When groups in Devon were planning an Area workshop, member Marie Handyside knew who would fit the bill. Her daughter Dr Fiona Handyside is a senior lecturer in European film at the University of Exeter and had recently written a book on 'Sofia Coppola; A Cinema of Girlhood' (featured in the 2017 Big Read). So, on Saturday 28 October, over forty members and visitors from Devon and Cornwall came together for a workshop on 'Women and Film: Images, Memories and Fantasies'.
We started with a presentation by Fiona and her colleague Dr Danielle Hipkins, which expanded on the NWR national theme for 2017 of women in film. Interspersed with film clips, they focused on the multiple ways women interact with film: as directors, as stars and as viewers. We learnt how films such as 'Breakfast at Tiffanys', 'Pretty Woman' and 'Lost in Translation' subverted and changed how women were portrayed. Some of the very few 2017 films made by women such as 'United Kingdom', Wonder Women', 'Viceroy's House' and 'Beguiled' were highlighted.
After an excellent lunch we moved from the cinema style setting to workshop tables and encouraged by various questions, discussed the changing roles of women in film and shared memories of cinema going. Some members were regular cinema goers in the 1950s and 60s and recalled plots and stars from those times. Memories were stimulated and illuminated by posters, books and magazines from the University's Bill Douglas Cinema Museum.
Many thanks to Carolyn Hempenstall, Glenda Cooper and the area team for arranging such an interesting, informative and stimulating event. I returned home inspired to find out more, view productions more critically and with a list of films to see and some to watch again.
Fiona and Danielle have kindly offered to create a pack so that other NWR groups can explore or revisit the Women in Film topic.
What happened to our summer break?
Staff and the volunteers who run NWR can usually rely on a quiet period between late July and September to catch up on annual tasks and outstanding issues. After all the hard work of the national conference is over, the pace changes and we can relax a bit to take holidays, spend time with our families or just enjoy the summer.
Early work on the Telephone Treasure Trail then starts in August and preparations for the next trustee meeting get underway in September as everyone focuses on the year ahead.
Not this year however!
Staff and trustee resignations have made this a busy summer and early Autumn as replacements have to be found to keep our organisation going. New job roles and descriptions for staff had to be agreed and advertised. Then came the shortlisting and interviews and, for the lucky applicants, an induction schedule and settling in period to be organised.
To keep the organisation going we need a whole range of volunteers from Regional/Area Organisers, to special group leaders, to trustees. We encourage any interest and aim to find ways to use members' experiences and skills.
So we look forward to working with our new members of staff, our new trustees and volunteers as they bring new ideas and fresh energy.
I can now return to my garden and reading and relaxing - for a few weeks at least... although the TTT is coming up quickly... and then there is Christmas...
At our Banchory meet last night, we finished the evening by thanking our outgoing Local Coordinator, Edna Harris, for all the hard work she has done throughout her 10-year stint in the position. We celebrated with cake, and presented her with flowers and National Garden Vouchers. Attached is a photo, with Edna in the centre on the sofa.
The main topic of the evening was a talk given by a volunteer representative from the charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. These clever dogs aid their 'recipients' by responding to sounds such as door bells, ringing telephones, oven alarms and even crying babies by touching the human and taking them to the source of the sound. They are trained to respond to fire alarms by touching the human and then lying on the ground as soon as they've caught their human's attention. Their owners say they gain great comfort and self-confidence through having a Hearing Dog, and for example can sleep soundly once again now they no longer have any worries about not hearing a fire alarm in the night.
You can spot these dogs in your neighbourhood by their smart burgundy coats, and we are all encouraged to speak to anyone we see with such a dog. A lovely introduction to possibly a new friend.
One of the wonderful aspects of NWR is that you never know what you're going to learn about next.
In September ten of our group visited Wrexham Mosque, several of us went to the Open Day there 18 months ago, but some didn't make it on that day. We have become good friends with one of the mosque congregation, who also spoke at our conference, "Faith in our Future" last year. She warmly welcomed everyone, and gave a huge insight into the life womenin Islam, dispelling some of the many myths surrounding the subject, and she has also spoken to other NWR groups in the area who have really enjoyed what she has to say.