Forty Years a Feminist: Bristol’s Feminist Activism – Mon 17 October

Feminist Archive South are taking part in an event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Bristol Women’s Centre.

Forty Years a Feminist: Bristol’s Feminist Activism

Mon 17 October 2016

18:00-21:00

Wickham Theatre

Price: £5

The Bristol Women’s Centre opened in September 1976 at 44 The Grove.

Ellen Malos sits on the bed in the women's centre. Women's Liberation posters adorn the wallsFocus for many feminist campaigns, the Centre offered pregnancy testing, and advice on legal issues, accommodation, contraception, domestic violence and rape.

“Forty Years a Feminist” commemorates Bristol’s feminist activism with a panel discussion, the launch of Miriam David’s book Reclaiming Feminism, and a party to celebrate four decades of achievement.

Chaired by Helen Taylor, the panel – Liz Bird, Helen Dunmore, Ellen Malos, Pam Trevithick and Jackie West – represents various campaigns and activities within the mid-1970s Bristol’s Women’s Liberation group.

There will be exhibitions from Feminist Archive South and the University Women’s Theatre Collection.

Sponsored by Policy Press and The University of Bristol.

Moving Targets – Feminist Archive South at Arnolfini this Summer!

Feminist Archive South are delighted to be contributing archive material for Arnolfini’s summer exhibition, Moving Targets.

Moving Targets will ‘draw on Bristol’s independent spirit and explore punk as an attitude that has more than one history and meaning.’

The exhibition title is taken from and dedicated to Mimi Thi Nguyen and Golnar Nikpour’s chapbook ‘Punk is a Moving Target’.

Our material will be displayed in the galleries from 8 August-11 September.

A researcher reads in the Feminist Archive South

The exhibition and accompanying event programme offer a much needed counterpoint to white, western and male dominated narratives of punk history.

These one-dimensional stories continue to be perpetuated, even in 2016.

Viv Albertine, who you should know as a member of the Slits, recently defaced storyboards at the British Library’s punk exhibition in order to re-insert ground-breaking female acts that were excluded from the exhibition.

A folder of archive material full of papers

Materials displayed from our collection include Bristol WLM newsletters, fliers, badges and anarcha-feminism/ punk ephemera.

Bryony Gillard Arnolfini Curator Reads in the Feminist Archive South

We hope our presence at Moving Targets will help raise awareness about the Feminist Archive South, and encourage more people to visit us in the future.

A reader researches the history of anarcha-feminism and its relationship to the WLM

For now, enjoy these images of us rooting through the collections!

Copies of the Bristol WLM Newsletter from 1976 Feminist Archive South

Alison Bartlett – Researching the International Feminist Peace Movement

We asked Alison Bartlett, currently a visiting scholar at the University of Bristol from the University of Western Australia, to write about her experiences researching in the FAS.

In the spirit of Greenham activism, she ‘widened the (feminist archive) web’ to collections relating to the feminist peace movement in Australia.

Enjoy!

***

As an Australian researcher interested in feminist cultural histories, the Feminist Archives South is one of the main reasons I applied for a Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor position at Bristol University. My research into the 1980s women’s peace movement and especially the two women’s peace camps held ­in Australia has always been in relation to Greenham Common women’s peace camp. The opportunity to sift through the rich archives of this iconic feminist event is a rare treat.

At the same time, I’ve been reading Kate Eichhorn’s book The Archival Turn in Feminism: Outrage in Order (2013) which proposes that the growing interest by feminists to delve into archives is to make sense of the ‘legacies, epistemes, and traumas pressing down on the present’. Eichhorn argues that neoliberalism of the late twentieth century has not only individualized our capacities as subjects but eroded our sense of collective agency, something that archives like the Feminist Archive South restores. Rather than understanding archives as nostalgia for the past, she claims archives reorient our understanding of the past and therefore enable us to reimagine our present.

