2019 with Girl Gang Manchester · By Lea Heim
There is no doubt that the election results have brought a downing and distressing end to the year. Even more reason for us to focus on the good things of 2019 and to embrace the strength of our community.
After the 2008 recession, the society has been hit hard by Tories inflicted austerity, naturally affecting the ones with the least resources the most. Research has found that women are shouldering 86 per cent of the burden of cuts to public spending. The impact of austerity measures on women’s lives is threefold. For one thing, women are using more public services and are the majority of welfare benefit recipients. This is because they are more likely to be poor, as a consequence of structural disadvantages and a looser attachment to the labour market which links to their traditional role as unpaid carers. Secondly, women make up the majority of the public-sector labour force. Therefore, the cuts to public spending have sent many women into unemployment or low-paid and temporary job positions. And thirdly, women are more likely to make up for lost services by increasing the amount of unpaid care work looking after elderly, disabled or young family members. Evidently, women of colour and ethnic minorities face persistent structural inequalities in employment, health care, housing and education, meaning that they have been disproportionately affected by the cuts.
Boris Johnson associated himself with the excesses of Thatcherism by commenting that ‘some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy’, an attitude that we as Girl Gang strongly reject. It says in our manifesto that another person’s success is not your failure and we believe that our strength lies in supporting and learning from each other. So we started the year off with our Trivial Women Pub Quiz where we collected loads of donations for Emmeline’s Pantry, a food bank run by women for women. In the second round, we supported Every Month Manchester, which provide period packs to people who are experiencing homelessness and poverty. If you are not sure yet where to send your Christmas donation to, these two are great options.
While Brexit has an isolationist element to it on a societal level, Britain has been fighting loneliness and isolation on an individual basis as well. About 9 million people report to often or always feeling lonely. To tackle the social and health issues caused by social isolation, a minister of loneliness was appointed in 2018. While our modern social media-heavy lifestyle may partially contribute to isolation, the cutbacks in public services have been a key factor in the shutdown of places like community centres, libraries and local groups, which actively work against segregation and isolation. Trying to focus on the positive things, there are still a lot of people and groups that take initiative to fight back against the effects of austerity and try to make Manchester (and elsewhere) a better place.
At Girl Gang, we try to confront these issues with specific events, one of them being our popular Speed Mate-ing, which is open to people of all ages, genders, sexualities, ethnicities and class backgrounds and is basically a tinder for friends. Aiming to create a safer environment and to reduce barriers, we enable people to make new connections and friendships as fear-free as possible.
Nothing shows the spirit of a community and social cohesion better than a good celebration. Our parties in 2019 were as glittery, uplifting and fun as ever. At the Galentine’s Disco, which also happened to be our third birthday, we celebrated female friendship and lady love with dance routines, a friendship cupid, female fronted tunes and party games with a feminist twist. We also massively enjoyed our cross-generational Swinging Sisters Mother’s Day Disco, which was all about the 60s, Lucy’s diamonds and the Yellow Submarine.
Girl Gang is all about elevating and celebrating women in the arts and we are proud to look back on two all-female theatre productions in the past year. In May, we supported Unseemly Women at the Hope Mill Theatre. The four short plays were created by teams of female-identifying writers, directors and performers. Inspired by Shakespeare, they tackled the prevalent theme of female fragility and weakness of women by pointing to their actual resilience and robustness.
Involving a team of 25 women, we also ran a production of Hamlet with an all-female twist, which ran for two weeks and was a great success. You can watch a short film about the production here.
While the Prime Minister’s racism is showing an immediate effect with a rising number of reported racist insults that can be directly linked to Johnson’s comments, tough guy (!) leaders who undermine the principle of equality are elected to power in various countries around the globe. Arguing that they are protecting traditional values that represent family interests, they are actually pushing an agenda that denies women basic equality and dramatically diminishes the rights of marginalised groups and communities. They are trying to demonise already marginalised and vulnerable communities with misogynist, xenophobic, homophobic and transphobic bullying tactics that threaten hard-fought rights and freedoms.
Despite all these negatives, many local groups and civil society organisations are willing to invest a lot of effort into the wellbeing of their communities. And we are seeing women being at the forefront of fighting back against inequalities and injustices all around the world. The most recent inspiring example has been the feminist intervention ‘a rapist in your way’ by Chilean women that quickly spread out to countries all over the world.
Reminding ourselves of some of the wonderful things we have done in 2019 may lighten the weight of current world politics a little bit, though their direct consequences cannot be denied.
Despite all the depressing and challenging things that get in our way, we’ve had a great year thanks to our great community that is so empowering and supportive. We know that we cannot rely on the government to provide for us but we can provide for each other. In the upcoming year, please do pay attention to what’s happening around you, call out anyone slurring any kind of discriminative insults and offer extra support to anyone in need.
Thanks to everyone who came along to our events and made them so special. We’re wishing everyone exciting and recharging holidays and all the best for upcoming year! Some of you may have seen the exciting news that we received an Arts Council Funding for our most ambitious and biggest project yet. We’ll be announcing the details in the beginning of the New Year, so keep your eyes peeled and we hope to see you all again in 2020.
Lots of love from your Girl Gang!
If you need some inspiration for pastime during the holidays, here is an incomplete list of what we specifically liked in 2019.
*Charli XCX - Roll With Me
Live performances of Janelle Monáe and Lizzo
*The Edge of Democracy
*Knock the House Down
*Years and Years
*Bernardine Evaristo - Girl, Woman, Other
*Akwaeke Emezi - Freshwater
*Emilie Pine - Notes to Self
*Candice Carty - Williams: Queenie
*Mim Skinner – Jailbirds
*Dolly Parton’s America
*Authentic Sex with Juliet Allen
*How to Fail with Elizabeth Day