I’m not one for festivals. I freely admit I’m the last surviving human who hasn’t been to Glastonbury, Latitude, the Isle of Wight, Reading or anything else remotely festival shaped. Until three weeks ago. A friend and I decided to go to the very first PrimaDonnaFest (www.primadonnafestival,com) held deep in the Suffolk countryside. This celebration of all-things-women-in-writing turned out to be small but perfectly formed. The organising PrimaDonnas are an august group of movers and shakers. It took us 5 hours to get there from Dorset, so first on the list was tea and cake (naturally) before taking part in a chat on patriarchy – funny, moving, astonishing. Among the speakers was Sandi Toksvig (http://www.sanditoksvig.com) who touched on the importance of Wikipedia pages about remarkable women (sadly lacking). I’m full of admiration for Sandi’s irrepressible good humour, and for her work with the Womens Equality Party founded in 2015 (http://www.womensequality,org.uk).
In case you might be thinking that this was aggressively weighted against men, the story I heard everywhere was how vital it is to find a way forward for true equality – a very far cry from any taint of ‘men bashing’ (in case you were wondering). In fact, despite some gobsmacking examples of exclusion or patronising of women given by speakers, the constant message was a longing for a future where a male-/female divide is a thing of the past and where both sexes are appreciated for their talents and gifts as well as their differences. in my own experience, I met some horrific behaviour when I first started work 40 years ago (not being able to have any credit,for instance without my husband’s signature – being routinely groped in lifts AND meetings – told I couldn’t apply for Civil Service jobs abroad because ‘they’re for men’ even though I was qualified – etc etc etc. The last example I had was 15 years ago when, buying a car, I was told to ‘come back on Monday with your husband’. As i was recently divorced, this didn’t go down too well). But I haven’t found much treatment like this lately. I see younger generations showing a lot more mutual respect – long may it flourish and improve.
Among other speakers we caught were Katy Brand http://katybrandoffcial.com – and I blame her for sitting up watching Dirty dancing at 4am three days later……
I’m signing up as soon as I can for PrimaDonnaFest next year.
Lastly, a word for a lovely village called Debenham nearby. For two delicious mornings we had breakfast at the River Green Cafe and Deli – they have a Facebook page @rivergreencafeanddeli . Debenham has a wealth of historic buildings, a pub (The Angel), and – proof in my mind of a truly civilised place – a secondhand/antiquarian bookshop. You can find Debenham on http://debenham.onesuffolk.net