabled people reflecting the expectation of an ‘able’ body; and presumptions that only women will require baby changing facilities. We talked about who’s welcome in public toilets, and the closure of public toilets which is sometimes blamed upon homeless people, drug users and sex workers. We juxtaposed anxieties around queer sex in public toilets with the upper-class and heterosexual trend of the ‘mile high club’. It was stressed that removing toilet facilities doesn’t make these perceived ‘problems’ disappear. Although we started with what is often assumed to be mundane conversations of toilets, the topics covered highlighted a much broader range of social issues of inequality.

The engagement we’ve had through Twitter (check out @cctoilettalk and #cctoilettalk) has highlighted other issues around toilets and access. Disabled people are often entirely overlooked in toilet design, or only incorporated as wheelchair-users, despite the range of other access needs which should also be met. For example, the Changing Places campaign shows that the standard ‘accessible’ toilet for disabled people isn’t appropriate for thousands of people who require a hoist to use the toilet (you can find out where there is a Changing Places toilet near you, here). Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that The World of Accessible Toilets blog states that ‘one of the biggest restrictions in daily life, for disabled people, focuses around the toilet’.

A photo of a toilet sign indicating baby changing facilities, accessibility and a person which is half ‘man’/trousers, half ‘woman’/skirt. It says: ‘This restroom may be used by any person regardless of gender identity or expression’.

Please get involved in our project!

You can participate by joining our conversations on Twitter – follow us @cctoilettalk or tweet your toilet stories and pictures using #cctoilettalk. These conversations, as well as the discussion from the workshops, will turn into a brief which, between October and December 2015, will be handed over to a team of Master’s Architecture Students at Sheffield University. They’ll be creating a public installation which will ask others to think about what makes a safe and accessible toilet space. Keep an eye on our blog to find out more.

We’re also holding more participatory workshops soon which you’d be very welcome to attend. Details below.

Performance Workshop

Saturday 18th July 2015, 12pm – 4pm, Manchester Deaf Centre, Manchester

This free workshop, led by Queer of the Unknown, will be an informal investigation of toilets – our thoughts, ideas and experiences – through the medium of performance. If you live in or near Manchester, identify as trans*, queer and/or disabled, and you’d like to attend the workshop, please sign-up using our Eventbrite page, or get in touch with Jenny Slater (j.slater@shu.ac.uk). No prior experience of performance is required. Free lunch, tea and coffee will be provided on the day and funds are available to cover local travel costs and childcare. Workshop places are limited.

Making/Creating Workshop

Tuesday 11th August 2015, time TBC, Z-arts, Hulme, Manchester

Led by researchers on the Around the Toilet project, this free workshop will explore toilet politics whilst getting creative with art materials. Participants will make their own props and exhibits to use in toilet activism or to take home and put up on the wall. If you live in or near Manchester, identify as trans*, queer and/or disabled, and you’d like to attend the workshop, please sign-up using our Eventbrite page or get in touch with Jenny Slater (j.slater@shu.ac.uk). No prior artistic skills needed. Free lunch, tea and coffee will be provided on the day and funds are available to cover local travel costs and childcare. Workshop places are limited.

For further details about the workshops or for more information about the project, please contact Jenny Slater (j.slater@shu.ac.uk).

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LaDIY Does Tramlines – What To Watch 2015!

It’s that time of year again when Sheffield gets taken over by the sprawling behemoth that is Tramlines – this year over the weekend of July 24th-26th we suggest you check out some of the following bands on the main line up.

Friday:
Beth Frisby
Charlotte OC
Robyn Sherwell

Saturday
Basement Jaxx
Billie Black
Emily May
Hannah Lou Clark
Lonelady
Marika Hackman
Martha Reeves
Meadowlark
Nao
Rolo Tomassi
Seven Torrs
Slow Club
This Is The Kit

Sunday
Bartholins Gland
The Big Moon
Bruising
Ekkah
Honeyblood
Jagaara
Josey Rebelle
Kate Tempset
Kid Wave
Nat Johnson
Neneh Cherry
Shopping
Stealing Sheep

You should also go have a peer at what’s going on at the Picture House Social where you can catch a fringe event and expect to see The Wharves, Feature and Cowtown!

Anything else you’re looking forward to we’ve missed, let us know!

