The Female Line: building a community
The Female Line is a programme of events that provide space for women working in the creative sector to come together, connect, share and empower one another. Having set up the programme in partnership with Cardiff MADE at the start of 2022, it's growing from strength to strength with more partners coming on board, more events taking place, funding having been received to keep it running, and off shoots from the programme taking place. It's a programme I'm incredibly proud of. And the reason I think it's going so well, I believe, is because now more than ever communities are needed.
In the last few years, I've become so aware of the sense of community and its importance to me and others. Whether it's finding a community that represents you, having a sense of community within the place that you live, or finding a group of people that you can relate to. Community provides us with a sense of belonging and what it feels like to belong somewhere physical, emotional or metaphorical. Creating space for communities and bringing people together empowers its members and creates connections for people, in turn increasing well-being, resilience and happiness. Community is at the heart of Her Mark. and therefore, creating a programme of events and online spaces to bring women together has always been at the forefront of the programme of what we deliver.
In the last few years, I've become so aware of the sense of community and its importance to me and others. Whether it's finding a community that represents you, having a sense of community within the place that you live, or finding a group of people that you can relate to. Community provides us with a sense of belonging and what it feels like to belong somewhere physical, emotional or metaphorical. Creating space for communities and bringing people together empowers its members and creates connections for people, in turn increasing well-being, resilience and happiness. Community is at the heart of Her Mark. and therefore, creating programmes and spaces to bring women together has always been at the forefront of the of what we deliver.
Setting up my community
I had admired the work of Zoe Gingell and Cardiff MADE for years. On moving to Cardiff and setting Her Mark. up here I was excited to reach out to her and introduce myself. I did so to expand my own networks and to get a feel for what was happening in Cardiff. On meeting with Zoe, I instantly found a friend, someone who encouraged me, my ideas and was so supportive of my plans with Her Mark. I shared with Zoe the idea to create a space that was informal networking for women to come together, chat, meet and share, and Zoe was instantly supportive and recognised the need having wanted and needed a space for this herself. What came from that one conversation was all of a sudden, a three-month pilot project running monthly events that Zoe creatively entitled, 'The Female Line', chosen to represent the connections between us all and the network we share. The first event ran in January, followed by February and then another in April, all with the idea of testing this idea out and seeing if other women needed this space too. They did! We had women coming from all over South Wales to meet and attend the sessions. Zoe and I quickly realised that we weren't alone and the community and space that we needed was desperately needed by others too.
What happens at The Female Line events?
I have never liked networking. Growing up I was incredibly shy, but over the years I have grown in confidence. However, networking, going to a space I don't know and the expectation that others there know each other, and being in a room of strangers that you have to go and introduce yourself to still fills me with fear. The creeping sense of imposter syndrome kicks in and I run for the hills. Unsurprisingly, I'm not alone. So many in the creative industries are terrified of this thing that we're told is so important for us and our industry in regard to growing our networks. What I had never found was a space that I felt comfortable in enough to go to on my own and meet others. Therefore, I wanted The Female Line to be different and to be that space. Zoe and I decided to keep numbers purposefully low so that the group wasn't overwhelming. We decided to host it as though it was a group of friends coming together, welcoming everyone individually at the door and ensuring they knew what to expect. We provide food and drinks, which not only give us nourishment, but gives us something to do whilst others arrive so you're not standing around awkwardly. The space, Cardiff MADE is comfortable and cosy, creating an environment that feels like you're in someone's home. It's not a big, scary, seminar or conference. It's friendly and informal. Along with ensuring the space is suitable, and we're welcoming, the content of the events is important. Having guest speakers, who are women we find inspirational and are working on projects or initiatives that we want to share with others, provides a talking point for those who come. It creates a common ground and instead of being delivered in a presentation format, it allows for conversation and chats about the subject or ways we're all feeling or things we've experienced. As individuals we all bring our lives, emotions, circumstance into the space. So, to begin with we do a group welcome and check in. Hearing from others creates a shared sense of empowerment and support, creating links and shared experiences. Followed by which we have time to speak individually with the task of finding something in common with one another and physically creating the lines that connect us. Altogether, The Female Line events encourage you to step out of your comfort zone whilst being in a held and safe environment with other trusted women within your newly found community.
In the summer of 2022, Zoe and I applied for funding from Arts Council Wales through the Shared Together grant. The aim, to continue running The Female Line, whilst developing new partnerships in order to create specific groups for women of colour, and non-binary communities, having identified these communities as needing specific, relevant spaces with partners and venues that are relatable and appropriate for them. Amazing, we got the funding! From October, we will be setting these sessions up and sustaining the delivery of the programme, provided these invaluable spaces and places for women and those who identify as non-binary to come together, connect, share and inspire. We're now working with Queerdos and Ffotogallery to create these additional programmes. Alongside these events will be an online space for women* to share, connect and promote opportunities to the wider community of women*, whilst also having streamed versions of the talks that take place in the events enabling more to watch and potentially feel more confident to attend an event in person.
Guess what..... not only have we received funding from Arts Council Wales, but in the last week we found out that we've received additional funding from Comic Relief to continue running the programme, providing funding for us until the end of the summer 2023! Not only does this additional fund secure these events and space for women* and our new partnerships, but it's allowing us to develop smaller, even less formal, spaces for women* to come together to discuss and share experiences on specific situations or life events. The topics of these smaller support groups will come directly from the conversations and needs of the community, and potentially will include groups specifically for women* going through the menopause, new mothers, coming out, or child-free women*. But what the groups are is up to our community and what their needs are.
So much has happened in the last year. Having grown from one conversation on an Autumnal morning last November, to now having secured funding, partners and a network of communities and spaces. I'm overjoyed and cannot wait for the new programme to start. And who knows, maybe by this time next year there will be Female Line groups running even further afield than in Cardiff proving space for communities of women*, like me, to come together.
Be part of the community
I would love for you to join me, Zoe, and the incredible women* involved in the upcoming events. The next one is taking place on Monday 17th October at Cardiff MADE from 6 - 8pm, and we have the most incredible guest speaker lined up to talk. Sarah Grove-White is a Creative Well-being practitioner and Artist based in Cardiff. Having recently completed a project with Cardiff University Hospital around women's health, Sarah will be speaking about the effect of aging on women, including the menopause, and how personal, private and work life changes as we age. The event is completely free and open to all. We provide drinks and nibbles and ensure that everyone is welcome and feels safe in our space. You can book onto our event in October, and even the event in November, by clicking here.
I really hope to see you there and welcome you to the community.