creating pop-up political art spaces in which to raise awareness and explore issues facing women in our late-50s and 60s
knitted dress by Deborah Nash; shoe and brooch by Leah Thorn
My name is Leah Thorn and I am a spoken word poet in my late 60s. 'Older Women Rock!' combines poetry, retro clothes, performance and film. It grew out of my experience of ageing as a woman and from conversations with other older women.
These conversations took place in a wide variety of settings, including a Zumba Gold class; a consciousness-raising group; a Women's Institute; a prison; a MIND Day Centre and an Older LGBTQ project.
As women in our late-50s and 60s we talked about being knowledgeable and resilient and inspiring. And we shared things that are hard about ageing as a woman, including -
- The lack of older women in the media and when we are present, we are a stereotype or a joke
- The beauty industry making a fortune out of older women's insecurity
- Poverty - many women having small pensions because they had low-paid work and/or breaks in employment to raise children or to care for ageing parents
- The need to conceal, or be 'discreet' about physical changes like greying hair, facial hair or incontinence.
I went on to write poetry that celebrates us older women, challenges our invisibility, aims to unite us across our differences and subverts assumptions and prejudices about us.
'Older Women Rock' is supported by Soroptimist International of Folkestone, a global volunteer movement working to transform the lives of women and girls.
In February and March 2017 there will be a pilot pop-up shop in Folkestone, Kent in February and March 2017, accompanied by exciting and thought-provoking events https://loveolderwomenrock.wordpress.com/events/
The project is growing really fast in terms of ambition and scope and I am seeking to raise £3,000 to ensure the success of the pilot so that 'OIder Women Rock!' can tour nationally and to produce a film documenting the process from making to exhibiting.
The 30-minute documentary film of the project that will provide an alternative and positive representation of older women. The film will feature women who are diverse in terms of race and class, including the Ealing Deaf Women's Group and women in prison. It will be shown through social media and international women’s film festivals to allow 'Older Women Rock!' ideas and conversations to be shared widely.
Your donation will also cover the cost of producing five pieces of poetry clothing plus the cost of an interpreter to involve local older Nepalese women in the pilot project.
We then plan to launch 'Older Women Rock!' across the UK in surprising and subversive ways -
- setting up pop-up exhibitions of the poetry clothes in empty shops, galleries, women's organisations, women's prisons, conferences and events
- presenting talks and performance and creating spaces for conversations between older women, younger women and the general public.
Rewards for donating include a piece of unique engraved 'Older Women Rock!' jewellery and text and audio versions of 'Older Women Rock!' poetry.
See photos here: https://loveolderwomenrock.wordpress.com/crowdfunder-rewards/
I am collaborating with some fantastic older women artists - sculptor Nicholette Goff, knitting artist Deborah Nash, fashion stylist and fashion lecturer Claire Angel, textile artist Trish Bishop and members of The Profanity Embroidery Group - who are embroidering, burning, printing, cutting, beading, engraving and staining my poetry onto retro clothes and accessories.
Here's an example of a piece of poetry clothing that Nicholette and I are working on at the moment. We are covering a silver plastic skirt in grey hair to interpret the poem 'Greyzone', which contains the lines -
'In the no-go greyzone / the silver that on him is distinguished / is a reason for us / to be visually extinguished'
And examples of finished poetry clothes and accessories -
'lost & found', Claire Angel; 'vajazzle', Allie Lee; 'fanfare', Nicholette Goff; 'invisible woman', Leah Thorn
What women say about 'Older Women Rock!'
- 'A lot of older women, having retired from busy jobs, having raised their family and now maybe living by themselves, lose confidence. 'Older Women Rock! will not only help restore their self-esteem but will also be a vehicle in providing new friendship links, enabling them to value their contribution to society ' Soroptomist International of Folkestone
- 'I want us to see positivity and joy ahead of us. I felt it all around me this evening'
- 'Once we see our bodies and faces change in a way that society sees as negative, we can feel such low self-esteem. Loved exploring exciting ideas for bringing us out of the shadows, so we can share our glory and our depths'
- 'As an older woman with mental health issues, I sometimes feel I am up against stigma x 2 so it is wonderful to feel included and valued' Participants at recent 'Older Women Rock!' gather-ins
Deaf Women's Group, Ealing
- 'It was fab to have you with us. Deaf women rarely have a 'voice'. Being from minority groups, and female, and disabled, deaf women have often been very low on the priority list - whether from their families, society, work and education opportunities, public opinion - resulting in low self image. Rarely do our opinions or feelings get accessed' Organiser of the Deaf Women's Group, Ealing