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Foodbank Collections at TAAE – Launch 3rd July!

Big news! LaDIYfest, the Audacious Art Space (TAAE) and The Sheffield Food Collective (SFC) have decided to team up and start a food bank drop-off point at the space. Starting from the launch at the TAAE/LaDIYfest Massicot gig on Friday July 3rd, you will be able to bring items to the space for the Sheffield Food Collective to distribute to the local independent food banks they support in Parson Cross, Firth Park and Fir Vale. These food banks are community-run, and provide unlimited access to anyone who turns up.

Rates of food poverty all over the UK have risen rapidly in recent years, with the Trussell Trust reporting a 19% increase in uses of their food banks over the past 12 months alone. Many people are left unable to afford to eat as a result of delayed benefits payments, Job Centre sanctions, or simply because of low income.

Sheffield is no different. In fact, it has some of the most deprived wards in the country, as well as stark levels of inequality between different areas of the city. The number of food banks here has shot up, from three in 2011, to sixteen today.

Food banks are a feminist issue. Domestic violence is one factor which can lead to people needing to use food banks, while women are disproportionately affected by food poverty because they still tend to be more responsible for childcare. Single parent families are twice as likely to live in poverty as couples, and this remains a concern for feminists when 89 per cent of single parents are women. Women are more likely to go hungry to feed their children even if they do have a partner, and the difficulties of getting back into work caused by taking time off for maternity leave in a sexist society can compound the causes of food poverty. As the Albert Kennedy Trust reported earlier in the year, LGBT people make up 25% of the homeless population – another group which often depends on the support provided by food banks. No-one should have to use food banks, especially not in a country as wealthy as the UK.

The Sheffield Food Collective was set up in 2014 in response to the local effects of this crisis. While they recognise that “‘solving’ the issue of food poverty will be a top-down, policy led change”,  in the meantime, we need to make sure that people have enough to eat. SFC have done some phenomenal things in the short period of time since they started working with primary food banks run by local faith-based organisations, including raising just under £3,000 to support banks through sixteen gigs and events, and collecting a truly impressive 400kg of food donations.

They tell us that this year they have big plans to do even more, including organising two community job clubs, running cooking clubs to help people learn how to cook healthy and affordable meals while making friends, and hosting more live music events to raise funds and raise the profile of the food bank network. They’re also keen to collaborate with organisations, promoters, venues, and anyone else with skills, ideas, space, or enthusiasm to contribute – so if you like the sound of this, get in touch.

What we like about the Sheffield Food Collective is that they help anyone in need. By contrast, many organisations in Sheffield and around the country, while doing great work, use a ‘voucher’ system, meaning that people can only access food if they’ve been referred by a local agency. When, as the stats above show, it’s those same agencies causing a major chunk of the problems that make food banks necessary in the first place, we wanted to give our support to an organisation which doesn’t do that.

Now: we want your donations!

Specifically, we want non-perishable items, that are unopened and in date.

Here’s a shopping list from the Trussel Trust which you can use for ideas. Sugar, fruit juice, pasta, tinned tomatoes, cereal and tea bags are all great things to donate. We’d also like to collect sanitary items for menstruators. You will be able to bring these to all future gigs at the space.

We’re so excited to be teaming up with an organisation as amazing as Sheffield Food Collective, and we hope that friends of LaDIYfest and Audacious will be as keen as we are. Get involved and tell your mates, and come to the launch on the 3rd – with your donations!

Sheff-Food-Collective

Image: Laura Burn Acaster of Sheffield Food Collective stands next to shelves of different tinned foods collected for Sheffield food banks. Photo via Sheffield Green Party.

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What We Did On The Weekend – Queerfest Leeds and Ladiyfest Redhouse Gig

The Nervy Betters at Queerfest Leeds, 13 Jun 15. Photo by James Robert Birtwhistle

The Nervy Betters at Queerfest Leeds, 13/06/15. Photo by James Robert Birtwhistle

❤❤❤ QUEERFEST LEEDS 2k15 ❤❤❤
A bunch of stray Ladiyers wandered to Leeds for the Saturday of Queer We Go’s Queerfest. We came to do some DJing, playing and talking (as well as dancing, band-watching, dancing, glittering, vegan-nom-consuming, learning, dancing and well you get the picture)… and we did not leave disappointed! The event ran really smoothly and it seemed like there were always volunteers on hand to staff the door, make sure people got fed, deal with any problems or difficulties that arose etc. Big ups for community spirit and everyone pitching in to make an amazing event!

