Author: brionybrake

‘Beige Walls & Navy Sofas’: A Review

I’ve never been to Edinburgh Fringe, hell, I haven’t even been to Edinburgh. I’d love to, but it’s not exactly cheap, but that’s the great thing about being in London. Since coming here, I’ve been able to experience theatre and stand up at local comedy nights and festivals. Most recently, I was invited along to see ‘Beige Walls & Navy Sofas’ at the Catford Fringe starring Anthem’s very own Courtney McMahon.

Beige Walls & Navy Sofas is an impressive debut piece from the Ghosted Ink arts collective featuring spoken word, karaoke and dancing. It aims to bring a story from a working class family into the light where it belongs, and it is lovely. Watching Beige Walls & Navy Sofas is an experience comparable to catching up with a friend you haven’t seen in years, or perhaps even better, meeting someone for the first time and learning about their life.

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In the lead, Courtney doesn’t take on a character that’s been made up or fictionalised; Courtney plays herself. She, along with the rest of the team at Ghosted Ink, take you by the hand and ask you to step inside for a moment, and to listen to one woman’s tale. I really appreciated this piece for such an emphasis on pure storytelling, yet simultaneously for not being afraid to get creative with it. The set design was simplicity at its finest with props evoking both laughter and sadness, yet never taking away from the story being told.

Courtney walks the audience through selected moments of her own childhood, working you through a set of themes that include loss, confusion and anger. We learn about her siblings and mum, and we experience as many highs as we do lows as she takes us on a trip down memory lane.

“Layers and layers and layers and layers of nostalgia” she yells from the floor of her childhood bedroom, and layers of nostalgia is exactly what Beige Walls is. I didn’t live this life, and there are aspects of her life I couldn’t even begin to understand having not experienced them myself, but the brilliance comes from just that word – nostalgia.

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Nostalgia means a remembrance of something that never was, so we have a habit of using it to refer to our childhoods when we think about the presents under the tree at Christmas or the simple games we used to play with friends. Courtney remembers these things hand in hand with fleeting moments of reality. She discusses the great and terrible moments of living with her sister and I laughed. I laughed because I understood and have shared a room with a sister. It’s small moments like this that transferred her very own and very personal nostalgia onto the audience. An audience who were only too grateful to join in and were laughing from start to finish.

Like all good theatre (in my wholly uneducated opinion), Beige Walls doesn’t keep you down for too long. Though there are several times of anger, disappointment and grief, it is not long before Courtney’s pink hair and glittery eyes are up again, singing Wham or dancing to The Ketchup Song.

The team at Ghosted Ink did an absolutely terrific job with Beige Walls, and created a totally new experience for me. It was a pleasure to sit down somewhere new for 45 minutes and to witness a life story play out in the way they have pulled this piece together.

Four stars for Beige Walls & Navy Sofas!

 

Words by Briony Brake for Anthem
Images courtesy of Ghosted Ink

You can stay in the loop with all things Ghosted Ink via the following links:
Instagram – @ghostedink
Twitter – @Ghostedink_Arts
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/GhostedInkArts 
Website – https://ghostedinktheatre.wixsite.com/ghostedinkac  (best viewed on desktop)

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Why We Focus On Women

Why do we march for women and not men? Why do we have an international day for women but not for men? Why do we have girl power but not boy power? Why is it called feminism if it supports women and men?

There is a very simple answer to all of these questions, and it is as follows…

We march for women because equality is the finish line, and men had a head start. We march for women, because we’ve got further to go before we can catch up. We’ll meet at the finish line and celebrate together, but we cannot push you to the finish line when we are too far back to even see you.

We celebrate women’s days and not men’s days because in a patriarchal society, every day is a men’s day. You might not have wanted it that way, but it’s how it is. One day a year is all we take, and in all fairness, we did give birth to the entire human race.

We celebrate women because someone has to. We are not raised to shout and scream and praise ourselves. We are not taught to believe in our power the way that men are. So we celebrate ourselves once a year as a baby step. One day we will celebrate humans altogether, but we’ve got a long way to go until that day.

