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Inspiring women in the spotlight at International Women’s Day.
Tuesday 12th March 2019 @ 19:02 by Anna Fletcher
Community Events News

Women from across Greater Manchester celebrated International Women’s Day at Oldham Coliseum Theatre’s fourth annual event on Friday 8 March.

In partnership with Jigsaw Homes Group, residents from Oldham and Tameside were given backstage access to the borough’s historic theatre for a day packed with creative activities plus inspiring talks from local actress Amy Gavin and Social Media guru Rubbi Bhogal-Wood.

Amy Gavin played local heroine Annie Kenney in BBC’s The Suffragettes in June last yearIn December she reprised the role of Annie, delivering one of her rousing speeches, at the launch event at Gallery Oldham ahead of the unveiling of the commemorative statue of Annie Kenney at Oldham’s Parliament Square. Amy is no stranger to the Coliseum stage having played Nancy in 2016’s popular production of Gaslight.  

Speaking ahead of the event, Amy commented: “Being from Oldham, I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to portray Annie Kenney. Through researching her I have learnt so much more about the Suffragette movement and have met so many inspiring women. I feel privileged that I get to share this International Women’s Day with women in my hometown. I think Annie would approve!” 

Rubbi Bhogal-Wood is Founder and Director of Wild and Form Digital, a company which specialises in helping small to medium sized businesses grow online through Social Media. With 20 years’ experience in the advertising business, Rubbi is passionate about female leadership and entrepreneurship and is keen to inspire the next generation of business women.

Rubbi said: “Every woman has a story to tell. Every woman deserves to tell it. Unfortunately, not all are able to do so. I feel honoured to be able to share a bit of mine with the likeminded women attending the event at the Coliseum. For me, International Women’s Day means doing my bit to join in the wondrous global effort to lift and raise women and pave the way for future female generations to tell their stories, on their terms and in their own unique way.”

Rubbi spoke about her own journey starting her own business as well as encouraging people to curate their social media feed like a book or music collection so that it makes you feel uplifted and helps to lift and raise others too.

She said: “Being in a space with other female business owners I felt very empowered and safe to share experiences and it is those shared experiences that have really opened my eyes to the fact that when you are in business, you can actually be nice and win in business. You don’t have to emulate characteristics that are not who you are to be successful.

“The women I am meeting are so incredibly brave and intelligent and are using their stories to inspire others and push through barriers. It would have been wonderful to have had a female figure I could have spoken with when I was coming up. I don’t know everything, but I want to be able to give back and empower the next generation and learn from them at the same time.”

As part of this work Rubbi created a series called ‘In Conversation’ for her Facebook group where she speaks to female business owners about their journey.

The global theme for 2019’s International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter, calling for a more gender-balanced world. Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue; #BalanceforBetter is a call to action for accelerating gender-balanced boardrooms, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth, gender-balanced sports coverage and more.

Carly Henderson, Head of Learning and Engagement at Oldham Coliseum Theatre commented: “International Women’s Day is an opportunity for us to celebrate the work we deliver with Jigsaw Homes Group and the participants who really shape our work. This year our women’s group, delivered in partnership with Jigsaw Group, curated an exhibition as part of English Touring Theatre’s production of Othello. Their work has a real presence in the building and we’re delighted that practitioner and group leader Caitlin Gleeson will be delivering a workshop based on the themes of #BalanceforBetter as part of the event.”  

Ivan Wright, Assistant Director of Neighbourhoods at Jigsaw Group added:“Working with Oldham Coliseum Theatre to run projects and events like International Women’s Day enables us to empower socially isolated women within our communities to go out, make new friends and try something new. We work with tenants from all genders and backgrounds, and through the theatre, we hope to give them the skills and confidence they need to improve their lives.”

Oldham Coliseum Theatre and Jigsaw Homes Group are both committed to serving the communities of Oldham and the surrounding areas, offering opportunities for people to be inspired and reach their potential. The two organisations work in partnership to run regular projects with tenants which help to build confidence, employability and health and wellbeing. Working together, the theatre and Jigsaw Group have helped over 100 young people return to work or education, created a theatre company for people with additional needs and reached hundreds of school children using theatre as a propeller for learning.

The partnership also encourages tenants to try something new whilst experiencing different cultures. Past International Women’s Day events at the Coliseum have included talks from actresses Sue Devaney (best known for previous roles in Johnny Briggs and Dinnerladies, plus the Coliseum’s hit production of Our Gracie and the 2018 pantomime Cinderella), Julie Hesmondhalgh (best known for her former role as Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street) and Isabel Ford (most recently seen in the Coliseum’s productions of Whisky GaloreHard Times and Brassed Off). The annual event also regularly features Henna painting and creative workshops based on the themes of International Women’s Day.

The workshop included women discussing topics including female politicians, musicians and writers that inspire them as well as ways in which women can support each other and what advice you would give your younger self.

The day began with a short talk from Susan Wildman, Interim Chief Executive at Oldham Coliseum, who spoke about local suffragette Annie Kenney.

Susan said: “It is just lovely to be able to invite a group of women into a theatre, particularly as a woman, on International Women’s Day to have a day of celebration. Annie Kenney is a particular heroine of mine and I am always pleased to tell more people about her and her achievements.

“And we should celebrate women’s achievements because let’s face it we’re not there yet when it comes to equality and the gender pay gap. It’s really important that we do keep fighting and we remember people like Annie who fought for us, but we have a way to go. This is all part of an ongoing campaign to achieve greater equality.”