Discover Herstory HERE

The Herstory festival – a project exploring the unfinished fight for women’s rights in the UK through poetry and creative programming – has been released on the Poet in the City website as part of Libraries Week 2022.

Herstory has brought together poets, activists, librarians, curators and communities across Newcastle and Exeter to respond to the British Library’s 2020 exhibition Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights, culminating in several imaginative commissions for each city.

Herstory was the culmination of three years’ work and involved contributions from 17 poets and 46 artists and academics. Working closely with community groups through roundtables, discussions and creative workshops, our commissioned poets developed works that told diverse local stories – from the pressures of the pandemic to the media’s portrayal of women’s bodies, to the power of resistance and everyday acts of defiance - that were collectively inspired by the voices of over 400 women. As well as creating opportunities for the library services to foster creative relationships locally, the project has also highlighted the rich links between British Library collections and regional narratives that are important for communities to share.

Audience can, for the first time, enjoy curated content from both Newcastle and Exeter together in one place. Features of each city’s programme are now available, together with performances from individual artists. These include work commissioned for Herstory by poets Ellen Moran (an advocate for rule-breaking lasses throughout history), Liv Torc (exploring the parallels between the experiences of women during the pandemic and those of their grandmothers and great grandmothers during the First and Second World Wars), Fiona Benson (unveiling taboos around female bodies) and Shagufta K Iqbal (inspired by the women Chainmakers who went on strike for fairer pay in 1910), together with musical performances from NGAIO, Radikal Queen and Makaton Jukebox Choir. The programme speaks to a vast spectrum of themes related to women’s rights and the poetry commissions involved, including protest, community, race, ancestry, and gender diversity.

Herstory hosts an incredible breadth of creative expression and artists' voices to explore the unfinished fight for women's rights from across the country. To work with our library partners to amplify stories of women and the amazing work that is happening surrounding gender equality in each city has been really inspiring. We hope audiences watching will feel empowered to continue the fight!

Ruby Baker, Head of Programming

Herstory is part of Collections in Verse, a three-year partnership between Poet and the City, the British Library, Newcastle Libraries, and Libraries Unlimited.

The content is free to access and launches Tuesday 4th October during Libraries Week 2022, timed to highlight the power of partnership between library services and creative commissioners.