Female Friends:  A Celebration

Female Friends blog original by Photo by Matt Heaton on UnsplashResearch has shown that friendship is essential for physical and emotional well-being.  A lack of a supportive social network has a mortality risk equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.  The last few months have given me lots of reasons to reflect on how wonderful it is to not only have great friends, but to have great female friends.  That hasn’t always been the case.

As a young woman a lot of my friends were men.  I liked being “one of the lads” and could hold my own in conversations about music and motorbikes and even football if it was absolutely necessary.  I found men to be less complicated than the women I knew.  They seemed to be more honest and straightforward.

My female friends at the time made me anxious.  I worried about saying or doing the wrong thing, I was never really sure if they liked me.  I imagined (rightly or wrongly) that they talked about me behind my back.  I drifted away from them.

Then came marriage and children and I found I needed more women in my life.  Better women.  Mothers who understood what it was like to suddenly have an entirely different life.  Around this time I had two, fabulous, female friends who would come round, hang out, offer some support and share their own insecurities as we raised our kids together.  Of course we still indulged in a little, unhelpful, competitive parenting (whose child talked first, walked first etc.)  We also nursed insecurities we never shared, growing them into reasons to berate ourselves.  Never quite believing that we were enough.

Now that I am older I have my tribe.  In fact I have tribes, plural.

I have a tribe of female friends who meet to play Mah Jongg or go on day trips together.  They are all slightly older than me and it doesn’t matter.  We talk about our grandchildren, gardens and television.  We indulge in immense silliness and sing out loud at the drop of a hat.

I have a tribe of adventuring friends.  We take each other out of our comfort zones and relish the challenges we face.  They are all slightly younger than me and it doesn’t matter.  We talk about the businesses we run, about politics, music, food & wine and festivals.

I have a tribe of cultural friends and we share trips to the theatre and the cinema.

Along the way I have collected other, fabulous female friends and the really important ones are still in my life.  In some cases, I consider their daughters to be friends too, now that they are grown.

I have female friends who have my back and I have theirs; friends I trust implicitly.  So what changed?

For the most part, I did.  I became more confident.  I learned to trust, to take risks, to speak out.  I became more discerning about the women I choose to spend time with and I, in return, became a better friend.  I strive to be honest and straightforward, uncomplicated in my communication.  I accept that friendships have a certain ebb and flow.  Value must be added over time but can be drawn on when the need arises.

Those tribes are made up of wonderful women, each of whom is a fantastic friend in her own right.  I could call on any of them individually for solace or laughter and there would be no jealousy from the others.  I know who to ask for a book recommendation, for a hug, for a glass of champagne or a much needed kick up the backside.

This is a slightly more self-indulgent piece than usual, an opportunity to thank those friends (you know who you are) who add to my life in more ways than they could possibly know.  But as always, it is also a learning piece.  Here are a few of the things I wish I had known when I was younger:

  • You do not have to compromise your own values in order to fit in. If you have different values you are unlikely to ever become good friends.
  • Be yourself. It’s ok if that is not exactly the same person with every friend you have so long as you are congruent.
  • If your friends spend all their time bitching about other people they probably bitch about you too. Life is too short to spend time with people who make you feel insecure.
  • Accept that some friendships won’t work out long term. Just as you wouldn’t necessarily expect to marry the first person you date, don’t expect every friendship to last a lifetime.
  • Take quality over quantity. A cup of coffee with just one person who lights up your life is preferable to 500 friends on social media if you never have any real relationship with them.
  • Model the kind of friendship you would like to have. If you want friends you can trust – be trustworthy.  If you want friends who listen when you have problems, be the kind of friend who listens.
  • Some women like to talk about music, motorbikes and football too!

If, like me, you have some great female friends be sure to tell them how much you appreciate them.  Maybe you would like to share your top tips for friendship too.

 

Why are mothers always seen as sinners or saints?

Yesterday was Mother’s Day in the UK and it got me thinking about mothers.  Not any mother in particular just the general concept of mothers and the way we often stereotype them.  Why are mothers always seen as sinners or saints?  Is there no possibility of them just being good enough?

I spent ages trying to find a card for my own mother but wasn’t really happy with all the “perfect mother” or “best mother in the world” messages.  I settled for a card with no message at all in the end and simply wrote my own words inside.  My mother isn’t perfect but she is good enough, and yet somehow I feel uncomfortable saying that.  So, why are mothers always seen as sinners or saints?

