Batley’s International Women’s Day festival hailed a huge success

Batley’s inaugural International Women’s Day festival was hailed a huge success as hundreds of people of all ages descended on the Older People’s Centre for a “truly humbling” day of workshops, inspiring speeches and fun.

The event, envisaged to celebrate International Women’s Day and Vote 100, saw inspirational women keep the crowds entranced with their funny, rousing and often moving talks on subjects ranging from women in TV and the environment to votes at 16 and living with dementia.

Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin said: “Our mission was to celebrate inspirational women of all ages from local, national and international stages– and we did it with gusto.

“It was truly humbling to be in the room with so many remarkable women who were only too eager to share their fascinating, powerful and hilarious tales.

“To see so many disparate groups come together to share their stories showed Batley and Spen at its absolute finest.

“I cannot express how grateful I am to all who spoke, held stalls, visited as guests and gave their time and efforts – without you all it wouldn’t have happened and I am in your debt.

“In what is a hugely significant year as we celebrate 100 years since women won the hard-fought right to vote, I’m delighted that we were able to pay homage in our own small way.”

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Bafta-nominee Lisa Holdsworth kicked off the day with her hilarious account of writing for television and was followed by Batley’s Salma Karolia who, as well as giving a fascinating talk on entrepreneurship, was on hand throughout with her team to provide intricate henna tattoos for guests.

Fazlia Aswat was next with an inspirational talk on volunteering followed by Debbie Taylor’s humbling and aspirational story of her battle with mental health and transformation into an artist.

The next slot was dedicated to inspiring youth with young campaigner Emily Warrillow and Batley Girls’ students Hana Yaqoob and Hawa Patel talking politics.

The afternoon saw Wakefield MP Mary Creagh inform and entertain with her work on women and the environment, Frances Brody tell of how she became an award-winning author and a remarkable group of Syrian refugees recount their heart-breaking story of war, turmoil and unspeakable loss.

Tracy and Michelle Collins

Tracy Brabin MP also took to the stage to grill the actor, campaigner and former EastEnders and Corrie star Michelle Collins in front of a room packed full of eager listeners.

The afternoon came to a close with Maureen Winfield’s heart-wrenching tale of her husband’s dementia diagnosis, West Yorkshire Drama Academy’s rendition of the heroic Catherine Exley’s story, and performances from the talented singer/songwriter Jasmine Kennedy and the wonderfully-talented Batley Poets.

As well as the inspirational speakers, there were stalls from a variety of community organisations including Yorkshire Down Syndrome Group, Kirklees Pop-up Museum, Freedom Personal Safety, Primrose Handknits, Royal Voluntary Service, Creative Minds and the Women’s Centre.

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And one of the most popular attractions on the day proved to be the wonderful ‘face-in-the-hole’ suffragette board that the talented children at Gomersal Primary created along with lots of custom-made bunting to brighten up the room.

Mark Griffin, of Batley Smile who helped organise the event, said: “A big thank you to The Women’s Vote Centenary Grant Scheme [Small Grants Fund] and to everyone who helped to make Batley and Spen’s International Women’s Day event a special one. New friendships were made amid a shared desire to do more to #pressforprogress.

“This was the first time Batley Smile has participated in an IWD event and we are looking forward to 2019 already.”

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