Drama’s industry-based Wednesday Workshops continue into Summer Term

By Hayley Cole, Head of Drama

Three weeks into the new term and three phenomenal Wednesday Workshops have already been delivered. We have been so lucky with the wealth of experience that has been shared in these workshops and the generosity of professionals in the industry to share their time and their insight with our students has been invaluable.

Kate Winslet returned to deliver another workshop on characterisation, sharing her scripts and her own character notes alongside photographs from set. The students were enthralled by the schedules and script edits they saw and could truly appreciate the graft of acting and the research and exploration an actor should and must do to truly inhabit a role. Kate then delivered a separate more intimate session on American dialect for a student directed group and the difference in accents used by the actors at the end was astonishing. I know they will continue to practise using the crib sheets and techniques taught – and I will too!

Ben Press delivered his second session in person, and it was lovely to welcome him to Bedales and for him to share his experience and expertise in the Meisner method. Students were intrigued by this different way of working and the simplicity of responding and reacting to create truth on stage. I look forward to learning every Wednesday with the students and gaining these industry insights in the most memorable way.

Read a selection of students’ perspectives on the workshops below.

Poppy Brough, 6.2

Kate Winslet, a world-renowned actor, came to Bedales and delivered a second acting workshop for all students interested in Drama. She answered many questions from the students about her career delivering full and interesting answers, while also giving us funny anecdotes about being on set. She also showed us some photographs taken on different film sets. I particularly liked the picture of a massive sink in Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind.

Kate was very open and didn’t judge anyone’s questions, creating a warm open atmosphere that was comfortable for everyone. 

She talked enthusiastically about her new series Mare of Easttown, set in Pennsylvania, where she plays a grieving detective. She spoke about the intensity of the role and gave us valuable acting tips for filming out of chronological order, which is necessary to avoid time wastage. 

We would really like to thank her for the precious time she gave to us, and we hope that she comes again soon.

Kit Mayhook-Walker, 6.1

To assist 6.2 student August Janklow with his student led adaptation of Sam Shepherd’s True West, Kate Winslet kindly agreed to come in to give the cast a workshop on dialect. The two-hour workshop focused on everything from pronunciation, articulation and how accent informs character. She gave each member of the cast a dialect pronunciation sheet which actors use to better understand the sounds common in specific regional accents, southern Californian being the one in question. she also sat in on a scene reading and offered her advice and opinions on vocal characterisation and specific things for each actor to focus on and remember while acting. The workshop was extremely helpful and useful in the development of the play and we are extremely grateful she took the time to come in and assist all involved.

Zeb Murphy, Block 3

I attended a workshop given by Ben Press, an actor who studied in New York. He spoke to us about the Meisner technique. It is an acting method developed by Sanford Meisner, under the influence of Stanislavski, Lee Strasburg and Stella Adler. 

The first activity Ben introduced to us was the ‘Repetition Game’, as he called it. Two people had to sit face-to-face, side-to-side, or back-to-back. Then we had to simply follow three instructions; Don’t say anything until something causes you to speak, Don’t try to be interesting, The other person is the most important being in the entire world.

The general idea of the game was quite simple. Whatever the other one says about you, you just repeat but change it to ‘I’ instead of ‘You’. For example, this is a possible round:

Person 1: “You are looking at my feet”

Person 2: “I am looking at your feet”

And so on…

What is noticeable, is that even though we are trying not to act, the tone in which the phrase is said will continually change, and the partner must always react to how you said the phrase. It was incredible and hilarious to watch. It was mind blowing that this simple activity, of not even trying to act, was more enjoyable to watch than half the acting scenes I have seen in theatre.

Ben then made the exercise even more challenging by requesting that one member of the pair, had to be attempting a near impossible task, such as stacking three golf balls on top of one another. The person assigned the task began their challenge, whilst the other person had to walk into the room and do as follows:

·      Walk into the room as if it was the most important thing to do

·      Say nothing

·      Observe what is occurring in the room

·      Still say absolutely nothing

·      Only speak when something in the room causes you to speak.  