Many cultures and religions have stories around a virgin birth.  These perfect mothers are happy to become bit part actors in their child’s (usually their son’s) story and ultimately bear loss and grief with dignity.  Thus motherhood becomes defined as self-sacrificing, a mother’s place is clearly in the background, her only role to facilitate greatness in her children.

Journalist Amy Westervelt said that “motherhood is a still a sort of time machine, shooting women instantly back to 1950” and, whilst I don’t agree entirely, there is something about the idea of a “perfect mother” that makes me think of a twinset and pearls.  These images have been presented so often in film and literature that they are hard wired into our collective psyche.

I have also noticed that, when we attach any pre-fix to the word mother, the pre-fix acts as a pejorative.  Working mother, single mother, stay-at-home mother, all form a stereotype of their own and all imply some form of criticism – as if being anything other than just “mother” makes you less saintly.

My own field of psychology and therapy has not been of much help either.  So often, blame for any psychological disturbance is aimed at the mother.  Mothers have variously been blamed for causing schizophrenia, autism, narcissism and a host of more minor psychological disturbances.  Mothers are blamed for caring too much or too little, for being too strict or too lax and it’s probably best not to get me started on Freud and motherhood…

Today, new mothers are still faced with castigation if they don’t breastfeed (or indeed if they do, in public).  They are seen as bad mothers if they don’t cook baby food from scratch or they use disposable nappies.  Mothers feel that they are failing if their children don’t experience every possible extra-curricular activity.  Mothers are blamed if their children drink or take drugs or don’t do well enough at school.

There are books and blogs galore telling mothers how to get it all right.  It seems so simple that strangers feel able to criticise or offer unsolicited advice to mothers that they meet out in public.

In fairness, bloggers have also claimed the sinners end of the parenting spectrum – “telling it like it is” in a series of funny and irreverent stories that portray motherhood as an awful and impossible situation that can only be survived by excessive drinking.

But the reality is somewhere in the middle.  Most mothers do their best most of the time.  Sometimes their best is awesome, sometimes it is awful but mostly it is just good enough.  And good enough is good enough.

Of course, there are some highly damaged women out there raising damaged children.  I am not advocating or condoning neglect or abuse.  I simply want to tell you that, if you can’t be a saint it doesn’t automatically make you a sinner.

As always, I simply want you to know that you are enough.

Kindness Matters

Pema Chodron quote to illustrate blog Kindness Matters. Everywhere I look I see memes and tweets telling me that kindness matters.  At the same time I see multiple examples of unkindness and intolerance.  So what’s going on?

First of all, let’s look at why kindness matters.  There is a wealth of psychological research which shows that kindness benefits the giver as well as the recipient.  Being kind has health benefits, can contribute to the giver’s happiness and can strengthen relationships.

Being kind to others can improve a person’s immediate sense of well-being but it can also have a bigger impact.  Depending on the act, kindness can alleviate loneliness, promote happiness and develop a sense of community.  It doesn’t matter whether you smile at a stranger in the street, take flowers to a friend or donate blood – all acts of kindness are valid.

Having established that kindness matters, and that it is the ultimate win/win, why is it that some people do not show kindness to others in all their interactions?

A lack of kindness isn’t automatically unkindness.  Sometimes people operate in a neutral zone – they are not openly kind to others but they are not actively unkind either.  This may be because they are just too pre-occupied with their own problems to notice or care what’s happening to other people.

Sometimes people are actively unkind.  This unkindness may extend to everybody else in which case it probably stems from some deep rooted unhappiness.  Alternatively, some people are unkind to people who are different to them in some specific way.  This unkindness is often associated with fear. (Think racism, sexism, elitism, Brexit etc.)

If you want to belong to a kinder, more considerate community then kindness has to start with you.  If you are feeling below par and are struggling, start off by being kind to yourself then project your kindness out into the world.  Think of it like the oxygen mask on a plane – you have to help yourself in order to help others.

Once you feel able to be kind to others, start small.  A smile, a kind word, letting someone with one or two items step in front of you in a supermarket queue are all important acts of kindness.  In making other people happy you will notice that they will start to smile too, may offer kindness in return and all those good feelings will be reflected back at you.  Keep it up, you might start a kindness revolution.

When you are all topped up you might be able to offer bigger acts of kindness.  Volunteering your time to help others is wonderfully kind and gives you a great feeling too.  Another win/win.