Girl power was born because we were sick of not having power. Men and boys have power because they are born men and boys. We are born female, and thus powerless. We have to fight for what we want. We have to claim our own power. Girl power is how we celebrate our claim and our fight. You can have boy power if you really want, but then you already do. You just don’t have a name for it, because it’s the norm. It’s how things already are.

It is called feminism because women are the more disadvantaged and wronged party. We all have a long way to go, and none of us should be discriminated against for being born one way or another, but women (and really anyone who doesn’t identify as male) have greater obstacles preventing them from gaining equality. We want everyone from every background to feel equal, and not judged for being a boy or girl or somewhere in between. We just need your help getting a foot up first.

We’re not sure why this is such a big ask, and this is why we get angry sometimes. We march because we’re sick and tired and want to shout about how unfair it all is. We don’t do it often though. We just want equality, and don’t understand why some of you don’t too. It’s just equality. It’s not that hard, is it?

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Words and Image by Briony Brake for Anthem.

How’s It Going?

Hello, there. Happy first week of February! How is it going? Have you given up on all your resolutions yet? Have you realised that you cannot alter your entire being in just 31 days? Will you promise to set yourself easier targets next year? No? Alright then, fine.

My new year resolution, if you can even call it that, is to watch lots of films – preferably ones I haven’t seen before. I did this last year and I did a great job and it made me feel better so I’m doing it again. I’m not really bothering because I don’t truly want to lose weight or eat better or run more. Sure, I’m trying to get back into swimming a couple of times a week, but I’m not totally grilling myself for it. What’s the point?

I don’t really bother with resolutions because not only do they not make sense (are you supposed to lose weight for the year, or forever? Is there a time limit on it?), but also because I have never once kept a resolution in my life that wasn’t something super easy like watching a bunch of new films. Surely, it is better to enter into a new year promising to yourself that you will look after yourself and endeavour to make yourself proud. So this year, I’m not really bothering at all, and so far I’m doing pretty damn well.

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With no real resolutions or goals to fulfil, I have managed to finish three whole (and admittedly rather short) books in January that I loved, and I’m now halfway through a fourth. I’ve read an autobiography, a professional toolkit and a book on women in ancient civilisations. I’ve learned so much in such a short space of time, and I’m genuinely quite proud of myself. I never finish books, I just carry them around London until ultimately putting them back on the shelf the next time I clean out my handbag. So I’ve celebrated, and I’ve bought new books to try and keep myself going. I’ve not set a target, I just want to read some more books.

When I was ill in the middle of January, I had two days at home that led me to finally starting my self-taught British Sign Language course (which I paid for a long time ago). I had so much free time because I was off work, that I had time to complete multiple lessons from it. Hell, I even signed up for a free online screenwriting course this week, because why not? I’m learning, and learning is what really makes me happy and makes me feel accomplished. It’s what I love, and when there are so many opportunities available to me to learn new things, and for free(!), I’d be a fool not to have a go.

I’ve been proud of myself for also signing up new people to Anthem; for finding great new people to join this family. I’m happy that I made it to the cinema a few times, particularly when I missed so many releases last year. I socialised and met friends (see below picture of cake for proof) for dinner, which is frankly an achievement for anyone working full-time in London, let alone someone desperately trying to budget their spending, living with anxiety, and only knowing a handful of people in this big ass city.

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I’ve been struggling to finish off this article because everything I think sounds really lame in my head, but it’s got some truth to it. We need to celebrate the happy more and stop being such a pain in the butt to ourselves when we make mistakes or feel sad. Life happens and part of that is that we feel sad and angry and we do things wrong, but if we focused on the things that we did well and the fun times we have with the amount of energy we focus on the bad… we’d probably be a lot happier. The thing about happy and wonderful times is that we only recognise how happy and wonderful they are because we’ve experienced the kind of shitty times. If every day was wonderful, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate them the way we can now.

So revel in the goodness. Make it your new motto to celebrate the teeny tiny victories. Buy yourself flowers and comfy socks. Go to a free exhibition or make time to see that new release in the cinema. I looked after myself this week by having one evening in to tidy my bombsite of a room, shower, eat, and watch a cheesy film from the 90s. You don’t have to spend all your money or scream and shout to do this well, you just need to remember that you saw a tiny dog in a tracksuit this morning. How great is that?