The Repetition Game would continue with the same earlier rules. This time, when the moment felt right, you were allowed to break the repeated phrase and change it to something else you needed to express. It was incredible to both watch and perform this challenging activity.

Overall, the workshop taught me that not trying to be interesting when acting can bizarrely be the most interesting thing to do. Good acting is about the way you say something rather than what you say, noticing and reacting is just as important as acting out your rehearsed part. I absolutely adored this workshop and I hope Ben will return to Bedales for another lesson”.

Outdoor Work Summer update

By Andrew Martin, Head of Outdoor Work

It’s only been two months since my last update on the farm, yet it seems a small lifetime ago as so much has happened. We finished our first wave of lambing just in time for the Easter holidays, which produced a healthy flock of 22 new lambs. As the majority of these lambs are Jacob ewes crossed with a Southdown ram, they should reach a finished weight this autumn and will be ready for sale then.

We are currently mid-way through our second wave of lambing with our Jacob sheep, which has also produced 22 lambs (and counting). These are currently in Butts field, on the right as you drive into school. Our pure Jacob flock differs greatly from the earlier flock as they are much slower growers. They have a unique fleece and are a beautiful breed to work with.

Each year during lambing we hope to find the next star ewe lamb who has all the desired traits that make up the strict characteristics of a pure Jacob. All those who don’t quite make the cut and all the males are kept for about 14-18 months before they reach their desired size and weight. Teaching our students about where meat comes from and how long it takes to produce it is integral to discussions about food, the choices we make, and the impact those choices have on our environment.

Our beautiful Dexter herd arrived in March and has been a great hit with the students. One of the primary reasons for getting them was to build on the therapeutic side of animal husbandry. The cows have gone from being a little wary at the start, to being friendly and interested in us. They are all happy on a halter (most days!) and walk really well with their student handlers. We have the cows grazing alongside our ewes and lambs which makes a beautiful sight.

On 11 April, Favour, our pregnant Dexter cow had to have an emergency caesarean. Her calf was presenting in such a way that she could not deliver it herself. It is at least 25 years since I’ve seen the procedure carried out and it was as dramatic and impressive to witness as I first remember. Unfortunately, despite the amazing skills of the vet, the calf was stillborn. Favour was heroic throughout and is making a speedy recovery.

For years now we have been slowly developing the large field opposite the Dunhurst entrance (part of which was a football pitch). Over the Easter break we made the biggest change yet and thanks to a local contractor we split the field into four smaller fields averaging 3.2 acres each. Between each field we have left a corridor for hedging and trees to be planted.

There is enough space for around 1700 hedge plants and 30 trees, six of which we have already planted. This area alone will create much needed habitat for dwindling wildlife. One of the new fields is naturally wet and has the potential to be developed into a habitat that will support many more plant and animal species. (I can see a whole school effort on the cards!!)

Elsewhere on the farm, we have now sold 15 of the 18 piglets born earlier in spring. The pigs go to local families and village pig syndicates who rear them over a six-eight month period. We have also over seeded a small field with a herbal ley for the first time, this is to create a more diverse environment within our field and to provide more mineral and trace elements to the pasture as well as medicinal qualities for our livestock. As the soil warms up and the trees and hedgerows fill out we are looking forward to the beauty that the land provides on our very own farm.

April has proved to be a very challenging month. There has been a record number of frosty mornings and no rain to kick start the grass growth we so desperately depend on at this time of year. It’s not often you hear farmers praying for rain, but if you listen really carefully this year you just might!

We are still on the look out for a pony or donkey. If you hear of any safe, reliable animals (preferably one that can pull a cart, although not essential), please do let us know. 

For the latest updates from Outdoor Work, make sure you’re following us on Instagram and Twitter.

Preparing for expedition

By Julia Bevan, Teacher of English and DofE Manager

Last weekend we were joined by Isaac Walker and his team from outdoor education provider Ridgeline Adventures, who ran a successful Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) training weekend in the sunshine for Bedales students undertaking their Bronze Award.
 