Finally, get ready for the ultimate kindness challenge:  Being kind to people who you don’t like.  If you find yourself complaining about people it is time to focus on what makes you the same rather than what makes you different.  Challenge your own prejudice and be kind.  Sometimes kindness takes you way outside your comfort zone.  (If you really can’t bring yourself to be kind at least resist the urge to be unkind.)

So, back to those memes.  Kindness does matter.  “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  “Throw kindness around like confetti.”

What wonderful acts of kindness have you committed today?

Lift your Head Up

Looking up through autumnal trees to a blue sky Lift Your Head UpIt’s Monday morning.  The chances are you have arrived at work, taken off your coat, put your head down and run straight into task mode.  Stop.  Lift your head up and pay attention.  Take a moment to think before you plunge straight into action.

Think People

Look at your colleagues and remember that they are people with lives beyond the task.  They are your support network, your work tribe.  Look at them through a kindness filter and try to work out if anyone might need your support today.  It only takes a moment to build up someone’s confidence and self-esteem so look for opportunities to praise, applaud and generally be a cheer-leader for your team.

Think Creativity

Take a look at your to-do list or Trello board and look for opportunities to be creative.  Find ways to make tasks more fun, more collaborative and/or more efficient.

Think Courage

There comes a time when you have to stop avoiding a problem.  Be brave and make today the day that you have that difficult conversation or tackle those tasks which are, quite frankly, too hard/too boring/too emotionally challenging for your comfort.  The alternative is to allow them to hang over you, clouding your whole week with dread – please don’t allow that to be an option.

Think Learning

Learning and growth are essential parts of your personal development.  Look for opportunities to learn this week.  You don’t need formal training to learn – just take yourself out of your comfort zone and you’ll find learning opportunities waiting for you.

Think Wellbeing

Look for ways to reduce your stress levels.  Plan in some breaks.  Take a walk at lunchtime.  If the weather is just too awful for a walk, find five minutes to just stare out of the window and breathe.  Take care of yourself.

If you can do all of this and still get things done then you are well on the way to becoming a fully functioning woman.  So, lift your head up and look the world in the eye.  You’ve got this.

 

You are Enough

Welcome to 2019.  Here’s a reminder – you are enough.

For many of you this is the first full week back at work after the festivities and I am wondering how many of you bounced out of bed full of enthusiasm for the week ahead?

January is generally a month of dissatisfaction.  We are in the depths of winter, the days are dark, we have taken down our twinkly lights and the summer holidays are too far away to lift our spirits.  For some, SAD is a real and very present beast, lurking in the shadows, stealing any attempt at positivity.

In November and December we are buoyed up on waves of happiness as we are exhorted to treat ourselves and our loved ones to gifts and fine foods, to eat, drink and be merry because we deserve it.  In January we are berated for our excess, we are bombarded with instructions to lose weight, work out and stop drinking.

Stop.

Ask yourself who benefits from these messages.  Here is a clue:  It is not you.

These messages are designed to sell you something.  You do not need the end of year excess and you do not need the punishment of the new.

You are enough.

Treat yourself with kindness and respect.  Eat those foods which nourish and sustain you, foods which give you health and energy.  Deprivation in the depths of winter is unnecessary.

If you are drinking to excess find a balance, if you can’t find a balance, seek help and address the problems that lead you to drink too much.  If drink is not a problem for you enjoy that glass of wine, those New Year messages are not for you.

Exercise should not feel like punishment.  If it does, find better ways to exercise.  Change your mind set.  Take long walks at the weekends, go on cycle rides with friends or dance.  Swim or gym if you enjoy it but choose something that doesn’t feel like punishment.

Daylight is still in short supply so try to make the most of it and top up your vitamin D.  Get outside at lunchtime, go for walks, visit parks and gardens.  Use the time to be more mindful, notice the first signs of spring.  Last week I saw Camellias in full flower and the first bulbs are popping up all over the place.

If it is wet and horrible outside and you don’t want to go out, curl up with a book instead and banish guilt – reading is good for you – even the trashiest fiction!

Chocolate is not kindness but nor is deprivation.

You are enough.

more support here

 

When Planning becomes Procrastination

lined notebook on table with fountain pen to illustrate when planning becomes procrastinationIn my professional life I have spent a lot of time encouraging people to plan more.  Planning is a good thing.  Planning helps you to set direction and to prioritise.  It simplifies decision making.  In teams, planning helps you to get everyone on the same page.  What could possibly go wrong?  Well, frankly, it all goes a little bit pear shaped when planning becomes procrastination.

Procrastination involves putting off or avoiding a task that needs to be done.  The problem is that it is easy to fool ourselves into thinking that, by planning the task properly, we are actually taking steps towards doing it.

