Girls, Women, role models and fairy tales…
April 6, 2017 | Posted By: Marnie Forbes Eldridge
Girls, women, history and ‘fairy tales’….
I was in discussion at a school recently, asking if World Women’s day was acknowledged and discussed. I also bemoaned the lack of women on the curriculum. I was quite restrained for me and accepted that perhaps content was dictated by government, they did have a ‘get-out’ option. The replies I received have stayed with me for some time. Firstly, I was told it wasn’t their fault that a woman hadn’t ‘invented’ penicillium. I wanted to retort, no, but what about the scientific breakthroughs women have achieved over the millennium. I did say there were women who had achieved other things. However, at that moment, missing my point entirely, a very senior educationist stepped in and said, but they were teaching fairy tales and that was biased towards girls and it was very hard to find content to keep boys engaged. So we should be happy there was something for the girls. I believe my face said it all when I responded without thought, no, fairy tales were not gender biased and it depended upon the rendition, interpretation and retelling. I wanted to know why women were underrepresented in the inventions, science and space aspects of the primary curriculum. What happened was an answer that made me realised gender inequality is ripe everywhere, these two people were women and that made me even sadder.
I have since this encounter ran it through my head many times. I have felt angry at the presumption that fairy tales are more interesting to girls than boys and then I suddenly became really cross at the presumption. Star Wars is a classic modern day fairy tale. What were the tales being taught and who were the writers of these tales? Were these the tales where the girl or woman was ‘saved’ by the man? Or were these the tales where actually male and female roles were questioned or were these the ones that reinforced the facts that women are weak and vulnerable and only succeed when a male figure intervenes? I didn’t get chance to ask to see a book list or take this any further as they really didn’t want to engage with me. I hope I’m misunderstanding their opinions and views.
We must challenge women’s place in society and how society views women. Sexism is around us and our young children will uphold these ideas unless they are offered alternatives. This means sharing the curriculum equally between male and female role models, science is male dominated, but it doesn’t have to be and there are many female role models from history and the present to start these discussions and inspire both boys and girls. Fairy tales can be re-written so the lessons and constructs within are positive for all of society. We must consider this, and especially with our youngest members of society. Female mental health issues are rising and the issues are coming into play early on in their lives. Discussions of who is better, boys or girls, are just the beginnings and if our schools can’t see this and act then what is the path to follow in this very scary forest?
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A New Year?
January 30, 2015 | Posted By: Marnie Forbes Eldridge
The end of January; I’m glad the darkness is receding. It’s been a hard month for some of my loved ones and I know February will be tough. The skies are heavy, low and overbearing with a grey that feels as if it will dampen all around.
I started writing this at Midwinter which I find is an interesting time of the year. The darkness and bitter cold is all around. We light candles and draw in positivity to keep us warm in the dark days to come. Whether you are a pagan celebrating the winter solstice or a Christian focusing on Jesus’ birth or a Hindu with Diwali, you are remembering the light, you are keeping the darkness at bay. This last year we have been lulled into a false sense of security with the mild balmy October so the cold is biting all the harder now. I don’t have a fire to ward off the beasts that edge around the shadows, but I do have a spark within and I must keep the host alight.
Winter had just begun when I brought my thoughts to this. Christmas is a time to gather, collect and hold those things and people that are dear to us close. New Year is, I always feel, false start for me. It never feels like New Year, it lulls us into a false sense of positivity and warmth, when really we need to be safe, watchful and keep the flame alight that Christmas and the solstice fired up. New Year isn’t ready to happen until March, there is too much cold to come, whereas March seems like the true new beginning, New Year, new season, Spring.
I do feel it coming. I know there is darkness and cold to contend with still, but I have felt the first stirrings of the new beginnings. I have seen the first daffodils for sale, the first brave snowdrops and the air has held the song of the birds sounding out a new tune. So let us remember that the darkness can be held at bay and let us keep warm and be ready for all to come.
