Poetry festival brings communities together at Exeter librariesPosted on 16 Mar 2022
Libraries Unlimited hosts Herstory Festival.
The unfinished fight for women’s rights in the UK is being marked with a festival of poetry and performance across Exeter’s area libraries later this month.
The Herstory Festival brings together poets, activists, librarians, curators and communities on Wednesday 30th March. The event is FREE and can be enjoyed at Exeter library as well as online.
Herstory is a partnership between Poet and the City, the British Library, Newcastle Libraries, and Libraries Unlimited.
Callum Elliott-Archer, Centre Manager for Exeter Library, said: “It’s an absolute joy to be able to welcome people back to a big festival event in our libraries after all the challenges of the pandemic in the past two years. We’re promising electrifying live performance, exhibits, enlivening discussions and a chance for our community to come together to be inspired.”
Three specially commissioned poets – Liv Torc, Shagufta K Iqbal and Fiona Benson – will perform live at the festival.
Liv Torc explores the parallels between the experiences of women during the pandemic and those of their grandmothers and great grandmothers during the First and Second World Wars. She gathered local women’s stories and experiences, asking how local communities have been affected by the pandemic, and what we might learn from our female ancestors whose roles also dramatically changed due to a global crisis. Her performance at the festival will include poetry, song, and a film created using haiku and the photographs of local women’s ancestors.
Shagufta K Iqbal has taken her inspiration from the women Chainmakers who went on strike for fairer pay in 1910. She has worked with Mothers Who Make to bring to life the environment of the chainmakers, how they connected and supported each other during that movement. She has drawn parallels with how it feels to be a freelance artist and mother in today’s world.
Inspired by the way food unites and can be a central part of community life, Shagufta will combine her poetry reading with cookery. She has also collaborated with illustrator Sabba Khan to create postcards to share recipes and ideas with the audience.
Fiona Benson has written a series of poems inspired by women’s experiences of fertility, birth control and gynaecological care, exploring taboos around female bodies. One of her poems is a powerful, raw account of a pregnant woman forced to give up her baby for adoption in the 1960s.
She has also written a sequence of poems inspired by the history surrounding gynaecological tools from the Devon & Exeter Medical Heritage Trust who look after a collection of historical medical items. She interviewed a former doctor whose working life began with home deliveries and GP-led maternity units in the 1950s, and spanned the changing practices around contraception. During her investigations, Fiona discovered all sorts of stories, including how forceps were invented during the time of Shakespeare but kept secret in order to make money.
Other festival highlights include an open mic event from Mothers on the Mic – stories, poetry and song performed by local mothers and non-binary parents; a Makaton choir performance, and a Build Your Own Warrior spoken word workshop.
Poet in the City brings together communities through poetry. Lead poet Ruby Baker said: “The Herstory Festival’s theme is care with courage – a poignant and relevant theme for our times. With the focus on women, we’ll look at the journey towards equality and what still needs to be achieved, an issue which affects not just women but every single one of us.”
The Herstory Festival runs from 7 – 10pm on Wednesday 30th March and is free, but anyone wanting to attend in person or online needs to book a ticket here: https://www.poetinthecity.co.uk/Event/herstory-festivals Some elements in the programme will have limited capacity and sign-up sheets will be available at the library on a first come first served basis.