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Reclaim Blackpool hosts International Women’s Day festival

Reclaim Blackpool, the campaign against public sexual harassment, is joining forces with friends and organisations across Blackpool to present a weekend festival of events to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Over International Women’s Day weekend Reclaim Blackpool, the grassroots activism project for women’s safety, is hosting three days of events that celebrate Blackpool women and their stories.

Over the past two and a half years women have been sharing their personal stories of public sexual harassment and plotting them on a map as a strong visual reminder of the threats of violence women face every day. Reclaim has also been hosting events that hold space for women and a strong community of activists, creatives and supportive venues and organisations has formed around it.

Over IWD weekend Reclaim is teaming up with HIVEArts, Central Library, Showtown, Aunty Social, Bootleg Social, the Friends of Layton Cemetery and other independent businesses and creatives to draw together a festival of events that celebrate women and their stories.

Action needs to be taken. I now refuse to be silent and will do whatever I can to make Blackpool a safer place for women.

On the evening of Women’s Day itself, Friday 8th March, Reclaim will be at HIVEArts Alternative Gallery for the opening night of its International Women’s Day exhibition. Women By Women showcases fine art, sculpture, ceramics, print, photography, textiles and more from over 40 Blackpool artists.

Alice Potter is a fashion designer and Reclaim Blackpool activist who will be displaying work from her Cry Baby Club collection at HIVE.

“For as long as I can remember being a woman, specifically an expressively emotional woman, has been represented as a flaw. When I created Cry Baby Club it was my way of challenging this mindset and creating something full of beauty and celebration.

Alice Potter models a dress from her Cry Baby collection

“I’m very proud to be a part of Reclaim Blackpool Women’s Group which works tirelessly on behalf of women and girls who have experienced sexual harassment and sexual assault. It’s unusual to meet a woman who has not had some kind of experience of this, with the majority of it starting from a very young age. Action needs to be taken. I now refuse to be silent and will do whatever I can to make Blackpool a safer place for women.”

The exhibition is open from 6-9pm and there will be guest speakers and musicians. Reclaim will then be hosting private drinks at queer hotel Ferny House.

On Saturday 9th March, from 10.30am-3pm, Aunty Social is running bookable hour-long workshops where participants will sew Political Pockets to be added to their clothes. This recognition that the pocket is political will allow women to keep their hands free for more patriarchy smashing.

Meanwhile at Central Library, from 1-3pm, Reclaim will host a talk in collaboration with Showtown where they will uncover the hidden stories of Blackpool women in history. Reclaim Women in History will share the stories of Alice Fenton who was the first female director of Jaguar cars, Railway Queen Audrey Mosson, tennis pro Rita Bentley, Blackpool’s first female mayor Jean Robinson and others. After the visitors will be invited to take the mic and tell us about inspirational women from Blackpool they know about – whether she was a trailblazer, a community champion or your granny, Reclaim wants to hear her story and celebrate her life.

Back at Aunty Social from 4-7pm women are invited into a safe, gentle space to Craft, Chill and Chat. Textile artwork from the We’re Sew Done project will be on display, in which more than 20 female crafters came together to create powerful work in response to the stories of sexual harassment plotted on reclaimblackpoolmap.co.uk. Dirty Blondes will be providing pizza while female-born drag queen and make-up artist Ava King Cynosure will also be hosting a make-up station for anyone who fancies an evening glow up.

From 7pm on Saturday the Skate Like A Gal collective will host one of their famous fundraisers for Reclaim Blackpool at Bootleg Social. SLAG aims to reclaim skate spots for women as well as the derogatory language used against female skaters. They have been working closely with Reclaim for over a year on their shared aims of making Blackpool a safe place for women.

Reclaim SLAG will present live music from A.L.M.O.R.A, Imogen Evans and Daisy Atkinson followed by a raffle (big and rubbish prizes to be won) and a funky DJ set from Blackpool’s fiercest femme DJ dance and drag collective Her House.

On Sunday 10th March, from 2-4pm, Reclaim is joining forces with the Friends of Layton Cemetery for a Memorial to Murdered Women. Deborah Contessa has worked tirelessly over the past few years to research the graves at the historical Layton cemetery. Many notable Blackpool figures are buried there but Joan Long, Madge Leadbetter, Elizabeth Shaw, Mary Starr, Alice Burnham and Sarah Toomey’s burials were unceremonious. Each of them was killed by their nefarious husband and buried without a headstone.

Deborah has located their unmarked graves and researched their lives. Reclaim will honour these women whose lives were cut tragically short by violent men by hearing their stories, reading poems and laying candles and flowers on their graves.

Later women and dogs will meet at 6pm on Sunday at North Pier for Good Boy – a women only dog walk. Kelly from naughty dog treat brand BasicBxtch will lead this stroll along the prom with the goodest boys and girls.

Kelly has been hosting Good Boy walks since last summer and now has a growing community of women and dogs who meet weekly for walks around Blackpool. They head out in the evening when many female dog owners will avoid walking alone, finding safety and support in numbers.

Booking is necessary for some of the events but for most you can just turn up. The events are free or pay what you feel and all donations are welcome. For more information on each of the events and information on how to book visit: linktr.ee/ReclaimIWD. Main image: artwork by Kate Dorn for We’re Sew Done, photographed by Claire Griffiths.

Full programme of events


FRIDAY 8TH MARCH

Women by Women: art exhibition
HIVE Alternative Gallery, 80-82 Church Street

6pm-9pm
Come along to the opening night of this exhibition showcasing fine art, sculpture, ceramics, print, photography, textiles and more from 40+ Blackpool women. Live music and speakers.

Private drinks
Ferny House, 289 Promenade

9.30pm-late
Head down to the Ferny for post-exhibition private drinks and funky vibes.

SATURDAY 9TH MARCH

Political Pockets Sewing Workshop
Aunty Social, 28 Topping Street

10.30am-3pm
A series of hour-long workshops running throughout the day. Make glorious pockets to sew into our clothes so that we can keep our hands free for more patriarchy-smashing!

Women in History
Central Library

1pm-3pm
Settle in with tea and cakes as we present a talk uncovering the hidden stories of Blackpool women in history. After the talk we invite you to share your own stories of inspirational women in your lives. In collaboration with Showtown.

Craft, Chat & Chill
Aunty Social, 28 Topping Street

4pm-7pm
Join us for chats, gentle simple crafts and pizza. Textile art work from our We’re Sew Done project will be on display. A chance to chill out and recharge in a safe space before party time. Ava King Cynosure will be running a make-up station for anyone who fancies an evening glow up.

Reclaim SLAG
Bootleg Social

7pm-late
Skate Like A Gal collective host one of their famous fundraisers for Reclaim Blackpool. Live music from A.L.M.O.R.A, Imogen Evans and Daisy Atkinson followed by a raffle (big and rubbish prizes to be won) and a funky DJ set from Blackpool’s fiercest femme DJ dance and drag collective Her House.

SUNDAY 10TH MARCH

Memorial to Murdered Women
Layton Cemetery

2pm-4pm
Deborah Contessa from the Friends of Layton Cemetery will lead us to the unmarked graves of six murdered women and sharing their stories. We will honour their lives by reading poems and tributes to them before laying tealights and flowers.

Good Boy – Women’s Dog Walk
North Pier

6pm-7pm
Kelly from BasicBxtch (naughty treats for good dogs) leads this women-only dog walk. Stroll along the prom with the goodest boys and girls. Women without dogs are welcome to join because we all know misogyny is dog shit!

Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
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