Triangular shawl with different coloured webs sewn together

Shawl collectively made by women at Greenham Common

The boxes of material on Greenham Common are full of letters, flyers, newspaper clippings, court documents, photographs, stickers, postcards, and even a multicoloured spiderweb shawl and a piece of the green military fence tied with webs of string. I read with astonishment that some Greenham women took US President Ronald Reagan to court in New York over the deployment of nuclear missiles onto English common land. And the letters sent to women arrested and sent to Holloways prison are particularly poignant.

The ferocity of their belief in the necessity to stop escalating military interventions and nuclear arms is inspiring, and it’s easy to see how it motivated a worldwide movement of women protesting war and militarization. Together with the women’s movement, the women’s peace movement formed a significant set of arguments about the continuum of male violence, and women’s agency to imagine other ways of living, loving, and doing civilian politics.

My research into the 1980s women’s peace camps in Australia indicates that they were a direct response to what was happening in Berkshire. They were conceived as support actions but also to bring attention to the particularities of the US military in Australia. The first camp was held in central Australia outside the US military base at Pine Gap in December 1983, coinciding with the day the Cruise Missiles arrived at Greenham. The second camp was held a year later in 1984 at Cockburn Sound on the west coast near Fremantle, a major port into which US naval vessels docked and sailors took their rest and recreation.

Unlike at Greenham Common, an umbrella organization was formed specifically to coordinate the peace camps in Australia, bringing together a coalition of women’s organisations, peace, and anti-nuclear groups. The archives are largely filed under the name of the group: Women For Survival. There are substantial collections at the Jessie Street National Women’s Library in Sydney, and the University of Melbourne Archives in Melbourne which holds the Victorian Women’s Liberation and Lesbian Feminist Archives. But almost every State Library and many university libraries around Australia also hold some material. The Murdoch University Special Collections in Perth holds material in the Gay and Lesbian Archives of Western Australia (GALAWA) collection; and in Adelaide the State Library of South Australia now holds some of the dispersed resources from the Adelaide Women’s Liberation Archive; the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne; and the Fryer Library at the University of Queensland in Brisbane hold material. There are some badges displayed at the Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra where you can also hear questions in Parliament being played on rotation, and there’s a student film made at the Pine Gap camp available at the National Film, Television and Radio School online. The Northern Territory Archives Service in Alice Springs has a great collection of oral history interviews.

bath women's peace group

There was a traffic of ideas, people, rituals, telegrams, letters, songs, and even parts of the military mesh fences between Greenham and the Australian peace camps. There are traces of this in the Australian archives and in the Feminist Archives South. Zohl de Ishtar stands out as a regular writer for the Greenham Newsletter, campaigning relentlessly to raise the profile of colonized and militarized Pacific nations, especially those used as nuclear testing sites from the 1950s. But it’s the thousands and thousands of women who went to Greenham for a day or a week or a year who register the impact of collective action, and whose traces in the archives demonstrate the mass attraction of arguments for de-militarisation amidst the threat of nuclear war during the Cold War period. I can’t imagine how 30 000 turned up on December 12, 1982 to hold hands around the entire 9 mile perimeter of the US Air Base at Greenham to ‘embrace the base’.

Eichhorn argues that archives themselves are forms of activism, as are archivists. The Feminist Archives South certainly demonstrate the value of feminist archives, and remind us of the possibilities for changing our worlds through collective action.

***

We welcome all our readers to write about their experiences researching in the Feminist Archive South. It helps us to understand how people engage with our collections, and communicate our holdings to wider audiences.

If you have a FAS story you want to share with readers of this blog, please send it to us (no more than 1000 words).

 Many thanks to Alison for taking time to write up her visit!

Volunteer opportunities in the Feminist Archive South

The Feminist Archive South holds 160 metres (plus) of inspirational materials. Unfortunately we have not yet had a chance to transfer all of our paper catalogues and lists on to our online archive catalogue.