Take, for example, the teenager who spends days devising a comprehensive (and very beautiful) revision timetable, only to discover that there is no time left to revise.  Or the woman who repeatedly re-writes her to-do list, frantically adding last week’s unfinished actions to this week’s plan.  Or the mother, who sits amongst the ruins of her home reading books on how to de-clutter and create zen-like calm.  Meanwhile, the kids continue to wreak havoc all around her.

If you recognise any of this, then I hate to tell you, but you are most definitely procrastinating.

I am working with a super-organised client at the moment.  She recently started a new job and was finding it difficult to get her team to be more productive.  In an attempt to address the problem she introduced them to the Trello Board so that they could monitor the team objectives, see each other’s workload and keep tabs on shared projects.  Now she has a team that enthusiastically creates vibrant, informative Trello Boards.  But they still don’t get things done.  Instead of motivating them to take action, she has given them a new way to procrastinate.

It doesn’t matter how you plan.  Whether you use pen and paper, post-its, spreadsheets or bespoke software is irrelevant if you are still planning when you should be taking action.

When planning becomes procrastination it is time to stop thinking and start doing.

Frida Kahlo – A Role Model

Frida Kahlo self portraitWe all need role models in life, someone to look up to, someone to make us want to be better versions of ourselves.  Frida Kahlo’s success as an artist is more than enough to make her a worthy role model for women everywhere, however, last weekend I visited the Frida Kahlo Exhibition at the V & A and discovered how much more there is to admire about this remarkable woman.

I have written and re-written this blog about 8 times so far because it just keeps growing.  I didn’t want to write a comprehensive biography but there is so much to say about Frida Kahlo that I have found it impossible to be succinct without leaving out great swathes of important information.  I have tried and failed to keep it brief but still hope that you will be inspired to read more for yourselves.

For me, the most inspiring things about Frida Kahlo are her passion, the contradictory nature of her existence and her resilience.

Passion

It seems to me that everything Frida Kahlo did was done with passion.  She said of her work that “I never paint dreams or nightmares, I paint only my own reality” but that reality is full of colour and vibrancy, of political metaphor and deep levels of symbolism.

Her marriage to the artist Diego Rivera was unconventional and deeply passionate.  Her friends and family struggled to understand the connection, Frida’s mother described it as the “union between an elephant and a dove.”  When they married Frida was twenty two and tiny whilst Diego was 42 and weighed over 20 stone.  Over the years they each had multiple affairs including with Leon Trotsky (Frida) and Frida’s sister (Diego) but they were continually drawn back together to the extent that they even divorced in 1939 but remarried in 1940.

Frida’s passion also extended to politics where she was an active member of the Mexican Communist Party stating that

I’m convinced of my disagreement with the counterrevolution – imperialism – fascism – religions – stupidity – capitalism – and the whole gamut of bourgeois tricks – I wish to cooperate with the Revolution in transforming the world into a class-less one so that we can attain a better rhythm for the oppressed classes.”

Contradiction

Frida Kahlo was a mass of apparent contradiction, by which I mean that she more interested in her personal truth than in consistency.

Born on 6th July 1907, she often lied and said that she was born on 7th July 1910 (the start of the Mexican revolution) so that her birth would mirror the birth of Modern Mexico.   Yet her work and her personal style both drew deeply on the old folk traditions of Mexico, she embraced Mexicanidad, the idea of reclaiming pre-colonial Mexican culture and this is evident in her dress as well as her work.

She was an atheist and a communist and yet her work often featured religious iconography and was heavily influenced (particularly in the 1930s) by retablos or votive paintings – small, amateur paintings intended to thank the saints for their intervention in preventing a calamity.

Frida painted a number of portraits and self-portraits in the classic, colonial style but subverted the form by depicting the subject (often herself) as less beautiful than in reality, emphasising features such as her apparent mono-brow and moustache.

Resilience

I hear repeatedly that resilience is in short supply these days.  Frida Kahlo is a one woman lesson in strength of character, largely because everything she achieved was done against a backdrop of extreme pain.

Frida contracted polio at the age of six, leaving her right leg shorter and thinner than the left.  At eighteen she was involved in a traffic accident (a collision between a streetcar and the bus she was travelling on) and sustained serious spinal and pelvic injuries.  Her injuries prevented her from becoming a doctor but, during her initial recuperation, she took up painting and art became central to her existence.

“The only thing I know is I paint because I need to.”