The next time you’re hard on yourself for not losing 1000lbs in two days, make a note to find a way of enjoying exercise so that you’ll actually want to go (Zumba, dance, boxing, swimming etc) and don’t waste your evening bullying yourself about it. The next time someone says you did something good at work, say thank you and smile and believe in yourself a little bit. The next time you spend a day reading in your room, be happy you had the time to read and be grateful that you’ve had the chance to learn more and experience new lives and worlds through that book.

There’s good and bad to be found in everything, it’s just up to you to do the searching. Here’s to February, guys. You’re going to do great!

 

Words and Images by Briony Brake

The Girl Power Gift Guide 2017

It’s time for another Christmas gift guide! I’m over the moon to continue the new tradition of Anthem Christmas gift guides for you and all your feminist pals. This year, I’ve been fed dozens of ideas from my friends and the fabulous women of the BOSSY forum, so a huge thank you to everyone who’s contributed, and don’t forget to support your local girl gang/business!

  1. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls‘ book by Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo
    £17.99 hardback from Waterstones
    Find it here.9780141986005
  2. A Queernormative Body Positive Card or Print by Somebodies Art
    £3-15 from Etsy
    Find them here.il_570xn-1426323355_n31w
  3. Upcycled Ethical Woven Palm Leaf ‘Oluka’ Earbobs 
    £12 from AFRORETRO
    Find them here.OlunkaEarbobYellowWEB
  4. Totes for Women canvas bag 
    £9.50 from Amnesty
    Find it here.otforw-totes-for-women-bag_3
  5. Women & Power: A Manifesto‘ book by Mary Beard
    £7.99 from Waterstones
    Find it here9781788160605
  6. Wonder Woman‘ DVD or Blu-ray
    £9.99-£11.70 from Amazon
    Find both here.911yvjcax0l-_sy445_
  7. Sisterhood enamel pin by Glitter Punk Jewellery
    £7.50 from Etsy
    Find it here.il_570xn-1328013833_bnjb
  8. Carrie Fisher t-shirt by Girls On Tops
    £20
    fom Etsy
    Find it here.il_570xn-1367589018_jx1d
  9. 20th Century Women on DVD
    £5.32 on Amazon
    Find it here.71zc7gsqvdl-_sy445_
  10. Feminist Accessory Bag by Chibi Chi Designs
    £13-£14 on Etsy
    Find it here.il_570xn-1237259020_kjqw

 

There you have it! Ten items that will hopefully make the feminist in your life happy this Christmas. There’s so many books and films and even items of clothing this year that I know would at least make my heart happy so get searching and browsing and see what you can find! We’ll be sharing a lot of these on our Instagram too as well as some items not featured on this list so make sure to follow us @fem_anthem.

Last of all, Merry Christmas from Anthem!

 

Words by Briony Brake
Images by Waterstones, Somebodies Art, Etsy, AFRORETRO, Amazon, Amnesty, Glitter Punk Jewellery, Girls On Tops, and Chibi Chi Designs.

Why You Should CoppaFeel!

As this is the last piece of this year’s sex ed week, I would love to begin by saying thank you to everyone who has supported the project through reading, sharing, and generally showing interest. It means a lot for us to be able to share our knowledge and our opinions on something we consider to be of vital importance. If we help anyone at all, we’ll be over the moon. Equally, we’d love to hear how you think we can improve, and what we can do next year to make the project bigger and better.

Moving on, I do have one last piece for all you wonderful people! The rest of this article is dedicated to the lovely people at CoppaFeel!, who were kind enough to set aside some time and talk to us. If you don’t know, CoppaFeel! are a breast cancer awareness charity doing excellent work in the UK. Last year, I had a chat with their Education and Health Comms Director, Sophie, who caught me up on what they do, as well as how we can look after ourselves. To begin, Sophie told us to check out the rethinkcancer.com site, and to watch some of the CoppaFeel! videos, that help introduce them as a charity (things you should do too).

First off, we discussed the curriculum surrounding breast cancer awareness and sex education at present, and how it’s lacking. As you all already know, this is something I’m passionate about, and it was nice to see it resonated in larger organisations. The improvement of education of this nature is severely lacking, and that’s why we started this project in the first place.

