An initiative of the National Women’s Council of Ireland


The Y Factor at the UK Feminista Summer School 2013

September 06, 2013 at 12:26

It was with great excitement that a delegation from the Y Factor, Gillian and Aoife from the Steering  Group and staff members Laura and Elva headed to Birmingham on 17th August to participate at the UK Feminista Summer School 2013.  We knew from what we had read about UK Feminista that it had a strong feminist message and was very focused on supporting anti-sexist campaigns across Britain led by feminist activists and campaigners in all kinds of settings from schools to community groups.

Registering for the summer school required little debate – this was for definitely for us but as the programme developed over the summer months, our excitement really grew.  It was clear that this was something that would offer not only the opportunity to listen to and engage with a wide variety of people who campaign on a huge range of feminist issues, but was also designed as a space to enable people to bring their issues and questions to a feminist community by inviting participants to lead their own workshops. 

We arrived early on Saturday morning and on seeing the queue to register, Aoife breathlessly exclaimed – “wow, more than 10 feminists at once!”  500 people from all over the UK had registered for the event, all skilfully co-ordinated by a team of indefatigably cheerful UK Feminista volunteers.  It was notable that the vast majority of both participants and organisers appeared to be under the age of 30.  The University of Birmingham provided excellent facilities in the form of one large concert hall and a number of breakout spaces in nearby buildings.  The format of the school was simultaneous panel discussions and workshops exploring a huge variety of themes ranging from race, feminism and activism to disability rights and feminism to mental health to LGBTQ approaches to challenging austerity, to using social media as a campaigning tool.  Intersectionality was a core underpinning theme and one that clearly young feminists are determined to get to grips with.  Some of the panel discussions were based on an interview style while some of the workshops were aimed at skill building and were hands-on and action focused.  Throughout the whole event a floor of stalls could be visited and you could participate in guerrilla feminist craft, such as that facilitated by artist Sarah Maple, were you could design your own alternative page 3. 

We quickly realised that breaking up and trying to spread ourselves around as many of the variety of options open to us would enable us to glean as much as we could.  Speakers included Laura Bates – founder of Everyday Sexism Project,  Lucy Holmes –founder of the No More Page 3 campaign, the awe-inspiring film maker Campbell X, to name but  a few.   Panel discussions and workshops were interspersed with Open Spaces – where people could lead a workshop on an issue important to them, seek ideas and opinions from others.

Overall –we were highly impressed by the UK Feminista Summer School. Workshops varied in quality and although we felt that youth feminism in the UK appears in some ways to be a bigger and perhaps in some respects a more advanced movement, we felt proud that The Y Factor is on the right track in how it is going about supporting young feminist activists in Ireland and that there is a lot of really conscious and informed thinking in what young feminists are doing here.  As we left Birmingham 36 hours later, we were in agreement that for The Y Factor to organise an event along similar lines in Ireland would be a fantastic contribution to really building a positive sense of collective action and solidarity among young feminists here… watch this space!!!!