Over the years she underwent multiple surgeries and was forced to wear medical corsets made of leather and steel, or plaster which was cast directly onto her body.  In her hospital bed, unable to sit or stand she would use a hand held mirror to enable her to paint intricate images on her corsets.  In this way she made them her own, rather than just an intrusive encumbrance.

She continued to paint even when her leg was amputated (she had gangrene in her foot) and when surgery went wrong leaving her with a deep infection.  Her work often depicted her as broken and yet, the work itself was a denial of her frailty.

Her trademark style of dress, which drew on folk culture, was also chosen because it was comfortable to wear and hid the worst of her injuries because she refused to allow her physical condition to define her.

I should, at this point, also point out that Frida Kahlo swore, told ribald jokes and had multiple affairs. She took an excess of opiates to manage her pain and drank excessively,

“I drank to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learnt how to swim.”  

Her final days were spent, bedridden, with bronchopneumonia and she died aged 47, officially of a pulmonary embolism although there was no autopsy and it is strongly believed that she took a deliberate overdose of her pain medication.

But role models are not supposed to be saints.  None of us can or should aspire to that level of perfection  For me, Frida Kahlo will always be a role model for being real, for her passion, her apparently contradictory nature and first and foremost for her resilience.

The Frida Kahlo Exhibition: Making Herself Up, is on at the V & A until 4th November.  Tickets are sold out but a small number are released each morning when the museum opens at 10.00 a.m.  I recommend getting there early to be in with a chance.

Perseverance – Mastering the Monkey Bars

play park equipment monkey bars with childs hand for perseverance mastering the monkey barsThis weekend I was taught an important lesson in perseverance – by a six year old.

My life seems to be full of new activities at the moment.  I have course designs to work on, not a new skill in itself, but I am looking at ways to build in technology.  I want to create remote content, video resources and digital hangouts for delegates.  This is a challenging area of development for me and is taking me a long way out of my comfort zone.  It would be really easy to give up and do things the way I always have in the past, especially as these changes may be challenging for my delegates too.

Beyond work I am learning Tai Chi.  I really want to master the form and I know that this will take years of perseverance and hard work.  But it is hard to make the time to practice.  It is challenging to keep on failing at the same point, to discover that, even when you think you have a movement approximately right, one hand is still the wrong way up.

Over the weekend I got to hang out with my six year old granddaughter.  We went to the play park with friends and after racing around the swings and slides with the other children she tried the monkey bars.  Having recently managed to swing across the monkey bars at her local park she approached with confidence, but these were different.  These weren’t solid bars, they were handles on the end of ropes so that they swung as she did.  (They probably have a name but, if they do, I have no idea what it is!)

These handles were just out of her reach so she applied some problem solving skills but, despite balancing on a nearby slack wire and a convenient tree stump, she still couldn’t reach.  Eventually she asked for help and I gave her the leg up she needed to reach.  She fell off.  I gave her a leg up again and she fell off – again.  On one occasion she caught her foot on the slack wire as she fell and she face planted (thank goodness for rubberised play surfaces).  She went off to play on the climbing frame for a while but I could see her eyeing up the monkey bars.  She came back and tried again.  She must have tried 20 times or more.  She still hadn’t mastered this skill by time we left but I know that she will next time, or the time after that…

On the way home I told her that I was impressed and she told me that perseverance is one of her school values.  I told her that perseverance is one of my values too.

I have been asked many times why I always need to challenge myself, why I am not kinder to myself, as if giving up (or not starting in the first place) is a kindness.  For me, it is not.  I cannot explain the joy I feel when I achieve something that I found difficult, the sheer pleasure of learning a new skill and seeing the results is worth the hours of pain and the occasional face plant.

This is why I will make time to practice Tai Chi.  This is why I will build technology into my workshops.  However, I will also remember the importance of that initial leg up.  So I will keep going to Tai Chi class to learn more and get feedback on my progress and I will seek a mentor to help with the technology.

If perseverance is one of your values and you would like a leg up or some feedback on your progress, please get in touch by clicking the button below.

Thanks for reading.

I want to master the monkey bars!

The Wonderful Women of the Port Eliot Festival

photos.porteliotfestival.com

Last week Mr. Yellow Dot and I took some time out to relax and enjoy the Port Eliot Festival.  I thought it was just a holiday and I didn’t expect to blog about it for Yellow Dot Women but it turned out to be an incredibly inspiring few days and, this year, it was especially inspiring if you are a woman.

