Bumps and bruises, and learning to love the bumpy road…

stall_2I do some volunteering at the Feminist Library. I originally just joined the organisation to help it with the gentrification crisis pushing it out of its current home of over 30 years, because of unsustainable rent increases, but then I stayed on to help with some other, more general tasks. Anyway, this story is not about the Library, as much as I love to talk about it. You can find out more about the Library and its troubles by clicking on the link above.

On the way home from last night’s meeting of the Library’s management collective, I realised that, despite all the multiple bumps and bruises on route to Angels & Witches, I actually got quite a lot done in the last couple of months. So I should probably stop being so hard on myself. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy (except me! Before I actually got started…)

Brick Lane market was the first concrete step to actually launching the café on the high street, which I made last month. As much as it didn’t last long, because of the high stall costs in Brick Lane, and my near broke-ness after the long months that the project has taken unexpectedly, it was an interesting and informative experience. People were intrigued by the name, the product and the idea behind the café. I think the most fascinating finding, to me personally, was that we had more men who seemed positively intrigued by the idea of a feminist café than women! On the one hand, it seems encouraging to me that men in our culture are starting to feel so comfortable with the idea of feminism that they don’t see the project as in any way threatening. On the contrary, it seems! On the other hand, it does make me wonder. Why aren’t women just as comfortable, excited even? Part of me thinks that it might be a reflection of the fact that men are generally more comfortable to speak in our society, rather than the reflection of the fact that men are more comfortable with the idea of a feminist café than women!

Then just the other day I started a new group on Facebook – the Feminist Spaces Collective. The idea has suddenly struck me, as I was just about to write an email to one of my contacts – who’s also looking to open a feminist space in London – listing all the potential connections that might be useful to her. And it hit me! Why isn’t there one place where we could all communicate, support each other and work on new and inventive ways of collaborating on feminist spaces? And so I set up the group to try and fill the gap. At the moment, its just a small group of mostly London based women, running spaces here, but I would like it to reach further out, eventually, connecting spaces throughout the UK and beyond. So, if you’re reading this, and this idea strikes you as in any way interesting, please add yourself or friends if you think this might be relevant to them!

Thanks to my two weeks in Brick Lane, I also met the woman I mentioned above who wants to set up a feminist recording studio! How awesome is that?! It’s a project that is not only very cool but that has also inspired me to start the Facebook group I mentioned above. I have met quite a few women, who like me, are trying to set up feminist spaces, since I have started on the Angels & Witches journey. And every time I have quietly wondered why we aren’t more connected, so that we can support each other and work together where possible. But it wasn’t until the studio meeting that I realised that perhaps it was down to me to set up this virtual networking space!

When I first started working with the Feminist Library, I assumed that a place like that probably already exists. And so I asked one of my good friends – and the person who pulled my into working for the Library in the first place! – who’d been around feminism for decades, sure in the knowledge that she would have the answer to my burning question. She did, kind of… Both the UK and the European feminist libraries and archives have collectives which give them a way to communicate with each other, to keep in touch, to support each other, to organise meetings, conferences, and the like. But there’s nothing beyond that, for the wider feminist spaces community! I mean, I heard that there is a feminist café somewhere in Italy, but I have never been able to organise a long-overdue trip, because I wasn’t able to find the exact details online, and none of my UK feminist friends seem to know much about it beyond the fact that it exists! And so I have started the Feminist Spaces Collective in order to bridge that gap.

As part of the project, I have so far connected Rooms of our Own, the Feminist Library, the Feminist Libraries and Archives Network, a feminist bookshop in Texas, one in Florida, and one in Connecticut, and I have reached out to a dozen or so more feminist organisations, including WINE, Reclaim Holloway, WRC, the recently opened women’s library in Vancouver, and a few more bookshops, asking if they want to join. Obviously, Angels & Witches is in there too! And the feminist recording studio in London (to-be)! I hope that the group helps all the projects support each other in times of crises and communicate better to create new collaborations.

I have also gotten in touch with Hi-Vis – a feminist designers and architects collective in London – to ask if they want to join. I have just met them the other week, but they seem wonderfully helpful and collaborative, and at the moment they’re only working with one of the feminist space projects I know, so I thought: why not, maybe they can do some designs voluntarily for some other ones in the group? And maybe they don’t know about them yet!?

In other updates, I am also looking into other, cheaper stall options. Going more local than Brick Lane might be the way to go, at least to start with. All local stalls are bound to be cheaper than the fashionable Brick Lane. East Not East festival has gotten back in touch. And the Feminist Library is also going to be there, doing their own stall, so it might be a good sign.

On top of all that, at the last Feminist Library meeting we’ve talked about Angels & Witches taking over catering of its events going forwards!

Finally, there is a potential option of doing catering for a big academic institution, but I can’t quite divulge the details just yet. And nothing is confirmed just yet.

And the best part is that, after writing all this, I have finally realised that I am not doing as poorly as I thought. I have actually done quite a bit in the last few weeks, and most importantly, despite all the setbacks, I have not given up on my dream! And so the only thing left to do, at the end of this post, is to stop being so hard on myself!

And the other best part? Realising just how broke I was might not have been the best feeling in the world, but at least it made me look for plan b, c and d options… and for funding! Which, as soon as I get, I am going to start searching for that perfect spot for the café again!

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