Sharon, Jo, Samina, Ann, Marilyn, Helen, solo pictures smiling

PART 2 - CELEBRATING SOME OF THE EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN IN MANCHESTER FOR #IWD

We've been lucky enough to cross paths with amazing individuals inside our building and around Greater Manchester. To mark #IWD we contacted a selection of fierce women and asked them some questions around how we can all be advocates for equality, and how creativity can help to #BreakTheBias. Check out the three-part blog below to see their responses. 

Sharon Raymond

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what do you do?

I was a teenage parent, who is passionate about the arts. Spent over 30 years working in the venues employed and also freelance, I give advice to venues on their Equality and Diversity, Marketing and community engagement. I love giving people opportunities to access spaces that they think are not for them. I also love mentoring, sharing my knowledge and experiences. I am currently Project Manager for Culture for Our Communities part-time.

TW SHARON RAYMOND

International Women's Day is championing the #BreakTheBias – how do you think theatre/creativity can help to do that?

Employing more female directors CEO and programmers. Female only projects, festivals of work, etc.

What can we all do more of to advocate for equality?

Everyone needs to be treated the same, listened to and respected, it shouldn't be about job titles.

What steps do you take to help you to create an inclusive environment in your work/school/community?

Being present, checking in with the underrepresented individuals and communities and being the voice for the people who are not able to be part of the conversation.

What three top tips would you choose to pass on to other women so that they can get the most out of 2022?

  • Manifest your journey
  • Selfcare
  • Ask for help

Tell us about a woman that inspires you?

My Mum, she left her children in the Caribbean and came to this country in the 60s to build a better life for herself, she worked in factories and then for the NHS and has never had a hand out from the government. She suffered racism but was strong and continued on her journey, having me and my brother, also managing to save money to send for the rest of her children. Even though she’s been through a lot healthwise she’s survived my dad and my stepdad.

Kath Locke (1928-1992) mixed-race British community Leader and political activist based in Manchester. Active in moss side community politics, she help to establish the George Jackson house for homeless children in 1973. Co-founder of the Abasindi co-operative, a community organisation run by Black women in the 80s. It was a hub for educational and cultural programs for the local African and Afro- Caribbean communities. The Kath Locke Centre in Moss Side is named after her.


Jo Taylor

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what do you do?

My day job is advising Private Equity Funds on the tax implications of their investments in fast-growth UK-headquartered businesses. I’m also a school governor at Marcus Rashford’s old primary school in Wythenshawe, a newly-appointed trustee of the Royal Exchange Theatre and mum to three amazing small children.

TW JO TAYLOR

International Women's Day is championing the #BreakTheBias – how do you think theatre/creativity can help to do that?

My 7-year-old daughter has seen a female Prime Minister, a woman develop a Covid vaccine, and two women present Strictly Come Dancing. She thinks women can do anything. She loves girl bands, female rock stars and musicals with strong female characters, like Matilda, Annie and Six. Art plays a part in breaking down stereotypes. You can’t be what you can’t see.

What can we all do more of to advocate for equality?

Don't be a bystander; call out discrimination when we see it. If you’re in a meeting and someone repeatedly speaks over a woman then speak out. Call out things like catcalling and offensive "banter”. If someone is uncomfortable then it’s not funny.

What steps do you take to help you to create an inclusive environment in your work/school/community?

I was chair of the women’s network at a former employer. True inclusion means wholeheartedly embracing different perspectives, approaches and points of view.

What three top tips that you would choose to pass on to other women so that they can get the most out of 2022?

  • Curate your social media feed: hide accounts that make you sad or angry, life is too short
  • Volunteer for something on a regular basis: you meet interesting people, learn new skills and feel good about yourself
  • Don’t underestimate the impact of exercise for making you feel great. I always hate going out for a run but feel amazing afterwards

Tell us about a woman that inspires you? 

Jess Phillips for the courageous way she stands up for victims of violence and abuse. On International Women’s Day each year, she reads out a list of women killed by male violence. She’s trying to create real change.


Samina Ali

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what do you do?

An award-winning Radio Presenter, Samina is a successful Freelance  Producer / Executive  Engagement Consultant  working with underrepresented  communities, in particular  -South Asian communities. Her successful career began in media, as a presenter and producer for a number of independent commercial radio and television production companies & Mainstream BBC, Channel 4 & ITV. Rapidly moving on to work for Nynex, Granada and Channel 4, time at the BBC led her to produce, research and present a range of current affairs programmes and the production and research of documentaries such as – Great  British Islam BBC ONE, Divine Women, Channel 4 The Men with Many Wives & Rich Kids Go Skint.

The successful response of Samina’s  work has led to addressing the development of cultural diversity, working with a range of local authorities and commissioned projects for cross-sector organisations including Creative Arts such as The Royal Exchange Theatre, The Lowry, Oldham Coliseum & Manchester International Festival working on Audience Development & Strategy. A Recent commission to inform & shape the national strategy for the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out amongst minority communities across the UK. The success of this campaign was shared with senior No. 10 advisors & Whitehall, and the toolkit created by Samina was implemented UK-wide.

A mum to 2 incredible children.

TW SAMINA ALI

International Women's Day is championing the #BreakTheBias – how do you think theatre/creativity can help to do that?

With diverse programming, the theatre space can provide opportunities for women who are underrepresented to create pieces highlighting & exploring stories, experiences, issues that will help break the bias. Being visible in such spaces will empower women's creativity to flourish & be recognised for who they are.

What can we all do more of to advocate for equality?

Create opportunities for underrepresented women, produce a diverse programme that will allow discussion and change within any workspace.

What steps do you take to help you to create an inclusive environment in your work/school/community?