Port Eliot is, in the organisers’ own words, a celebration of “words, music, imagination, ideas, nature, food, fashion, flowers, laughter, exploration, fun and all that is good in the world!”  Women featured strongly in all those categories.

Today’s blog is my own tribute to the wonderful, inspiring women of the Port Eliot Festival.

“The Cinemateque” was an area curated by Women Under the Influence and The Violet Book and was dedicated to the important role of women in film.  This was not particularly about actors but gave space to women filmmakers, journalists, activists and producers and allowed us to view the world of film through the female lens.  A highlight for me was a discussion with Nimco Ali and Lily Cole who were exploring ways of using film to bring about social change.  Nimco is director and founder of Daughters of Eve, a non-profit organisation that works to protect girls and young women who are at risk from female genital mutilation (FGM) and Lily Cole is a model, actor, activist and author.  Their discussion included a showing of Lily’s powerful short film “Lights in Dark Places” about the refugee crisis in Greece.

I felt incredibly privileged to sit in on a discussion about the suffragettes featuring Helen Pankhurst and Antonia Raeburn.  Helen is the great granddaughter of Emmmeline and granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst, she is, herself, a women’s rights campaigner and the author of Deeds not Words – the story of women’s rights then and now.  Antonia is the author of The Militant Suffragettes and the last remaining woman to have personally known many of them and to have made recordings of their voices, some of which we heard.  This year, the 100th anniversary of some women getting the right to vote, has been an opportunity to reflect on that great achievement and to focus on what still needs to be done in the drive to equality – this discussion reinforced the need for more action and inspired (in me at least) the desire to put that agenda front and centre.  At the end of the discussion it was particularly gratifying to hear a young girl (I am guessing pre-teen) in the audience ask “what can I do to make a difference?”

There were women poets and authors aplenty, discussing their books, reading their work, running workshops and generally entertaining and informing their audiences.  Stand outs for me were Vanessa Kisuule for her exuberant personality, her confidence and her honesty as well as her way with words and Vanessa Tait talking about Victorian women and drugs (did you know that Victorian women could buy little bottles of Heroin at the pharmacy – it was used as a cough syrup, to treat headaches and just as a “pick me up”?)

On the main stage (The Park), Shappi Khorsandi proved that (contrary to some opinions) women really can be very funny indeed – and if she inspired you there was even a workshop on how to be a stand-up comedian.

If you have ever considered women to be the weaker sex then you needed to see Lola – from the Cradle of Flamenco, (a tribute to and celebration of Lola Flores, a legendary flamenco artist) where the female dancer demonstrated phenomenal, strength and skill – easily as much as her male counterpart.  If more evidence of strength and physical ability was needed the midnight trapeze artists provided it every night (and gave lessons in the day time).

Those with musical ambitions would not have been short of inspiration with some incredibly talented women artists playing on stages all over the festival site.  My own personal favourites were Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band who are, according to their website, “a banjo-whacking, guitar-shredding, fiddle-sawing, foot-stomping, whiskey-soaked, all-female assault on the senses” and I have no argument at all with that description.  I also loved Hat Fitz and Cara – Cara’s stunning voice (and excellent drumming and flute/whistle/washboard playing) is complemented perfectly by a personality the size of a house.  I couldn’t talk about the female musicians at Port Eliot and not mention Naomi Holmes, the very talented bass player with William the Conqueror.  I have known Naomi since she was eleven years old when she and my daughter and other assorted friends would make music together in each others houses.  Over that time I have watched her work incredibly hard – not to be “idly famous” but to hone her skills as a musician.  It was a privilege to watch her (and the rest of the band) perform in the walled garden.

My apologies to all those wonderful women I didn’t mention – those I saw and those I missed.  I would love to go back and do it all again in different tents with different speakers and performers – but I guess I’ll just have to wait until next year…

It would be disingenuous of me to talk about the festival without mentioning some of the many wonderful men involved – I was privileged to hear and meet Billy Bragg (a long time hero of mine) and to attend a writing workshop with the immensely talented Wyl Menmuir.  The previously mentioned Cara does not perform alone and her musical partnership with Hat Fitz produces something magical that neither of them would produce alone.

This was not a women’s festival but this is a blog for women so of course my focus is on the wonderful women of the Port Eliot Festival.  I genuinely believe that all women, but young women in particular, need strong female role models and I found them at Port Eliot in abundance.  So, if you want to be inspired, to be provoked to think,  perhaps you should consider attending a festival this summer – take your daughters too – you never know who they might grow up to be.