Older Women Rock!

by Leah Thorn in Folkestone, England, United Kingdom

We did it
On 31st January 2017 we successfully raised £2,390 with 87 supporters in 28 days

Develop and expand 'Older Women Rock!' to highlight, inspire, empower and unite older women - and playfully subvert assumptions about us

by Leah Thorn in Folkestone, England, United Kingdom

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.

Going public

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/

The work

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

 For more information about the pop-up shop and events, visit https://loveolderwomenrock.wordpress.com/events/ or email [email protected]



This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

£5 or more

£5 Reward

A PDF of 'Older Women Rock!' poetry

£10 or more

£10 Reward

An audio download of Leah reading 'Older Women Rock!' poetry

£15 or more

£15 Reward

PDF and audio download of Leah reading 'Older Women Rock!' poetry

£20 or more

£20 Reward

'Older Women Rock!' stick of rock and sweets and PDF and audio recording of Leah reading 'Older Women Rock!' poetry

£30 or more

£30 Reward

A book of 'Older Women Rock!' poetry, illustrated with photos of the amazing poetry clothes

£100 or more

3 of 14 claimed

£100 Reward

A unique 'Older Women Rock! engraved necklace made by Leah and your name on film credits.

£100 or more

£100 Reward

Name on film credits, a DVD of Leah's award winning short film 'My Amulet' and a copy of 'release', an anthology featuring poetry by women in prison on the issue of self harm

£350 or more

0 of 3 claimed

£350 Reward

A piece of 'Older Women Rock!' jewellery, tea with Leah at Steep Street Cafe, Folkestone plus your name on film credits.

£40 or more

12 of 11 claimed

£40 Reward

A unique 'Older Women Rock!' engraved brooch or keyring made by Leah.

£60 or more

2 of 2 claimed

£60 Reward

A unique 'Older Women Rock!' engraved bracelet made by Leah.

£180 or more

1 of 1 claimed

£180 Reward

A unique 'Older Women Rock!' engraved thick silver chain necklace made by Leah, plus your name on film credits.

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