posters advertising International Women's Day events on the front door of The Art Place Pop-Up in Chelmsford

Visitors to Chelmsford’s city centre will be asked to break the bias for International Women’s Day which takes place on 8 March. Events are planned throughout the high street to explore this year’s theme of fighting for a gender equal world.

The programme is a collaboration between feminist groups, arts organisations and local councils to highlight the achievements of women and to call for a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination.

Break the bias art trail

An art trail across Chelmsford’s high street will feature new works by local women artists responding to the break the bias theme and what it means to be a woman. Feminist campaigner Karen Whybro is calling for female artists to submit a range of pieces to be displayed across shop windows throughout the city.

Visual art of any kind will be accepted as part of the project and Chelmsford City Council buildings including Chelmsford Theatres and Chelmsford Museum will be part of the trail.

Women’s history festival

A free day-long women’s history festival from Snapping the Stiletto is also planned for the city centre. The arts project, which campaigns for equality and seeks to re-frame the Essex girl identity, has assembled an impressive line-up of women speakers and creative workshops in partnership with The Art Place and High Chelmer shopping centre.

Inspiring speakers

The Chelmsford festival takes place on Saturday 12 March at The Art Place Pop-Up (in the unit that used to be occupied by Top Shop) starting with a morning of talks from women working in the county’s arts, culture, heritage and engagement sector. In the afternoon there are two free bookable workshops which anyone can sign up for.

Creative workshops

Mixed media artist Juliet Lockhart will be leading a session to create jewellery celebrating ‘Wild Essex Women’, making textile brooches inspired by Boudica and the tradition of Roman face pots. Illustrator and printmaker Heidi Sharp will be sharing techniques to create collages and monotypes in ‘Copy and Paste’. The finished works will go on display in The Art Place and shared on social media.

Innovative women’s foraging project

The final event of the festival is a book launch for ‘Homeland is Presence’, a project bringing together a group of women with heritage from 17 different countries to understand the plants of their collective Essex homeland.

A special exhibition is already installed at The Art Place Pop-Up and Lora Aziz of Wyrd Flora will be on hand to tell the story of this innovative project which explores the Essex hedgerow through the lens of different cultures.

Cllr Marie Goldman, Chelmsford City Council’s Deputy Leader and the city’s Cabinet Member for Connected Chelmsford is one of the festival’s speakers. She says the city’s art will be a powerful tool for social change:

“It’s wonderful to celebrate the city’s women artists and to bring the ‘break the bias’ theme to the heart of our city. Gender should never limit what women can achieve but it still does in countless ways, big and small. International Women’s Day is an important moment for us to recognise the brilliant women in our midst and a reminder to keep pushing for a fairer world in everything we do. Arts and culture have a key role to play in telling us some hard truths, bringing us together, and inspiring us to keep going.”

Cllr Marie Goldman, Deputy leader, Chelmsford City Council

Chelmsford women’s march

Throughout the festival, placard making will be taking place in High Chelmer’s Central Square in preparation for a break the bias march that will set out from the shopping centre to the cathedral at the end of the day. If you’d like to make a placard you don’t need to book – you can drop in at any time during the day to take part.

Kayleigh Boyle of Snapping the Stiletto hopes the festival will help people think about what they could do in their own lives to break the bias:

“Holding this event in a shopping centre in a busy high street is a great way to remind us that this is an issue that affects us all and to get as many people as possible talking about gender equality. Come along to one of our free events to meet some of the inspirational women of the city and tell us how you can use creativity to build a fairer future for everyone.”

Kayleigh Boyle, Project Manager, Snapping the Stiletto

Women and equality celebrated throughout March

Over the next two weeks, other special events will be going on across Essex for International Women’s Day. Chelmsford Museum will be featuring stories on their social media accounts of incredible women who’ve worked and lived in the region, and a special case at the museum will be dedicated to the life of Land Girl Dorothy Capon.

City Life will feature some of the new blue plaques honouring Chelmsford women as part of the Essex Women’s Commemoration Project and The Art Place Pop-Up in High Chelmer will be hosting a body positive fashion show on Sunday 13 March, which is planning to rebel against stereotypes with a runway much more like the real world.

If you’d like to take part in IWD 2022 activities but you can’t make 12 March, Snapping the Stiletto also has a day-long festival in Southend this coming weekend on Saturday 5 March.

The Beecroft Gallery has an exciting line-up of women speakers working across arts and culture in the UK’s newest city including Lu Williams of Grrrl Zine Fair and author Syd Moore, and a range of creative and practical workshops are planned too.

A fashion show will take place at The Art Place Pop-Up on 13 March

Book and find out more

Don’t forget to book if you’d like to attend Snapping the Stiletto events in Chelmsford or Southend – they’re free but you’ll need a ticket to secure your place for talks and workshops.

To find out more about Snapping the Stiletto: Campaigning for Equality, which is run by Essex County Council, visit their website: https://www.snappingthestiletto.co.uk/

International Women’s Day takes place across the world on 8 March and belongs to everyone, everywhere. To learn more about this year’s theme, go to https://www.internationalwomensday.com/theme.

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