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A Woman’s Tale
A universal story of mankind is one that touches you no matter your gender or background. This is why Shakespeare is still relevant. I was never really interested in gender specifics, the characters I wanted to play were the ones that dealt with ‘big’ issues and they were often male, especially when you look at Shakespeare. I didn’t think it fair that men got those juicy parts; I wanted to explore those feelings, ideas and the language that unlocked that aspect of humanity. My first dissertation was on that subject, ‘Jobs for the Boys’. There are some fantastic roles for women, that do explore the depth and contours of life, but lots of them are caught in the gender trap of what women only go through, not humans, and many of them are stuck in an age specific ‘before forty’.
The old saying (who’s or where it came from I know not), ‘life begins at forty’, misses out the aspect of performing arts. There has been much talked about regarding older women in front of the camera, or rather the lack of them, but there is also the fact that characters from fiction and drama are often missing, unless you want to support. I seem to be encountering lots of material that is getting me to question and think about these issues; from Juno Theatre, Jude Kelly’s key speech at WOW, articles and discussions.
However, what is becoming apparent is that I need to do something- it’s all very well awakening, realising and discussing things, but action changes things.
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A Girls own story…
May 1, 2014 | Posted By: Marnie Forbes Eldridge
I recently read an article on the BBC website about the lack of female driven drama, it was saying that this was a surprise post ‘Buffy’ and a huge surprise due to the success of that show – I confess I never watched ‘Buffy’ when it came to our screens, odd really as I love vampyre stories, but at the time I loved ‘Ultraviolet’, anyway I digress – again! So I have started watching it for the first time and yes it is good. However, the article and now watching it has left me questioning this aspect of female driven drama, and not just the token woman, as even lead females of so many films and dramas are often on their own and this misses a group of defined females, it shouldn’t just be their proximity to men, but for stories sake.
As a writer and theatre practitioner who has joined an all-female theatre company I am particularly interested in asking what are these stories? Do they have to be issue led, or can they be the mythic constructs that abide in all good tales that connect to us all and transcend time? I think both, but I feel I am a writer of the latter and ultimately that’s what I like to watch, read, direct and act. So do we just write them and hope? Yes and use the pathways that are out there to get them noticed, and of course find the stories, explore the characters we want to engage with, who also happen to be women. I guess I’m taking things more seriously, focusing more. Let’s see if I can put thought into practice and in the meantime I am enjoying ‘Buffy’, but also more ‘grown-up’ work like ‘The Bridge’, which also has strong females.
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Thought on creativity and silence…
January 16, 2014 | Posted By: Marnie Forbes Eldridge
I have been reading Sara Maitland’s ‘A Book of Silence’, it has been profoundly medative, both from a spiritual and creative perspective, and has lead me into 2014 with many questions and a new resolve for my writing.
It isn’t a New Year for me; I take the beginning of spring, March, to be my New Year, but it is a change, a recharge and a remembrance that we are is still in the dark months and we need to keep the light lit within us all. It is all too easy to be lifted by Christmas and celebrations and to then forget that we must keep the light inside us active and then we can plummet. So my ‘resolution’ of writing more needs to be more than a gesture and a thought – I do tend to have many thoughts that don’t manifest themselves!
‘Gossip from the Forest’ was my first introduction to Sara Maitland’s writings and ideas. I loved that book, I loved the exploration of place and story, of the connections to the soul and creativity that forests have, and also the reinterpretation of the fairy tales. ‘A Book of Silence’ got me thinking about spirituality, but from my writing’s perspective it allowed me access to exploring creativity and what allows/hinders us the chance to be creative, productive and fulfil the job.
There is a dichotomy within me and I suspect many; I love connecting to friends and family, being part of a community and society but I also relish my own time away from most and then sometimes everyone. So often I feel guilty for wanting to hide away and avoid society, but I have never really given it much thought connecting to my creativity. When I create a play with others, devising, directing or acting I have to be with a trusted ensemble – it’s the nature of that wonderful art form. However, now that I am putting my hand up and saying yes I am a writer, I need time away from others to allow the work to formulate and construct.