We also discussed how CoppaFeel! have managed to get around the curriculum by deploying their fabulous Boobettes to schools. These guys have been delivering talks to schools, offices and girl-guide groups, and have spread their message far and wide through volunteers, and that’s pretty damn cool. These talks have helped a great deal in getting people to feel more comfortable around the conversation and to go home and start checking themselves.

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The foundation of CoppaFeel! seemed to be that breast cancer wasn’t on young people’s minds, and was something we considered to be a later-in-life sort of situation. But it isn’t. Breast cancer can strike anyone, at any age, of any gender. We don’t worry about it because we don’t think we need to, and CoppaFeel! are out to pop that bubble, ensuring we are all kept safe and healthy.

Their main goal is to encourage younger people (but ultimately everyone) to check their breasts regularly. They want to encourage as many healthy habits like this as they can. The key here, is knowing your own body. Like any serious illness, the symptoms vary from person to person, and as such knowing what is normal for your own body is essential. Get comfortable with yourself, and know what your body does and doesn’t do (check out their #WhatNormalFeelsLike campaign for this one!).

Since a lot of our readers (hello you!) are younger, it makes a great deal of sense for us to push CoppaFeel!’s Uni Boob Teams. At the time I chatted to Sophie, I was still a uni student so she offered links to the team that I could send out to my friends wanting to get involved. If you want to do something worthwhile at uni, and still have masses of fun, join the Uni Boob Team for CoppaFeel!. They’re a lovely community of student volunteers that run around in boob costumes, making boob cakes and telling everyone to check their own. What more do you want?

In the end, this was a lovely enlightening chat to have had with CoppaFeel!, and I’m immensely grateful to them for making the time to talk to me. They brought to my attention that empowerment and confidence walk hand in hand with all of this. It honestly hadn’t struck me before, but it makes sense; if you know your body, and you trust your body, then you hold the secret to being happy with it. Body confidence, as an issue, is a raging fire that no-one seems to have the power to put out, but perhaps if we all took a little longer taking care of ourselves, and noticing how we are made, we might help each other too.

Ultimately, my chat with CoppaFeel! instilled in me some very simple things, that I (and all of you) need to be reminded of. My brain was filled with messages of empowerment, and confidence. I understood that I should learn to know and trust my own body, and to listen to what it was telling me, and to see a doctor if things weren’t right. It is not a waste of time. It is important.

So visit CoppaFeel!’s website, or via their social channels to stay up to date with their boob-antics, and look after yourself, above all. Thank you all again for indulging us in this project, we hope we have inspired you, helped you, or perhaps just interested you. With any luck, we’ll see you again next September.

Love, Anthem xo

 

Words by Briony Brake, with help from CoppaFeel!
Part of September Sex Education Week, 2017.
Images and videos by CoppaFeel!

Let’s talk about sex.

let's talk about sex

If I remember correctly, sex education at my primary and secondary school was brief and severely lacking. I have googled so much. I am 21. I shouldn’t have to be asking the internet questions about sexual health or calling the doctor because I started a new pill and now one boob is bigger than the other (true story). It’s not safe. A lot of research done into the effectiveness of sex education as it stands has focused on unwanted pregnancy and STIs, but it’s not just that people get infections; shouldn’t young people be enjoying sex?

Sex education, or rather proper sex education, has become something of a passion of mine in the last year. I decided Anthem ought to take part in promoting good sex ed to the masses, and since then I’ve been reading, writing, and talking about it non-stop. I’ve learned so much – far more than I ever learned in school, and I’m very excited to be able to bring sex education week to you all, via Anthem. Ultimately, there is no limit on who should receive education, particularly education on life matters such as politics, finance or sexual health and wellbeing. As our goal is to present accessible feminism, we invite you all to learn a little this week, and to discuss so that we might help each other.

Sex education is imperative to all people, worldwide. As already mentioned, I’m not saying this because too many people are getting pregnant or something, I’m saying all this because there is a lot about our own health that can benefit us mentally, that we don’t know. This project aims to encompass as much as possible, so expect posts on periods, body image, healthy relationships and boobs (and so on).

