Visible Women festival in Glasgow aims to open up critical debate on feminism

CommonSpace's Mick Clocherty reports on this weekend's two-day festival

ARTISTS in Glasgow are set to run a two-day festival to celebrate International Women's Day.

The Visible Women festival, running across 3 and 4 March at Glasgow's Kinning Park Complex, aims to celebrate and delve into notions of womanhood through art, performance and discussion. Featuring an eclectic programme of events, the festival looks to be challenging and unconventional, as well as informative and entertaining; ultimately focused around exploring conceptions of femininity and different schools of feminist thought.

Speaking to CommonSpace about why she initially put the event together, festival organiser Keira McLean explained: "I sought to create an event where lots of different types of feminism could be present and explored. It's a political event as much as an artistic one and that means conflict and dissensus. 

"We should be able to critically reflect on our feminism without dilution of its core principles. I sometimes feel this nuance and critical engagement is lacking in some feminist events.

"On a personal level it was about challenging and reflecting on my own views and developing them through dialogue with others. In that sense I feel like we've achieved our goals already, the process has been empowering and informative; friendships have formed and future projects are planned. That's a win.

"The event evolved through wanting a more immersive experience, where art, discussion and performance compliment and inform each other. I enjoy working collaboratively and wanted to work with lots of different types of artists and performers. 

"Lots of us are involved in similar projects, it made sense to develop something that put us all in the same room."

"We should be able to critically reflect on our feminism without dilution of its core principles. I sometimes feel this nuance and critical engagement is lacking in some feminist events." Keira McLean

Pointing out that such events can sometimes alienate males, or those with less mainstream feminist views, McLean added: "Visible Women is about women, not for them ... we have tried to encourage as much male participation as possible, which in itself is a challenge as having 'women' in the title immediately alienates some men to the idea it's for them. 

"We need more integrated events in my view, to end this notion. That's a problem everywhere, not just in Glasgow.

"We are self-funding this project, for me that is important because we can't be censored, or at least have institutional criteria put on us from above. The themes and issues we are exploring over the weekend are difficult and often contradictory, just as human beings are. 

"Visible Women isn't a safe space, it's a respectful one: a space where we can challenge and question each other. I think that's what makes us different."

Talented Glasgow spoken word artist Victoria McNulty, part of the bill for this year's BBC6 Music Festival, will headline the Visible Women event on Saturday night with her show 'Confessionals'. 

"Visible Women isn't a safe space, it's a respectful one: a space where we can challenge and question each other. I think that's what makes us different." Keira McLean

Combining a long-form spoken word piece with music from the Trongate Rum Riots and accompanying visual art, Confessionals looks to be a provocative and entertaining performance piece telling the story of an east-end barmaid (complete with a post-show 'lock in' for authenticity!).

Sunday offers an all-day art exhibition, alongside various discussion groups and workshops with thinkers and performers across various disciplines and from all walks of life. It's headed up with a film night, featuring a series of films focusing on the spaces women create; including the controversial 'Gaslight', well-known Scottish rapper Darren 'Loki' McGarvey's video showing domestic violence through the eyes of a perpetrator, and 'Mirror', by Caireen Stuart and Keira McLean, a film portraying the way in which women are watched and watch themselves (from mother and daughter film-makers), with a question and answer session after each screening.

On top of exhibitions, performances and screenings, the complex will have a licensed bar for the festival and a radical feminist shop selling artwork and merchandise from contributing artists.

Picture courtesy of Visible Women

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