One of our group, Rachel, was present for some of the daytime workshops and had this to report: “There were so many things on offer and not enough time to do them all in, unfortunately. A self-defence workshop was of great interest to me personally, hitting things should be allowed more often in my opinion. Also enjoyed the Kink 101 workshop, because Queers do kink better than anyone else ;). There were so many other things to do, with screen printing, crafty things and zines galore – could have done with a time machine to have a go at all the wonderful things they had on.”

We caught some awesome bands in the evening that we really enjoyed. Chrissy Barnacle came all the way from Scotland to grace us with her life wisdom of self-love and discovering the real self, as well as mesmerising guitar-fingerpicking and Disney-princess-worthy melodic leaps! Ill from Manchester wowed us with their synthy, disobedient feminist post-punk noise. Particularly impressive were London-folk Shopping, whose angular guitar riffs and infectiously catchy basslines tore the house down. And of course, Martha were the climatic headliners one would expect them to be.. The crowd was a jumping-up-and-down singalong for the most part and the energy was contagious!

Congrats to Danny,  Lói, Lewis and everyone else involved in organising this Queer bonanza… Thank you from the bottom of our tiny hearts for putting on such a wonderful, inclusive, welcoming, nourishing and FUN event, and thank you for asking us to be involved! Thanks to everyone who danced to our cheesey and badly mixed DJ set after the Saturday night bands as well.. It was so so heartlifting and we had hella fun :D

❤❤❤THE NERVY BETTERS, THE LIVING END! & JOHN T. ANGLE AND THE SPIRIT LEVELS ¦ THE REDHOUSE, SUN JUNE 14TH ❤❤❤

Fresh from their sets at Queerfest, The Nervy Betters (pictured above) and The Living End! joined us on Sunday in Sheffield for a gig. Our beloved John T. Angle and the Spirit Levels opened for this lovely intimate gig at the Redhouse. Big thanks to all who joined us on a sleepy, rainy Sunday. Super special thanks to Danny & all at the Redhouse for being such great hosts, we were very sad to realise it may well be our last gig there for quite some time (or ever!), due to owners Jeff and Tracey’s decision to leave the venue. We thank them for their support for the last couple of years and wish them luck with this next chapter of their lives!

❤❤❤ UPCOMING EVENTS ❤❤❤
Sat 27th June at Moor Theatre Delicatessen: Peaches Party ft Nine Lives (a collab with LGBT Sheffield featuring Plunge Theatre!!)
Fri 3rd July at The Audacious Art Experiment: Massicot // FEHM // Dead Badgers // Temple Steps (a collab with TAAE)
Friday 17th July also at TAAE: Alimony Hustle / Fever Dream / Dispute Settlement Mechanism

We also encourage you to check out Plunge Theatre’s upcoming show at Theatre Delicatessen, Private View. You can find out more about Plunge Theatre and their show and in our previous blog post(/love letter) about them!

Gold star to anyone who’s made it this far… As always, we welcome contact from new folks looking to get involved with Ladiyfest Sheff, be that in the form of new ideas for events, playing a show, guest blog posts, new causes to fundraise for, or just about anything. If you want to be involved – get in touch! We’re a friendly bunch.

Thanks for reading! xx

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On Football, Feminism, and Not Giving a Fuck

This is a guest post from Geo July, who is a LaDIYfest organiser.

This post was originally written in summer 2014, but I got self-conscious (cos patriarchy innit) and didn’t publish it. Also, the whole Ched Evans shitstorm hadn’t reached Peak Silage at that point, and when it did I was a bit reluctant to write about football – even to think about it, frankly. There’s a lot more I could say here: about football operating as a self-enclosed masculine fantasy, about watching football with a man who has obvious disabilities, about the form of comradeliness you find playing team sports, about the notion of being ‘sportsmanlike’ – but they’ll have to wait for another time. 

