Opinion: why the Audacious Women Festival is daring and necessary
Women's voices should be celebrated and encouraged, says Rebecca Monks
Audacious is a difficult word to define. Sure, the dictionary says it means 'very confident and daring: very bold and surprising or shocking', but this isn't a deeply impersonal Best Man's speech at your third cousin's wedding, so starting off by quoting Webster's' definition isn't going to cut it.
Sally Wainwright, organiser of the first Audacious Women Festival in Edinburgh, believes it represents something unique to every individual. 'It means challenging convention - it means being courageous', she says. 'It means going a bit further than you think you could; breaking barriers. But what I love about the idea is that it's entirely inclusive, because every single woman has her own internal barriers, and my barriers will be completely different from yours.'
The festival was created so that daring women can smash these barriers down. For Sally, she felt that singing in public was a barrier she couldn't overcome (her unease was such that she couldn't even sing along to 'Happy Birthday'), and so as part of this festival, she decided to take singing lessons and perform in front of an audience. Audacious: defined perfectly.
The programme comprises a series of workshops, events and exhibitions, all designed to give women the freedom to do what they have not yet dared to do in life, or the things they feel they could never do. It includes everything from creative writing to photography and performance poetry, and women are encouraged to host their own events, because why not? Event hosting is pretty audacious in itself.
Highlights include a visual art event, where participants are encouraged to use photography to envisage statues in Edinburgh that should be erected in honour of deserving women (Muriel Spark for example); Morna Burdon's spoken word event exploring female activists throughout history; an introduction to breakdancing, and a graffiti workshop.
Any event where attendees can learn new creative skills is valuable, and this one is essential. In a time when women are still struggling to close the pay gap, when sexism is still a big issue, and discrimination based on gender is by no means a thing of the past, women who want to learn new skills should be encouraged and supported.
Not to say that learning to breakdance or sing will change the greater social issues surrounding equality, but the ethos here is solid: women being encouraged to break out of their comfort zone to contribute something new and positive to the world is another step forward, another way to make sure that women's voices are not only heard, but encouraged and celebrated.
By hosting this festival, organisers are telling women to be bold and develop their skill sets, because if gender equality is ever going to be truly achieved, it's going to take a lot of audacity indeed.
Audacious Women Festival runs until Mon 29 Feb, Various Venues, Edinburgh