Women of Bedford host free talks celebrating International Women’s Day

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Based around a theme of ‘Educate and Celebrate’, the volunteer-led organisation, Women of Bedford, have curated a programme of activities leading up to International Women’s Day on 8 March.

Beginning on Monday (1 March), a programme of free talks will run from 1 – 6 March highlighting the work, stories and achievements of some of the extraordinary women in Bedford today.

Some of the talks will focus on the unique challenges of the global Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, some are business focussed but all are shared experiences of women in Bedford. All of the talks will have sign language interpretation.

“We wanted to reflect our plans to raise funds for a statue of Amy Walmsley (an amazing woman in Bedford’s past) by showcasing some of the wealth of amazing women that live in Bedford right now,” said Women of Bedford organiser, Chiara Mac Call.

“The point of a statue that celebrates the achievements of a woman is to redress an existing imbalance, but that imbalance exists, at least in part, because historically we have valued and uplifted certain people and narratives over others.

“The talks are a great way to challenge that historical legacy right here and now, in a way that is relevant to people today and models the change we want to see in public art.”

Grassroots evolution of the Media
Monday 1 March @ 7.30pm

Founder of Bedford Radio, Anita Powell, and Bedford Independent’s co-founder, Erica Roffe, will be discussing how grassroots independent outlets are leading to an evolution of local media.

Being Deaf: So much more than not being able to hear
Tuesday 2 March @ 1pm

Catherine Wright is one of the founders of Access Bedford, a local charity that champions and supports the deaf community. Catherine will talk about what it is to be a deaf woman.

The Objective Friend: How a mentor can help you discover your unique path
Wednesday 3 March @ 1pm

Liz Toogood uses her knowledge, expertise and business background to mentor women in Bedford. She explains why having a mentor can help you discover your own path in life and maximise your potential.

Creating Memories
Thursday 4 March @ 7pm

From concept to reality: how self-belief and purpose drove Pritti Saggi to create her charity, Creating Memories, and the challenges she faced on the way.

No One Left Behind: Community response to the pandemic
Friday 5 March @ 7.30pm

Women who volunteer with Queens Park Community Organisation talk about the importance of projects they’ve been involved in during the pandemic.

Creativity and Loss: Finding a path through the pandemic
Saturday 6 March @ 7.30pm

Four Bedford women who work in the arts (Kris Wilkinson-Hughes, Jo Hudson-Lett, Sharon Edwards and Chiara Mac Call) talk about the benefits of staying creative during the pandemic and how those intersect with gender and loss.

Women of Bedford and a statue of Amy Walmsley

The Women of Bedford group came together when a group of local women realised that despite a wealth of strong, high-achieving women in Bedford’s history, not one of the 11 existing statues in Bedford is of a woman. This is echoes a national problem.

Women of Bedford believe representation matters and want to redress the underrepresentation of women in public art in Bedford.

They are raising funds to install the first statue in the town which celebrates a woman and have picked educational reformer, suffragist and politician Amy Walmsley.

Amy Walmsley statue
An artist’s impression of the proposed statue of Amy Walmsley

However, they feel that the stories of the many and diverse women of our town cannot be summed up by one statue. For them Amy is a beginning, not an end.

The group are working with locals, schools and community groups to raise awareness of the amazing stories and achievements of Bedford women, past and present, to educate and inspire the next generation.

Women of Bedford have created a selection of downloadable materials to encourage children to find out more about Amy Walmsley and to identify and celebrate today’s women of Bedford. You can download it from their website here.

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