On Saturday, students took part in a range of team building activities at the Sam Banks Pavilion. Gordon Dale, Clive Burch, Paul Beauchamp and I were there to see Ridgeline lead the various sections, which saw the students put up tents in a fairly strong breeze, cooked lunch on Trangias, washed up (a skill that always needs perfecting!), discussed first aid scenarios, learnt to tie slings, planned the routes they will use on their Bronze qualifying weekend in three weeks’ time and learnt how to read maps of the local Hampshire countryside.
 
On Sunday, the students headed out for a walk in Steep Nature Reserve in five groups of five or six. An opportunity to explore the school’s picturesque surroundings (“I didn’t expect it to be so pretty,” were one student’s words; another said it was simply “stunning”), the day was also insightful. Students quickly learnt the importance of rucksacks rather than shoulder bags, and they stopped en route to explore first aid scenarios and navigate carefully. Group 4 particularly enjoyed meeting Magnus’ dogs on the Hangers!
 
The Block 3 students who took part in the weekend were attentive and enthusiastic throughout, and there were many memorable moments: Otto Scarlett’s delicious, and enormously popular pancakes; Dominic Rowell looking a little like a mummy as he wandered around covered in bandages after a fun first aid session; and Tilly Wall spontaneously commenting that their group leader from Ridgeline Adventures, Neil, was incredible and thanking him for a great day’s walk.
 
Thank you to everyone who made the weekend a success and I look forward to accompanying the students on an expedition very soon.

Students reflect on presenting their EPQs

By Jo Mayhook-Walker, Head of EAL and Extended Projects Coordinator

Last week, 18 Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) projects were presented to an audience made up of students and staff. For me, it was an educational and invigorating experience, but how was it for the students? This week, five students who gave presentations share their thoughts.

Nina Jones, 6.1

Last week I presented my EPQ, titled A Thoroughbred’s life, how dangerous is it really? The process of presenting was much more rewarding and less stressful than I had initially thought; I felt that it was an important experience for me in order to build my public speaking skills and conclude my project. Prior to writing my dissertation, I put in a lot of time to research, ensuring that I was confident in the topic. This allowed me to answer the questions with ease. Within my presentation, I talked about my inspiration for my project, how I completed my research, the development, the content, and finally, an evaluation. The evaluation in particular helped me see the strengths and weaknesses of the process and the project itself and taught me valuable skills such as time management and sticking to a word count. I found that the feedback which I received after presenting was very beneficial, and I hope that I can transfer these skills into diverse areas of my academic and work life.  

Jamie Loudon, 6.1

For my EPQ I decided to record and write a song. When I started, I was completely new to the process so I had to learn how to do everything. The first thing I had to do was choose a music production software. I did this by looking at reviews of lots of really good music software packages. I ended up picking a software called Ableton and I then learned how to use it using YouTube tutorials. I took what I learned and used it to write a song. I really enjoyed writing a song as I found it rewarding when I had a finished the song to be able to say I made it myself. Hearing people’s opinions of it after was also really nice. I found the presenting experience really fun because I got to show everyone what I had done. I found it fascinating listening to everyone else’s projects as there was a huge variety of topics covered. I was especially interested in the projects related to music, learning about the path their project took in comparison to mine.

Ben Bradberry, 6.1

For my EPQ project, I chose to focus on Singapore and how it achieved its importance in the modern world. I was inspired to do this having lived there for six years and noticing the differences to the UK. I found it frightening to be one of the first to give my presentation, but instantly felt more reassured as I got into the flow of it. I found the other presentations to be extremely interesting to listen to, but also valuable as a learning experience for myself as I could see how other people went about the process in comparison to how I had done so. Overall, it was an extremely worthwhile experience and I strongly encourage anyone considering an EPQ to pursue it.

Gemini Wang, 6.2

In last Wednesday’s EPQ presentation, 6.1 and 6.2 students presented their projects to an audience. In my group, there was a wide range of subjects from horse racing to time traveling. I was the first one to present in our group and although I was quite nervous before the presentation, from the moment I started talking about my project, I felt no stress at all. Talking to people about my interests and research was really enjoyable. At the end of each presentation, there was a chance to ask questions and the audience took this chance very well. They asked me interesting questions which challenged me as the presenter. Overall this presentation was a great opportunity for us all to share our research and listen to other people’s passions. It was also the moment when months of hard work finally paid off and I could see and hear that I had achieved my goals with my project.

