“We march for liberation and we’re many thousands strong. We’ll build a new society, we’ve waited much too long, that’s why we’re marching on!”
The annual SHE Fest brought a weeklong fringe festival to Sheffield, with the aim to raise awareness and celebrate International Women’s Day. This year’s theme, “Pledge for Parity”, called on everyone to take action to accelerate gender parity – whether this be through helping women and girls achieve their ambitions, calling for gender-balanced leadership or just bringing the issue to the fore in everyone’s day to day life.
The main event of SHE Fest was at the HUBS saw students and members of the public enjoy a day taking part in a range of activities. Workshops, discussions, crafts, live music, beauty treatments and a fashion show to name a few.
The aim of the festival was to raise awareness and engagement in the women’s movement and equality and this was certainly the case upstairs in the HUBs which was filled with different charities based in and around Sheffield.
There were many diverse groups and one stall that drew a lot of attention was the local amnesty international charity who had plastered the wall with the phrase “My body My rights” and were successfully canvassing people to sign a petition about health and sexual health education in West Africa.
Throughout the day the stage had live entertainment from a variety of acts from dance groups to choirs. The live music was kicked off with a soulful performance of tales of heartbreak from Sheffield singer songwriter Julia McInally while WISH, a Sheffield based choir, paid homage to the suffragette movement in their performance resplendent in purple the colour associated with the movement. Their set covered a variety of songs that have been present during the women’s rights movement.
The conductor of choir at one point picked up a toothbrush to conduct with explaining how Ethel Smyth a suffragette who was arrested once conducted a choir from the window of her cell at Holloway prison before proclaiming: “If it was good enough for it’s good enough for me.” And then launching into “The Battle hymn of women” which had the whole crowd chanting “move on over or we’ll move on over you”. The live music was rounded off by the haunting sounds of Fi Helsing , a singer songwriter from Leeds.
The final and most raucous event of the day was the fashion show presented by Alicia Nang Hair & Beauty with fashion designs by Slyvia from El-Addo fashion design and the brand Inspired By Labels. The fashion show was arguably the highlight of the day with a packed out room of cheering crowds.
The thing that stood out the most about the day however was not the activities themselves but the atmosphere and the people. Everything about the day just shone with positivity. When talking to the pubic and volunteers its seem that everyone had found something during the day to be inspired by and whether it was talking part in the activities, the singing or the fashion show everyone had found something to spark their interest, engage their passion and reinforced their believe in and drive for gender equality. Days like this are always important in that they trigger a dialogue about equality between the public, charities and those directly affected.
So here is looking forward to next year in the hope and expectation that it brings as much joy and inspiration as this year. Until then may the good women and men of Sheffield keep marching on.
Words by Caitlin Black
Photography by Adva Photography