I started playing football recently. With some friends, mainly boys, some girls, in a local park. This post is about doing that; about inhabiting what is undoubtedly, even in the world that I move in, the most man-dominated space I’ve been involved in. I thought that I might write a bit about this, because I’ve seen a lot recently about other male dominated-environments – hardcore punk, the music scene more generally, antifa groups, the left in general, cycling – but I’ve not seen anything about football.

So: the first thing I notice is that, with the possible exception of cycling, football is by far the most *visible* world of this kind that I’ve ever participated in. Unless you and your mates are pretty serious, prepared to spend money, and to commit to playing two or three times a week, you play in a park. In public. You walk down there in your jogging bottoms and your trainers or, if you’ve got a bit more serious, your football boots. You realise that even though you’re a committed feminist, you don’t shave your legs, you post about fat-activism on the internet – you can’t remember the last time you went outside without thinking about what you looked like. You’re thinking about it now. Intently. And you can’t shake the feeling, even though you’re trying with all your might – that everyone else is too, and not in a good way.

This feeling is quadrupled when you actually start playing. You’re not very good. You know that, and so do all your team-mates. Even when you’re playing with a group of dudes who largely identify as feminists, who are all delighted that you’re playing, who are all rooting for you from start to finish, you know that you’re not very good. You’re not very good because you didn’t spend every lunchtime, or a few afternoons a week, or even once in a while when everyone else was – kicking a ball about to pass the time. It never once, ever in all the years of childhood and adolescence, occurred to you that you could stand in the middle of a field with a football and say ‘This is mine. I am playing here.’ Not once. So you didn’t play, ever, and you didn’t learn.

And, miraculously, you learn not to care that much. You learn to stop apologising every time you fumble the ball, every time you make a dud pass, every time you let an open goal go to waste. You start to learn that other people make mistakes too. You learn that running into people doesn’t hurt them as much as you worry it will. You learn that being run into doesn’t hurt as much as it looks like it would either. You learn that it hurts for a few minutes, and then you stop caring. You learn that when you start to play football, your legs change shape – your thighs are thicker, the calves chunkier, more muscular. You trust that at some point you’ll stop caring about that, too. You learn not to care if every fucker walking past the pitch can see how poor your ball skills are.

But you can’t help but know that, because you’re the only girl on the pitch, it shows. You might not even be the worst player on the pitch (in fact, one of the ways you keep yourself playing is by pushing yourself to not be the worst person on the pitch) but you still know that any mistakes you make show three times as much. Even amongst people who you know full well passionately wished that they didn’t. Maybe especially amongst them, because you can feel them willing you to succeed, and maybe because people willing you to succeed makes you worse, not better. You don’t know yet if that feeling ever goes away, if you ever do get to a point where you can truly play a game of football and really, genuinely, feel that being a woman doesn’t matter. But you really really hope so. And you think more than anything else that the only way that can ever happen – if not for you then at least for your children, if you have any. At least for my cousin, who’s nine now and already neurotic about her weight, already neurotic about how her body looks to other people – is to keep fucking doing it. To keep going out there and making yourself visible, and learning not to care, and learning that this stuff is actually really *fun* – and to take those spaces back.

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So…..body hair….?

** TRIGGER WARNING for Trichotillomania/hair-pulling**

How do you feel about shaving? Waxing? Hair removal cream? Plucking?

  • Do you enjoy having smooth legs and/or armpits?
  • Do you feel pressured into removing hair, by family, friends, or media representations of flawlessly smooth limbs?
  • Or do you feel shamed into not shaving by people who insist that you shouldn’t do it?
  • Do you feel judged for shaving/not shaving? Do you feel that you really have a choice?

We’re hoping to put together some quotes (from people of all genders) about experiences with body hair and hair-removal, for a stall we’re hosting at the Peaches Party on Saturday 27th June – and possibly for inclusion in a zine.

The aim of the endeavour is to get a broad range of opinions and experiences, with the overall message that personal choice is what matters, whether that choice is to remove some hair, all hair, or no hair. We’ve no intention of shaming anyone for the choices they make, or choices they feel that they don’t have.

If you’re happy to share your thoughts, ideas and experiences with us, we’d love to read them! Please post in the comments here, on our Twitter feed with the hashtag #hairysubject, or in a private message to our Facebook group. Please be aware that we might use your quote on a poster or in a zine – and if you’d like us to use your quote without including your online name, just let us know.

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