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Education, Education, Education!

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One of our core values at the First Women project is education. Education about the pioneering spirit and the socio-historical role of women. Education to help us better understand our culture and its values. Education to engender the passion to ask questions, provoke thought and instigate discussion on these topics. All of this ultimately brings about progress, cultural evolution, and positive change, subjects close to the heart of the First Women project.

In this spirit, it has been a delight to notice how much contact we have had with the theme of education in recent months. First off, we had Lucy, or 22 year-old intern, shadowing the First Women team for three days. It was an eye opener for her, I think. A young photography academic learning about the day-to-day realities of being a practical photographer via me who has been in the business over 35 years! The grass-roots experience of what is required on a shoot, plus all of the backstage stuff no one teaches you about (usually all going on simultaneously!).

The following month, I was interviewed by three, final year university students, two of which were children of my original ‘Visible Girls’ (Ella and her mum, Anne are pictured). It seemed a beautiful weave, talking to these young graduates, providing material through which they would go on to create their thesis argument based on images I took of their mums before they were even a twinkle in their parents’ eye. It seemed fitting that these two twenty-somethings were also both the children of Mods!

In April, I was invited to be part of the judging panel for the Girls Day School Trust Emerging Talent Award for Creative Arts. I proudly took my place there, alongside fellow ex-classmate, Caroline Raphael; who, it just so happens is all set to become one of my First Women next month in her capacity as First Woman to be of head of drama and comedy for BBC radio. The judging panel were delighted to award the prize of £3000 to ex-Putney High School pupil, Rachel Singer. Her proposal was also extremely apt – to open the first ever bespoke women’s tailoring shop on Saville Row.

May saw a real surge forward in the development of ‘Future Firsts’ – our official First Women educational arm. We spent much of the month in discussion with teachers, head teachers and experts about how we could create a series of interactive workshops to challenge and provoke young people to think about culturally in-built assumptions and biases around gender; what it is to be a pioneer, and also how to journey towards their own unexamined beliefs around these issues handed down by parent and society. We are really excited about ‘Future Firsts’ and have planned to launch in schools in 2018. Watch this space!

And the cherry on the cake? The invitation to open the Creative Arts summer show at Putney High School this month – my alma mater! It was a great privilege being back in the environment that nurtured me as a young woman to have an independent, enquiring mind – arguably one of the cornerstones on which the First Women project has been firmly built.

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