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Please note this event was previously advertised as being on the 15th June 2018.

Join Firstsite for a unique symposium about identity and individual voice. Through a combination of talks, performances and screenings this event invites discussion about the importance of female autonomy, activism and equality.

‘Do you feel like your voice is heard?’ brings together artists, cultural thinkers and local partners in an energetic and inspiring day of action. It builds on a series of projects that Firstsite have presented over the last year exploring ‘identity’. This includes 2017 Turner-Prize winner Lubaina Himid’s ‘Warp and Weft’; Emily Mulenga ‘Taking Up Space’; Rose Finn-Kelcey ‘Power for the People’; and ‘The Britishness Project’ – a ground breaking exhibition made by young people in collaboration with professional artists in the aftermath of the recent EU referendum.

The title of the symposium is inspired by an artwork by The Gilberd School and Alternative School of Economics (Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck) that is currently on display in ‘The Britishness Project’ at Firstsite.

Discussions led by Marlene Smith.

Introduction by Solma Ahmed and Sally Shaw.

Solma Ahmed is a former Civil Servant and housing association Chief Executive, with over 25 years of experience in social housing policy, emergency planning and community development. She has worked with local and central government, diverse communities and faith based organisations, providing support and advice.

Sally Shaw has been Director at Firstsite since April 2016.  She was previously Head of Programme at Modern Art Oxford. Sally has a specialist background in commissioning and public art and was Deputy Head of Culture for the Mayor of London and Senior Curator for London Underground. Sally has an MA in Curating Contemporary Art from Goldsmiths College of Art & Design.


Speakers include:

Alternative School of Economics

At this event, artists Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck are interested in how the life stories of the audience will show diverse and different British identities. Continuing their research developed with students during their residency at The Gilberd School, The Alternative School of Economics will lead a creative writing activity based on personal biographies. Over the course of the day, the artists will create badges for the audience to take away, featuring slogans extracted from the activity.

The Alternative School of Economics is a collaboration between artists Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck. It is both an artwork and a way of working; linking artist practice with self-education as a way to study economics, creating a framework for investigating political, social and cultural issues.

Tess Brooks

“You just haven’t met the right man yet”, “You’ll grow out of it”, “Have you ever tried just being normal?”, “I only date lesbians; bisexuals are just confused”. These are just a small selection of things that have been said to Tess Brooks regarding her identity. She identifies as a pansexual, non-monogamous, queer femme. Often dismissed as “abnormal”, “a troublemaker” or “attention seeker”, Tess sets out to tackle bi and panphobia, and the erasure of individuals and groups from both the straight and queer communities.

Tess Brooks is a qualified Counselor and specialises in seeing clients from gender, relationship and sexually diverse communities through her practice ‘Starlight Therapy’. She is the main organiser of ‘Colchester Has Pride’, an experienced speaker and consultant on issues of diversity and inclusion, and the Vice Chair of the national charity ‘Bi Pride UK’.

Hasina Uddin

For every terror attack carried out by fanatics there is an aftermath of abuse and anger against Muslims, who practice their faith in peace. Women wearing the hijab are often a target, and have faced an increase in hate crimes in recent years. But what is the Hijab? Why do Muslim women all over the world cover their head in this way? Hasina tells the history of the hijab and addresses some of its modern day misconceptions.

Hasina Uddin was raised in Colchester. Her father came to the UK in 1957 to pursue his dreams as a first generation migrant, and over the years she has witnessed the changing perceptions of immigrants within the local community. Hasina is a member of the Colchester Bangladeshi women’s group, a member of the Colchester Citizens’ Alliance, and is an active campaigner for social change.

Ali Wilkin and Jaki Whyte

Using images, spoken word poetry and narration, two disabled women talk about how and why the #EActNOWColchester campaign was started, sharing some of the experiences – and finding humour in some of the politicians pratfalls – associated with trying to lobby government and politicians who would rather not deal with you at all.

Jaki Whyte is a disability rights campaigner of many years standing. Until she was transferred from Incapacity Benefit to ESA, she was also a Labour Party council candidate. Hugely creative, she enjoys crochet, various forms of art and literature, and has a long held ambition to return to full time study and become a research biochemist.

Ali Wilkin is a disability and LGBTQ rights campaigner and Christian. She is a poet, evangelist and occasional preacher, and fellow yarn addict, and a single parent for 18 years. As a rule, she prefers truth to respectability politics, and isn’t afraid to embarrass the great and the ‘good’. Voted most likely to be found wearing purple and being inappropriate.

Rachel Walton

Rachel invites you to a conversation about women without limits. How do we make women own their own political, spiritual, economic and social destiny?

Rachel Walton is a trainer with a strong background in community development. She has been instrumental in forming direct links with Black Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups and individuals. She has been actively involved in a number of local initiatives, including coordination of Pathway to Employment for BAME groups, Essex Migration Seminar, women’s conferences, youth work, as well as numerous projects with organizations helping to address inequalities. Rachel also coordinates the work of African Families in the UK (AFiUK) CIC in Colchester and East Anglia.

Charlotte Winters

Charlotte will be presenting an artwork based around her experiences of the social care system.

Charlotte Winters describes herself as very strange. She has been labelled many things over her 19 years this planet and rarely gets an opportunity to label herself. Here are some things she definitely IS: an artist, a human being, a member of YAK, a student, a Trustee of Firstsite, Brad’s mate, someone who refuses to grow up and a 24/7 experimenter with life.

Liv Wynter

Talk TBC

Liv Wynter is an artist, educator, activist and writer from South London. She graduated from BA Fine Art at Goldsmiths in 2015 and has since become a notable voice within the political art scene. She was Artist in Residence at Tate Britain and Tate Modern on the Education Programme for 2017-18, until she resigned to protest the invisible inequalities of the institution. She is curating ‘RUPTURE’, a section of Art Night 2018 with Hayward Gallery, and is currently working with FACT in Liverpool on a project surrounding arts and activism. Liv is also in a gnarly punk band called Militant Girlfriend.
with more to be announced.

Lunch and refreshments are included – provided by Refugee Action Colchester.