We need some kind volunteers to help with typing up word lists, access databases, and other random listings, which can converted into one catalogue, so people both in Bristol and elsewhere, can easily evaluate what is in the archive, and order up resources to use. At the moment, a significant amount of our lists are on paper alone.

Ensuring the archive is catalogued really helps researchers, and members of feminist communities, discover the Feminist Archive South’s contents. It also helps to preserve material in the long run (because of less handling and we are able to access materials from store in a more precise way).

Bear in mind everything won’t be catalogued at the end of this project, but if you would like to get involved it would really help us.

We envisage people will be taking printed or photocopied lists and typing them up and converting them into another format.  It can be done in Special Collections, or we can supply copies of lists for you to work on at home. We will provide a template for you to fill, which should be easy to use and follow.

You don’t have to have any prior experience of archive work, just be keen to learn about feminist histories and have a good eye for detail.

Do get in touch and we are happy to discuss this further.

There is no deadline, as we envisage this kind of support will be ongoing for the immediate future.

News from the archive

University of Bristol Special Collections archivist, Feminist Archive South trustee and all round goodie Hannah Lowery offers this communication:

‘Although the blog has been quiet recently and there are less researchers using FAS at the moment, today we hosted a workshop with Maud Perrier and 16 of her University of Bristol postgraduates.

Although the Special Collections Reading Room was rather chilly, there was a real buzz with discussions of Greenham Common, Carole Harwood, Wages for Housework, and other topics.

Maud and I commented on how cold it must have been living at Greenham Common, and on how dedicated the women must have been.

DM1981 129 1 2 060

Although the majority of the Feminist Archive South is held off site in the University of Bristol Library Research Reserve, it is available for use.

Use the catalogue to get an idea of the holdings and get in touch to see if we can help with your research.’

What are you waiting for? Our amazing collection awaits you….

FAS Collection

 

Born in Flames at Watershed Sunday 12 October @ 6pm!

Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see Born in Flames on Sunday 12 October at Watershed. It is part of the Afrofuturism season curated by Edson Burton taking place throughout October.

Independent filmmaker, artist and critic Lizzie Borden (yes, her real name!) made her feature debut with this bold and brilliant fusion of sci fi and feminist politics, a comic fantasy of female rebellion that we welcome to Bristol for this extremely rare screening. It’s 10 years after a socialist revolution in the United States, and the leader of the Woman’s Army is mysteriously killed, setting off a seemingly impossible coalition of women – crossing all lines of race, class, and sexual preference – to take down The System.Born_in_flames_poster

Whistle blowing female bicyclists swoop down on would-be rapists, male construction workers protest that their female colleagues are monopolising the best jobs, and there are funny and thrilling encounters between groups of women ranging from militant black lesbians to white punks.

Screening with Pumzi, Kenya’s first science fiction film, a poetic and imaginative vision of a dystopian future 35 years after water wars have torn the world apart. It tells the story of Asha, a young botanist who risks everything as she escapes to the outside world to nurture a precious plant.
With an introduction and Q&A from Chardine Taylor-Stone, writer, DJ, and founder of black speculative fiction book club Mothership Connections.

GULABI GANG – film screening 8 November @ Silai Centre

This new documentary about the Gulabi Gang, a group of women activists in Northern India is being screened in Bristol in November.

image

GULABI GANG
Saturday 8th November, Silai Centre, Easton Road, Doors open from 6pm, film starts at 7pm

Suggested donation £3

Nishtha Jain, a film maker from India will be visiting Bristol on 8th November for a very special screening of her latest film, Gulabi Gang, a documentary about an inspirational group of women working in Northern India to challenge gender violence and state corruption.

Please join us for this exciting screening and unique opportunity to learn about the activism against gender violence happening in India at the moment.