Ernie Allesch-Taylor, 6.2

The opportunity to present an EPQ to Bedales staff and students was such a nice event to be a part of. What could have been a nerve-racking experience turned out to be a very good opportunity to share our projects. Despite differing topics, this enabled people from both Sixth Form year groups with ranging interests to showcase their passions. I for one thoroughly enjoyed the inclusive and welcoming atmosphere that everyone in the audience contributed to. Being able to ask in depth questions to my peers and having questions being asked to me about my project was a great way to properly engage with each individual projects. As well as this, being given the opportunity to ask for feedback after the presentations had ended was also a great way to learn how we could improve whilst also receiving positive praise.

‘Engaging’ Sixth Form Extended Projects

By Gordon Dale, Head of Sixth Form

Once again Bedales Sixth Form students have impressed us with their Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) submissions. These project topics are selected by the students based on their passions and interests, with the final submission being either a 5000-word dissertation or an artefact.

On Wednesday, we were treated to a smorgasboard of material presented with enthusiasm, humour and impressive depth of knowledge. Topics included the production of movie and play scripts, and music, where the students wrote and recorded original scores. Architecture was represented, as was art and fashion. Equally impressive were submissions covering economics, sustainability, social issues, animal welfare, genetics, time travel, historical figures and artificial intelligence; all engaged, educated and entertained the audience.

The students who have presented their EPQ this year, and their project titles, are listed below:

  • Ruben Alexander – The Middle Eastern Museum of Problem Solving and Beauty
  • Ernie Allesch-Taylor – To make a short film
  • Emilia Bansdale-Ward – Female Roles in Celtic Britain, with Specific Reference to Cartimandua and Boudicca
  • Ben Bradberry – What are the major factors that lead to Singapore being a dominant force in the Asia-Pacific Region?
  • Hugo Burnett-Armstrong – How did the media affect the Rise and Fall of Pablo Escobar?
  • Iris Campbell-Lange – 1, 2 A Play
  • Zazie Cazac – How can the fashion industry become more sustainable? (Group project)
  • Eloise Cooper – What is the difference between a religion and a cult?
  • Oskar de Aragues – How and why does architecture incorporate nature?
  • Monty de la Guerra – The History of the Circus
  • Freya Hannan-Mills – Creation of a Screenplay and a Website
  • Alice Hockey – Time Travel
  • Nina Jones – A Racehorse’s Life: how dangerous is it really?
  • Jamie Loudon – Writing and recording a song
  • Holly Marsden – How can the fashion industry become more sustainable? (Group project)
  • Molly Montagu – To design and build a sustainable treehouse
  • Isabella Montero – To write and record an EP
  • Anne Novak – Genes and Genomics
  • Roo Trim – Writing and recording an EP
  • Maddy Upton – To what extent is Bedales doing all that it can to reduce the environmental impact of their food waste?
  • Grace Vernor-Miles – The effects and dangers of different drugs on the teenager
  • Gemini Wang – To what extent should AI have rights?

Getting creative for DofE Award

By Julia Bevan, Teacher of English and DofE Manager

Despite the challenges they have faced due to COVID related restrictions, Bedalians have continued to impress with their efforts in completing the various sections of the Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Award.
 
For the Volunteering section of the Bronze Award, Block 3 student Florence Pohlschmidt helped out at her mother’s art school in London, tidying and reorganising the studio sculpture, etching and drawing rooms. Florence also volunteered at her former primary school, Heathbrook, in their wildlife garden, clearing, cleaning and reorganising the school’s greenhouse.
 
Inspired by a Wandsworth primary school who contacted her mother’s art school about the possibility of its students painting a rainbow mural to raise the pupils’ spirits after lockdown, Florence took the initiative to ask Heathbrook’s headteacher, Mr Ben Roberts, if she could continue to volunteer at the school by painting a large mural.
 