There’s so much to learn, and so with the hope of doing this project annually, please interact with us, and tell us what you love, or what you want to know about next time. Our lovely Anthem writers have done some serious research, and have delved into their own experiences to bring you their pieces this week. These are not easy things to talk about, and we are not experts, but we have been through a lot collectively, and we want to share our knowledge with you.

Personally, I’m passionate about this project because I believe it is worthwhile; I think it can benefit everyone. This is not a project to be associated with embarrassment or stigma, but openness and truths. We want to talk about these things because people don’t, and none of us here think that’s quite right! Let’s talk about things, let’s not be afraid! Lend us your eyes and ears this week, and we’ll try our best to inform you of what we’ve learned, and maybe get you thinking.

We could be very dark and serious and hit you with all the statistics about the consequences of poor sex education (I may still do this later on, it really depends on how I feel), but instead, we want to make this project as positive and inspiring as we can. Take part as you wish: read, comment or even share with your friends. Who knows who we can help, together.

The project officially begins today, but we will be posting at least once a day for the next 6 days, and we implore you to embrace the topics wholly (even if you’re not a fan of blood). Please enjoy, share, and most importantly, learn! We can’t wait to share our work with you, and hope you enjoy the week ahead.

Love Anthem xo

 

Words by Briony Brake
Part of the September Sex Education Week 2017.

‘Watermelon’: A Review

“It’s okay if the love of your life is your best friend”

Last Sunday night I had the absolute pleasure of watching Box Room Theatre’s production of ‘Watermelon’ at the Hen and Chickens Theatre in London, as part of the Camden Fringe. The play was written by Georgia Green and takes a new and exciting look at the role of female friendships in modern life. Quite simply, Watermelon follows two girls named Abbie (Alexandra Proudfoot) and Zoe (Grace Hudson) on a night out, and a boy they bring home named Joe (Henry Taylor). Yet in just 55 minutes, it manages to introduce so many different layers and subtle hints at a wider life I desperately wanted to know. 

In case you hadn’t guessed, I loved Watermelon (and I don’t even like the fruit). The piece was exciting and dynamic, and ultimately showed the immense skill of Box Room Theatre in all aspects, particularly in the writing, and acting that came from Abbie, Zoe and Joe.

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To me, it felt like a case study of sorts on all the different relationships we have. The cast of Watermelon portrayed fantastic chemistry but were equally all able to hold their own in scenes. A relationship between a girl and the stranger trying to sleep with their best friend is one I hadn’t seen before, but thoroughly enjoyed; the sharp dialogue between the two was constant and entertaining. 

One thing I found most interesting was how it showed the friendship between Abbie and Zoe. A lot of things they showed, I had never experienced with my female friends such as taking boys home or discussing sex lives, but then there were so many things I had experienced a hundred times over, like the classic boy talks or even facial hair bleaching… It got me thinking about how no one female friendship is really the same, and how lovely that is.

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Watermelon is a beautifully open piece of theatre that takes the audience’s hand and invites them to share these experiences. Friendships are complex and can involve so much worry, and so to have a piece of theatre normalise that in front of my very eyes was comforting. 

Although very lively and, at times, laugh out loud funny, the piece also enters into some intense scenes, and some equally tranquil ones too. Fear and paranoia come into play when Abbie’s character goes missing in the night, and the relationship between Zoe and Joe develops immensely through the next half an hour of the play. They took a little slice of everyday reality and gave it so much life and depth; the audience is thrown into the drama with no warning, and it allows you to experience a great deal more emotion whichever way it swings.

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In the above photo, you can see one of my favourite scenes of the play. The team at Box Room have a huge imagination but are clever in their delivery. This simple use of fairy lights and music gave such intelligent lightness to the personal drama Zoe’s character was going through. I genuinely thought about the light sequences for the whole week after, I loved it that much.

Watermelon is an excellent example of young new writing that we should be paying attention to in the theatre. A simplistic but secretly challenging piece that is dotted with feminist quandaries most of us face on a regular basis (but perhaps aren’t as brave as Zoe when it comes to resolution). There’s so much to discover and explore that it’s hard not to love.

Four Stars for Watermelon!

 

You can follow Box Room Theatre on social media, and keep up to date with all the lovely events they host (enough to satisfy all your comedy and theatre needs)!

Words by Briony Brake
Images from Box Room Theatre