Women Aloud NI | Event Preview
Venues across Northern Ireland • International Women’s Day • Thursday 08 March ’18
By Elizabeth McGeown
Women Aloud Northern Ireland (WANI) first began as an idea of Jane Talbot’s in late 2015 when she had the dual realisations that there were no large-scale, province-wide events set to mark International Women’s Day in Northern Ireland and also that writers in NI were being overlooked by Irish anthologies and the Irish writing community at large; with women being further marginalised within this subset. The only solution was for Talbot to host an event herself and to find the right people for that: to form a community. Calls went out on the internet for women writers either resident or born in NI and many answered the call. Over the next two years, Women Aloud NI membership exploded to include poets, travel writers, science fiction and fantasy authors and writers of historical fiction in a coming together of a community that transcended genre and that existed purely to provide support and spread the word about women writers in Northern Ireland.
Talbot, author of The Faerie Thorn and Other Stories (Blackstaff Press, 2015), explains: “Since setting up Women Aloud NI in December 2015, the organisation has gone from strength to strength. March 2018 will see our third annual celebration of local women writers, with 11 events in Northern Ireland, and a day-long series of events run in partnership with the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin. One of the best things about these events for me is getting to meet other writers face-to-face. Strong bonds and friendships have been created as we’ve read together and discussed our work together. It’s these bonds and friendships that help to create the vibrancy and energy in our community – and it’s that vibrancy and energy which helps us to keep working to raise the profile of women writers.” Suitably, the theme for International Women’s Day 2018 is #Pressforprogress with WANI pressing forward to increase their audience by announcing they exist and that women’s writing – no longer as hidden – is a real force for movement within NI. (Click on the image below for Colum Arbuckle’s Time of our Lives programme with guests Jane Talbot)
It’s not unusual to see a WANI event pop up in a local festival: both the Belfast Book Festival and the C. S. Lewis festival have held WANI events since the group’s creation but the heart of their work always has been the call to arms for International Women’s Day. Always falling on 08 March; this year that date is on a Thursday and is marked by events right across Northern Ireland: all free, all welcome and all centred around members reading their work. “Women Aloud NI are thrilled with the 2018 events in March. There is such a range: from readathons to a coach trip to Dublin and the Irish Writers Centre, in a whole host of places.” adds Jo Zebedee, Chair of WANI and writer of sci-fi novel Inish Carraig (2015). Belfast itself has two events: lunchtime at the Eastside Visitors’ Centre from 11am-1pm and the flagship event at Eason, Donegall Place at 7pm which will host two busy stages during late-night shopping. Events are also taking place in Bangor Library, Blakes Of The Hollow in Enniskillen, Warrenpoint Library and Waterstones, Coleraine to name but a few. Every nook and cranny that would comfortably hold an event has been booked for what’s sure to be a day full of creativity.
Co-ordinator of the Bangor Library event Liz Weir sums up what her involvement in WANI means to her: “As any writer will tell you, it’s a solitary pursuit. The chance to interact with other women writers especially in a place where male writers always seem to be given greater prominence is one that I relished from the outset. As Storyteller in Residence for Libraries NI for the past two years, I felt that the network of over 90 libraries could help promote Women Aloud. Last year I hosted three very successful events on the day itself and this year I am delighted to be returning to Bangor where we have a fantastically talented lineup of poets, prose writers and at least one storyteller! WANI shows how we women writers can get out there and make our voices heard – solidarity!”
So if you fancy anything from fairy tales about leprechauns, a novel extract detailing an alien invasion, teen fiction with a Belfast flavour and poems about what it means to be a woman today, call into your nearest WANI event on 08 March. As the group are always keen to remind us: men, women and children are all welcome in the audience!
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