*GULABI GANG*

Norway/India/Denmark/2012/Hindi with English Subtitles

A film by Nishtha Jain(India), produced by Oscar and Emmy nominated
Torstein Grude(Norway) and Signe Sorenson(Denmark)

*Synopsis*

Enter the badlands of Bundelkhand in central India and you have entered a
place of desolation, dust and despair. This film follows the Gulabi Gang,
an unusual group of rural women led by the energetic and charismatic Sampat
Pal. They travel long distances to fight for the rights of women and
Dalits. Often they encounter resistance, apathy and corruption, even
ridicule. Sometimes whole villages connive against them to protect the
perpetrators of violence. While we see Gulabi Gang members struggling
against gender violence and state corruption, we also see the flip side –
members getting sucked by the trappings of their new found power. Breaking
away from the deep-rooted patriarchal structure is a challenge even for the
most fearless amongst them. The film pulls us into the centre of these
blazing conflicts and uncovers a complex story about the nature of power
itself.

*AWARDS AND HONORS*

Best Documentary, Dubai International Film Festival, 2012

Best Documentary, Kortfilmfestivalen, Norway 2012

Amnesty International Award for Human Rights, Planete-doc Review, Warsaw

First Amnesty International Human Rights Award, Tri-Continental IFF, South
Africa 2013

Best Documentary, International Association of Women in Radio &
Television(IAWRT) 2013

Best Director, Mumbai International Film Festival, Mumbai, 2014

Best Documentary(Social Issues), National Awards, India, 2014

Best Non-feature Editing, National Awards, India, 2014

Best Protagonist, ImagineIndia, Madrid 2014 & many more!

*Nishtha Jain* is an award winning filmmaker based in Mumbai. She has directed several films including the critically acclaimed

*City of Photos(2005)* and *Lakshmi and Me(2008). *She’s a graduate of
FTII, Pune and Jamia Mass communication Research Centre.
http://www.raintreefilms.net
http://www.lakshmiandme.com

Two excellent teaching resources….

Posters from the See Red Women’s Workshop are available under a Creative Commons license.

Explore the imagery and communication strategies of the Women’s Liberation Movement…

protest

Using Archives to Teach Gender is an excellent resource that includes scans of images from the Feminist Archive North and the Marks & Spencer Company Archive which are both based at Special Collections, Leeds University. Also includes a handy links page to further resources.

As ever, the Sisterhood & After oral history project is a must and first stop shop for research into the WLM.

Women’s Liberation Music Archive – catalogued and available for use

Fliers for the Women's Liberation Music ArchiveThe Women’s Liberation Music Archive is now available for consultation in the University of Bristol Special Collections, and is stored with the Feminist Archive South.

It has the reference DM2598 and contents can be viewed on our online catalogue.

It consists of 7 boxes of materials relating to Music and the Women’s Movement in the 1970s and 1980s.Street Performance of Clapperclaw

Gems include audio and audiovisual recordings of bands such as Clapperclaw, Jam Today, Ova, the Fabulous Dirt Sisters, Feminist Improvising Group, Frankie Armstrong, The Mistakes, Guest Stars,  and Contradictions, as well as a range of fascinating ephemera including fliers, diaries, budget books, manifestos, songbooks, posters, oral histories and much more.

Listening and viewing facilities are available within the archive for this material.

Big thanks to Sarah Cuthill who catalogued the material for us.

 

Student visits to the archive

The Feminist Archive South is continuing to get increased use from students (undergraduate and postgraduate) from the University of Bristol and further afield (UWE, Bath, Exeter, Bath Spa and beyond).

In March 2014 we held four workshops when we hosted all of the first year University of the West of England design students (around 80 in total).
Two students read documents, a banner stating 'Bristol Greenham Women' is in the backgroun

They were inspired by the collection to create their own pieces of work, and a fascinating time was had by all involved, students and staff alike. Discussions took place on Greenham Common, Miss World (and alternatives to Miss World), Sistershow, relationships, art work, 1950s central Europe, and everything else!

A group of students gather round the table reading and discussing archive materials