After Heathbrook gave her permission to paint a mural on the wall of an area known as ‘The Shed’, Florence decided – with the support of her art teacher – to produce a rainbow design in a nod to keyworkers, based on the work of artists Wassily Kandinsky and Sonia Delaunay.

The mural itself covers four 2.5 x 2.5 metre wall panels, which were prepared with two primers and a light blue base colour, before Florence scaled up her drawing and cut out templates for each section, drawing it on the wall in charcoal ready for painting. The process was supported by volunteers from Longbrook’s PTA.
 
Florence said: “I was so pleased to be able to offer to do this as part of my DofE Award, as it was also a way I could say thank you for everything my primary school has done for me. The final mural looks fantastic and I learnt so much from the project.”

“Not all men”

By Kirsten McLintock, Head of Wellbeing & PSHE

As Head of Wellbeing I’ve watched and listened with interest to our students’ responses in the aftermath of the Sarah Everard’s killing. I’m so very proud of Block 5 student Bella Cutts who organised the wearing of red for the day to highlight sexual violence experienced by women. Savvy use of social media meant Bella was able to spread the action and schools such as Marlborough, Beneden and Teddies took up the red wearing baton later in the week. Contributions to an art exhibition in the Quad this week were moving, articulate, harrowing and rightly laced with fury. The women of Bedales are formidable.

The voices of our boys and men are vital to social change within the Bedales community and society. It is these voices we now need to advocate, intervene and upstand in support of women. The Wellbeing curriculum challenges the normative binary dialogue surrounding consent, rape culture, pornification and sexism.

The need to do more to reduce violence against women is now widely agreed. But for progress to be made, one of the central issues has to be about men, male attitudes and actions, and what men need to do.

What should men do in these circumstances? “Man’s silence around issues of sexist language and behaviours is of concern,” says Graham Goulden, former policeman and trainer in violence prevention. “Whilst many men as individuals possess healthy views of women, their views on what their friends think is often skewed. Men often misperceive that friends support sexist views which leads to them either joining in or saying nothing. This leads to a perfect storm of non-abusive men doing nothing, and abusive men acting with impunity.”

One fundamental is that men – whether they think of themselves as liberal, progressive or enlightened – need to stop being defensive and making excuses. Educator, filmmaker and author Jackson Katz has worked on gender-based violence and wider inequalities and stresses that men (as well as women) saying “not all men” in debates on male violence are not being constructive. “I keep hearing people saying: ‘Not all men!’ To which I would say: if you have the impulse to say ‘not all men’, don’t. It’s silly, and it’s not a good look.”

This is not just about semantics: “Because, yes, although men are more likely to die violently than women, and yes, not all men are violent, there’s no doubt that the overwhelming majority of violence that happens between the genders happens by men against women. And the vast majority of violence that men suffer is at the hands of other men.”

Men have to recognise and call out sexism in other men. This became – in the work of Katz – known as the ‘bystander principle’, whereby men take responsibility and challenge the problem behaviour of other men; not leaving it to women or leaving it in silence, thinking it can always be passed off as somebody else’s problem.

Men need to think about how to challenge other men, whether it is the jokes that nearly everyone laughs at, and what is called ‘locker room banter’. The first thing that individuals can do is to stop separating the likes of rape and ‘sexist banter’, states Katz. “They are connected and addressing the banter will help reduce the violence we read about in the media. Abusive men often think their attitudes are supported. That needs to change. Men should speak to women in their lives.”

There has to be an understanding that male entitlement and resentment towards women are two sides of the same thing, and that hate, sexism and misogyny are learned behaviour. In the words of Katz, these are reinforced and reproduced by “media culture, sports culture, peer culture and porn culture” until it becomes mainstream and part of the norm of what it is to be a man.

Violence and problematic male behaviour is not just about the individual, but about societal norms and hence it is the responsibility of all of us, and in particular, all men. Silence is not an option but is in reality collusion, it is complicit consent. Women and men need men to have the courage to speak up, to listen to women, and to challenge other men.

Dr Jackson Katz discusses why all men need to be part of ending violence against women, and what they can do to help, listen to the podcast here.