Be committed to improving and changing your work/school/community. Help to support challenge bias stereotypes, create a space to recognise & celebrate the social-economic & cultural diversity achievements by women.

What three top tips would you choose to pass on to other women so that they can get the most out of 2022?

  • Self-care, wellbeing – Love yourself
  • Stay authentic!
  • Never give up on your goal/dream

Tell us about a woman that inspires you? 

My mother – An incredible woman whose journey started from Nairobi to the North -Uk. A pioneer who created safe spaces for women in the early 70s and campaigned tirelessly for equality, in particular, marginalised women. A teacher, community ambassador, a leader, a humble grassroots passionate changemaker who inspired many and ignited my inner love for always giving back to society and creating a difference. Amee – ( mother in Urdu)


Ann Sarge

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what do you do?

Before taking early retirement. I worked for the NHS, working therapeutically with traumatised people. I then decided to travel around India, Vietnam and Cambodia.

TW ANN SARGE

International Women's Day is championing the # BreakTheBias – how do you think theatre/creativity can help to do that?

It is so important to Honour and embrace diversity. To celebrate difference. To be inclusive.

What can we all do more of to advocate for equality?

Being aware of our own biases. Reflecting on our own stereotypes, prejudices and discriminations. Educate ourselves. Creating an inclusive culture for everybody. Respecting cultural and racial differences.

What steps do you take to help you to create an inclusive environment in your work/school/community?

Mutal respect. Clear communication. Creating an inclusive environment where all people from cultural orientations can freely express who they are, their own opinions and points of view.

What three top tips that you would choose to pass on to other women so that they can get the most out of 2022?

  • Be your own person
  • Be independent
  • Stand Strong and have a voice 

Tell us about a woman that inspires you?

I have the greatest admiration for the Rock and Roll Singer Tina Turner. She has an amazing sultry voice. I admire her emotional, psychological and physical strength. Tina is a survivor. Tina is SIMPLY THE BEST.


Marilyn Hinson

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what do you do?

My name is Marilyn (Mally) Hinson. I have two children and three grandchildren. I am an actor and I sing with a Jazz/Blues band. I am also a member of the Elders Company at the Royal Exchange. I live in Unsworth, Bury.

TW MARILYN HINSON

International Women's Day is championing the # BreakTheBias – how do you think theatre/creativity can help to do that?

Challenging stereotyping. Increasing opportunities and championing women creatives.

What can we all do more of to advocate for equality?

Push for gender education in schools. Question the gender status quo at every opportunity.

What steps do you take to help you to create an inclusive environment in your work/school/community?

I volunteer at a community hub with people of all ages and walks of life, where an inclusive environment is of paramount importance. People are treated as individuals, regardless of gender etc. We create groups, sessions and workshops in direct response to clients' requests and needs. Encouraging respectful discussion.

What three top tips that you would choose to pass on to other women so that they can get the most out of 2022?

  • Call out bias when we see it
  • Be mindful of stereotyping we pass on to children, in how we behave and speak
  • Be brave and not tolerate what feels wrong

Tell us about a woman that inspires you?

A woman who totally inspires me is my niece, Dionne Doherty. She has created, from scratch, something amazing in Tyldesley called COMPLETE KINDNESS. The success of which is staggering. Dionne has spent all her (and her husband’s) savings setting up the Community Centre and Café, choosing the name COMPLETE KINDNESS because she wants to ‘show up' for as many people as she can. She became a psychotherapist a few years ago so she feels she is in a position to do the most she possibly can to help.

Dionne would never, ever, ‘give up’ on anyone. She struggles with mental health and has done for most of her life, but if there is someone who needs her, she will try her very best to be there for them. She never judges others and always sees the light within them. She says that forgiveness is easy when you realise that we all doing the best we can. She believes that if we recognise the difficult times as a way to cultivate ‘super powers’ we're able to empathise and support others once we have healed. 

Dionne believes we all have a purpose and I can honestly say that I have witnessed her changing lives. The effect of the warm and unconditional regard she has for everybody is palpable. She has crafted her profession out of her lived experiences. Making sense of life and all that she has been through and the gifts she has been given. That is what she would like for others therefore she tries to lead by example, upholding this philosophy.

She has named her organisation COMPLETE KINDNESS because she believes that is what we all need to heal.


Helen Kerr

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what do you do?

I retired from lecturing 15 years ago and moved back to Manchester from Cumbria. From a very young age, the theatre has been my joy and my delight. Living in the city centre, I have been able to enjoy many different performances at all the theatres nearby.

TW HELEN KERR

 International Women's Day is championing the # BreakTheBias – how do you think theatre/creativity can help to do that? 

Theatre can create drama that challenges the status quo. This could be new writing or interpreting established work in a different way. Theatre ticket prices which are affordable to everyone help as well.

What can we all do more of to advocate for equality? 

Question our friends and family’s attitudes and try to encourage a different point of view.

What steps do you take to help you to create an inclusive environment in your work/school/community?

I organise a film discussion group which meets once a month. We choose at least 3 current films to watch at the cinema. I belong to a reading group and I prefer the new novels, especially ones which deal with problems in society, plus I am fascinated by international mores round about the 2nd World War.

What three top tips that you would choose to pass on to other women so that they can get the most out of 2022?

  • Think about your own place in society and try to ensure you are treated equally
  • Take pride in your achievements, feel pleasure in doing something well
  • Look after your health, energy and general well being

Tell us about a woman that inspires you?

Maya Angelou has inspired me since I first read her poem Phenomenal Woman about being female. She overcame so many trials and tribulations during her life but she rose to become an icon for so many women.


Did you enjoy these interviews?

Have a read of Part 1 and Part 3 here.

You might recognise some more of these extraordinary women with important things to say.