March 8 2011 was the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. Amy Hall reports from Ctrl.Alt.Shift’s celebrations at Bristol’s Start The Bus…
The first International Women’s Day was established in 1911 when more than one million women and men attended rallies calling for women to have the right to vote, work and take an active part in public life.
Fast forward 100 years to 2011 and the day is still relevant; women are more likely to suffer lack of access to education, healthcare and employment. This is not just a problem in so called ‘developed’ countries; women in the UK are still under represented in parliament and more likely to be living in poverty.
Ctrl.Alt.Shift celebrated International Women’s Day in Bristol, collaborating with Bristol University Feminist Society to present a bill of inspiring female performers. The struggles of other women across the world is what inspires Sophie Bennett, the society’s president. “We really need to show solidarity with women all over the world”, she explained. “Its now more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in some areas of conflict so we really need to show support for those women as well as celebrating our collective achievements.”
Jonathan Godwin, 20, told us it was time to full recognise the achievements of women: “The heads of most companies, and even the head of the UN, are traditionally men. An obscenely high proportion of work and progress made in the world is made by women and not enough recognition is given to that.”
Start The Bus is slap bang in the middle of Bristol’s city centre, a dark and atmospheric venue with kitsch decorations and on March 8, it was packed with people ready to be inspired. There was a laid back, acoustic vibe to the night as 11 varied artists took to the stage; a healthy mix of originals and covers – songs by strong female artists like Tracy Chapman and Florence ad The Machine were big features, as well as insightful original tracks.
The intense and beautifully soulful voices of Rima Doal and Celestine, whose cover of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit caught the attention of the audience, were juxtaposed with Charlene, a woman who despite being a lone dancer communicated a whole lot of expression. Folky, sweet stories with ukuleles and guitars also got a look in with Esther Taylor and Jenna Fentiman. DST changed the pace, with two MCs and a DJ rapping over some mixes of hip hop tracks with conscious, original lyrics.
Stand up comic Elf did a short set of funny anecdotes from her life as a former model and writer of (bad) erotic fiction as well as her relationships with family and friends. We caught up with her after her performance and she told us how important she thinks gender equality is. “As a female comedian I want to be known not as a female comedian but as a good comic, especially in a world that is very constrained by whether you happen to be a male or a female.”
Mirelle El Malgrissy and Angela Morgan stripped it back with acoustic guitars and powerful voices, as did Becca Sanders who could sing a dictionary and make it sound full of emotion and insight. Lionheart headed up the evening armed with a banjo and wistful stories including one about a man who she should have realised was bad news by the way he treated his books.
The night was buzzing and full of talent. Natasha Kendrick, 23, is a student at Bristol UWE: “International Women’s Day celebrates all the talents that women have and that’s really been highlighted tonight by all the fantastic performers we’ve heard. It would be fascinating to be here again in 100 years and see how many more achievements we have to celebrate.”