Packed term of engaging Drama workshops

By Eve Allin, Drama Tutor

This half term the Drama department have hosted at least one drama workshop every week for all students at Bedales. Even though these workshops have all taken place online, it has been a brilliant way for students to connect to professional artists working in theatre.

We had a special workshop from Emergency Chorus, an emerging experimental theatre company, with Bohunt Drama students to kick off the term: 

The workshop with Emergency Chorus, makers of Landscape (1989), was interesting and the creators were insightful and kind. They gave us a presentation about their process and artistic intentions for the play whilst remaining inclusive and allowing us to ask some questions or ask us what we remembered about their show. I said that I liked the musical choices throughout and the atmospheric effects they all had that enhanced my pleasurable viewing experience.” — Gus McQuillan 

“I was inspired by the way their play was so contextually and historically driven. Specifically, how they focused on Capitalism in such a powerful way whilst still balancing this quite informative aspect with strong visual and aesthetical moments.” — Arthur Richardson 

Old Bedalian Amy Blakelock gave us a fascinating workshop centered around her Offie nominated play ‘Easy’: 

“From learning about story-archs and other writing techniques to playing a guessing game of which extract appeared in her final one-woman show, Amy’s playwriting workshop was hugely thought out, informative and really fun.” — Nay Murphy 

And OBs Hebe Bartlett and Roly Botha gave us a masterclass on auditioning and getting an agent: 

“I was lucky enough to participate in a brilliant workshop led by Hebe and Roly. They talked about the acting industry, how they both individually got into it and gave us tips on auditions and agents! It was very helpful and I will carry the information they gave me with me in the future.” — Jessica Asamoa 

Actor and workshop leader Benjamin Press joined us for a workshop centered on the Meisner method – a well renowned and unique technique to approach acting, Ben was brilliant at working with students over Teams: 

“Even though we were online, the Meisner workshop was ace. Keeping the energy sharp had a whole new challenge when not being face-to-face, which I found really useful, and it was brilliant to have an expert like Ben come in to help us along the way, especially since we’ve been studying naturalism this term. I had a lot of fun.” — Jamie Thorogood 

We had a brilliant visit from three Central School of Speech and Drama students, who are running workshops around how to create open spaces for women and girls: 

“The CSSD Research workshop was such an amazing experience for me. It made me reflect on my female friendships and solidify my relationships with my girlfriends, not to mention that it was so much fun and such a compassionate, lovely environment. Sophia, Safura and Naomi were so kind and made the workshop so friendly; it was one of the best workshops I have done.” — Elena Belisario 

“As a Drama A Level student I have learnt so much from the CSSD Research workshop. I have learnt how to create a creative space when devising in a group and how to produce a meaningful and powerful piece of theatre. Sophia, Safura and Naomi were very approachable and enthusiastic when answering questions, especially when I asked how I could transfer the activities we did, into my drama lesson. Overall, I believe that this was a very important workshop as I learnt so much from the way I work and made me feel very connected to my inner feminist.” — Aryana Taheri-Murphy 

For our final workshop on Wednesday this week Anita Pollinger-Jones gave students an insight into subtext in performance in her bespoke acting workshop using Hamlet and Pygmalion. We are delighted that so many students took part in our workshops this term, and we will be continuing these sessions every Wednesday in the Summer Term. 

EPQ presentations go digital

By Jo Mayhook-Walker, Head of EAL and Extended Projects Coordinator

COVID has encouraged a huge reliance on technology both in school and in the wider world. Last Wednesday afternoon saw a small and select audience settle down in front of their computers to form the audience for two Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) presentations given over Teams by Isabella Montero and Eloise Cooper, both 6.2 students.

As the new Extended Projects Coordinator, I felt incredibly privileged to be part of the audience.  Previously, projects have been presented in the Library, giving students, staff and parents an opportunity to wander from stand to stand, dipping in and out of a smorgasbord of projects and being able to question each student about the inspiration behind their projects, the challenges they encountered and what they had learnt. The current situation, however, has meant that we have had to rethink. 

