Women come together to discuss the topic of ‘community.’
On Monday 22 January, roughly ten women came to the Hillhead Bookclub and gathered in the relative quiet of a separate room upstairs to amplify each other’s voices. It was the second instalment of AmplifyHER, which seeks to create a space for women to share their thoughts in whichever form on a specific topic. The topic that day was “community” (the last had been “power”) and the scene was set by Sam, who presented a short film in which she reflected on her experiences with the Glasgow Girls Club, the organisers of the event.
The Club’s aim is to “engage and mentor youth of disadvantaged areas of Glasgow”, and “connect girls and young women with opportunities and to provide tools to enable them to enjoy healthy and rewarding futures.” Community seemed to be an appropriate topic for a group focused on promoting local women.
Nevertheless, the subsequent discussion was not restricted by particular bullet points and in fact covered diverse topics. Neither was it censored by any supposedly compulsory tenets of feminism, truly creating the safe and supportive environment the night had promised. AmplifyHER allowed the attendees the frankness to reflect on their own genuine experiences without needing to adapt these to some sort of popular narrative. They could sound their own hearts and find out what sounds it actually gave off.
Laurie Duffy, the conductor of the discussion and communications director for the Glasgow Girls Club, said it was important that “one uses all platforms one is given as educational platforms”. She argued that creating an environment where different view points can be expressed is a simple but effective way of educating one another. Although the general impression of AmplifyHER was of it being in its nascency (it was, after all, only is second instalment), there was a reverberating emphasis on the will to actually do something about the topics of conversation. It was decided that attendees would bring donations for refugees and homeless people next time. They also promised to alert each other to specific cases in their own communities where women were in need. The women thus rejuvenated one another by actively deciding how best to channel their good intentions.
AmplifyHER echoed the general method of the Glasgow Girls Club – much of its work, explained its coordinator, Amy Rewcastle, happened word-of-mouth. It came down to having a network and knowing individuals willing to mentor young women; to being flexible; to acknowledging the differences between young girls. Rewcastle also mentioned the importance of cascading leadership – the continuous progression from being helped to helping, from being mentored to mentoring.
During the discussion, familiar phrases like “on-the-ground” and “grassroots work” were heard that encapsulated the same notion: that, in the end, help must be direct and appear in everyday gestures, that it can only emerge where there is actual interaction. This is how communities are formed – real people, doing something productive for other real people, for no other reason than because they genuinely care.
This sense of community was clearly reflected when Laurie Duffy referred to Amy, who spoke of Avril, who mentioned Sam, who recounted what Tori had done, conjuring up an image of a intricate web, making one eager to embed themselves in it too. A chance to be part of this small but growing community is what is on offer at AmplifyHER.