If I talk about an idea it becomes diluted and disperses into the ether and I can never really find the narrative or way to express the idea again. If I keep it within, jot down a few barebones, mull it over and then come back to it as I sit at my laptop, then it finds its magical life force. Friends have said how do you find time to write? It’s true it’s hard, it’s even harder since becoming a mother and having to put aside selfish needs, but if it is going to happen (and it has to come out) then I have to clear the way to allow for the time to be alone, to be able to create. It means I am often seen as anti-social, correspondence gets put to one side, I don’t make the effort with keeping in touch, meeting up, having a chat…..the list goes on and I feel guilty about this…. And then I read this book and suddenly I almost had permission to stop the guilt. I think I have always known these things, but sometimes you need someone else to tell you this. The wise Sara Maitland has done this with a grace I love.
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‘Gossip from the Forest’ – some thoughts
September 13, 2013 | Posted By: Marnie Forbes Eldridge
Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland
I saw this book advertised and it spoke to me, reached out and said you must read me – you must buy me. So I did, not as an e-book, it needed to be tangible, touched and kept. It promised the connection to things that stir me; trees, fairy tales and real places in real times. I knew nothing of the author Sara Maitland, I now have hints; pilgrimages of silence in the Sinai dessert, a purposeful and engaging speaker, an ‘old girl’ of St Mary’s, and a writer whose ideas and stories stay with and change you. Each chapter within this book is a different forest, a different month and a different fairy tale. It is a look at British Isles heritage, the stories and origins that have their spirit in the landscapes and souls of the people and places. It is a book I will return to. I needed to share it with friends so it became and will continue to become a present from me – some books just have to be shared. The tale of Little Red Riding Hood has haunted me since I was a child and now Maitland’s version of the story and setting resonates and disturbs deeper and I must visit those trees once more….
I loved this book. The fact that it started in March was a jolt to my system already contemplating the fact that I felt the year started in March not January, and then as I read on more meditative insights began to come to light. It is a book that helps you look within the tangle of your own life, look at the stories that shape you and the trees and landscape that penetrates deeper than any manmade construct.
I read this at a time when I needed the wisdom of stories, I needed the guidance of a sage and I wanted to connect to something that sustains the spirit. Trees do that for me, stories do that for me and actually they do that for many of us… “The Gossip of my title is the encouraging, private, spiritual, spiritual talk that we all want in times of trouble. Stories that are not idle; tales that are not trifling.” Sara Maitland – I thank you.
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May 30, 2013 | Posted By: Marnie Forbes Eldridge
Stories – where do they come from? Why are they so important? An archaic need to connect, explain, explore and indulge. Being lost in a story, drawn into its atmosphere, that almost blocks all else out is indulgent, so stimulating and wonderful, that one savours it like good wine, fine food, deep whisky and the scent of a palpable moment. Being drawn into a good tale is intoxicating, it surrounds and encompasses you – hence the fans and followers of certain ones; it can become part of your life….
I love being taken by a story. I become quite hard to reach. I have just gone through a ‘book-affair’ and still feel the thrill of new perspectives. I needed it, I needed a new outlook to totally consume me after finally publishing. But now I want to be taken once more by my own tales, my own stories and now ‘The Dark Point’ has been released a gate has opened. It is almost as if I needed a fling with another vision, a holiday for my mind’s eye and now I can progress. Its working, both ‘Death of a Star’ and ‘E.I’ are shaping up…..
Stories, I can’t live without them….but who can….
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The Dark Point
March 21, 2013 | Posted By: Marnie Forbes Eldridge
A tale begins…
In 1998 I was driving from Bradford-on-Avon to Bath,via Monkton Farley and was heading down ‘Sally in the Woods’ when I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It was twilight; the tress on either side cast even more shadows and mystery. My mind began thinking that this time of the day, along with dawn, has always been considered as a magical time, a time when faeries and such like enter this world. And so ‘Halcyon time’ emerged. Ideas began to crop up, I wrote them down and then I went to live in a place that closely resembles Holloway in the book. The Manor was an overshadowing aspect of our lives. Its darkness, tiredness and mystery began to find its way into the story and I stumbled upon not just Halcyon but The Dark Point.
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A return to poetry….
December 24, 2012 | Posted By: Marnie Forbes Eldridge
It is a need, a desire for meaning and substance. Metaphor gives us a glimpse of something more, something caught out of the corner of our eyes, something intangible. It gives substance to a feeling, mood and time that is beyond comparable understanding. It is the hug, smile, recognition of life that can be at times so isolating and raw. I return to poetry as a solace once more.
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