This year we commemorate the centenaries for the end of the First World War and the success of the Suffragette movement getting some women the vote – partial franchise in which women over 30 who met certain criteria were granted this right. To celebrate and remember these important parts of British history, the Birmingham Remembers Campaign was launched. Once Upon a Time in Birmingham: Women Who Dared to Dream has been created as part of this campaign. On the penultimate day of the Birmingham Literature Festival, this inspiring book was launched at an event hosted by the Birmingham Rep.
The book was created and curated by Writing West Midlands and author Louise Palfreyman for The Emma Press, a female-run publisher. It features 30 women, from the present and past, who lived or have some link to Birmingham – all of these women are trailblazers within their professions, followed their dream fighting everything that was thrown at them, and most of all are role models for the next generation of young women and girls. Therefore, it is only fitting that the collection of women featured in this book were chosen by young people.
Introducing the event, Bridget Jones, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, explained that at the beginning of this project they crowdsourced suggestions of women who dared to dream and received an extensive longlist. In order to compile the final shortlist of women who would feature in the book, they enlisted the help of the Spark Young Writers Group. The author, Louise Palfreyman, explained that because this book is aimed at young women and girls, they wanted their readership to have the final say on which great women filled the pages.
Fiona Allan, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the Birmingham Hippodrome, a self-confessed feminist was the host of the event and was joined on stage, in true chat show style, by flocks of people all involved in the book’s creation. First to join Allan on stage were the author Louise Palfreyman and Michelle Turton, who was responsible for bringing some of the 30 women in the book to life in vivid illustrations.
Fiona Allan then beckoned a group of Spark Young Writers onto the stage. Each girl read out a profile from the book about one of the women, all of whom were also in the room ready to come on stage after this reading.
PC Andrea Reynolds, Asha Devi, Clare Rowland, Raj Holness, and Professor Pam Kearns, all of whom you can read more about in the book, joined Fiona on stage to tumultuous applause. During their interview, their answers all reflected the same ideas, that they were truly honoured to be included in this book, and that it was even more important given that the list was chosen by girls, who are the future of female. Andrea stated, “Be the change you want to see and encourage change in young people.”
This is a guest blog, reproduced with kind permission from Books Bird