All the way from Barcelona, Isabella (pictured above in last year’s Rock Show) presented her project, her EP entitled A White Picket Dream. She gave us an insight into her musical inspirations and how her experience of living in different parts of the USA, as well as being an American living and being schooled outside the US, has coloured her musical journey. 

In contrast, Eloise, from her dorm in 6.2, presented her project: Is there a Difference between a Cult and a Religion? She explained why this was a topic that had appealed to her, presented the issue of bias when conducting her research and explored how her own personal relationship to religion had coloured her choice of topic and approach.

Both presentations were insightful, confidently given and complimentary to each other.  We, as the audience, were given a unique opportunity to focus entirely on each individual project with a chance to question the students at the end of their presentation.  Although a very different experience to the Expo of old, the use of this new technology allowed us a more concentrated and intimate glimpse into the story behind the project.

International Women’s Day – more important than ever

By Matilda McMorrow, Librarian

Warning: The following extract contains sensitive information on sexual assault, attack and rape.

Following the killing of Sarah Everard and subsequent events last week, I want to highlight the importance of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month as part of the conversation.

We have an epidemic of femicide in this country. As pointed out in parliament by Jess Phillips MP, in the week after Sarah Everard was first reported missing, a further six women and a little girl were reported as being killed at the hands of men. As Phillips said: “It’s not particularly rare and it’s a fear that women live with. It’s an everyday thing.”

A man kills a woman every three days in this country. This figure increased during the first lockdown.*

The idea that women need to do the work to fix their fear of this has been emphasised in the police and press response to the recent murder of Sarah Everard. We are reminded not to walk the streets alone, not to go out after dark, to be cautious, to be afraid, to obey rules. We mould ourselves to work around the whims of men who might decide to hurt us. We are made to believe that men being dangerous is both an inevitability – the risk will always be there – and also somehow a strange outlier. We’re told the dangerous ones are ‘weirdos’, not like the normal men you know. It’s not normal men’s fault that there are dangerous ones around.

This danger is not inevitable. Men can choose not to be attackers, they can be taught to make better choices, they can intervene when other men display dangerous attitudes. The prevailing attitudes of men’s entitlement to women’s bodies can be counteracted in society. Even prosecuting more men who attack women, so there are consequences for their actions, would be a start.

And the men who attack women are not ‘weirdos’, a separate other group. They are the people we know. In 87% of cases where women are killed by men, they know their attacker (Office for National Statistics, 2020).  In 70% of cases, it happens in the woman’s own home.

Violence against women is frequently in the form of sexual assault or rape. In 2017, the latest year for which figures are available, the Office for National Statistics estimated that 3.4m women had been victims of sexual assault in their lives. That’s about 54 times the number of men. This included one million who had been raped, or had faced attempted rape. The justice system is failing women on this front. The cases of women being raped by men that get to court are actually decreasing year on year (CPS, 2020). Less than 3% of the rapes reported to the police are prosecuted. The majority of men in positions of power are doing little to improve this. In fact, they often perpetuate the damaging attitudes that lead to attacks.  Our own Prime Minister has been consistently quoted throughout his career objectifying and dehumanising women.

We need International Women’s Day for the reason it was created in 1910: to press for our demands. A whole day dedicated to international discussion of women’s rights, and active campaigning for those rights, which are still being withheld in this country as well as globally. On International Women’s Day in 1914, Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak about women’s right to vote in Trafalgar Square. Only a couple of days after International Women’s Day 2021, a group of COVID-masked and distanced women on Clapham Common, who were mourning the dead and speaking about violence against women, were attacked by police. Many were arrested on no legal basis.

When we are reminded of the enormity of the task in front of us, that is when we need to be reminded of our power for change. Women’s achievements are all the more impressive for the crimes against our sex committed daily, in our own homes.

Of course we want to celebrate women’s achievements every single day, but on International Women’s Day and during Women’s History Month let’s make it tenfold. We are reminded of the fight that lies ahead, so let’s be reminded we have the power to win. 
 
* If you’re wondering, it is in stark contrast to the numbers of men that women kill. Women don’t tend to kill anyone. 9/10 killers are men (Femicide Census 2021).