Skip to main content

(15-06-2017) Irish Feminist Activism and the Arts

Saturday 15th June, 2013

Registration 9.30 - 10.00am

Conference running time 10.00am to 5.00pm

Contact: for further information and to register (021 490 3654)


Some preliminary information on the programme.

This year’s Women’s Studies conference is something of an experiment as we called for proposals for performances as well as papers. We have some interesting material lined up for the day.

Two keynote speakers, Sonja Tiernan and Ailbhe Smyth, will introduce ways in which feminists past and present, denied of a more conventional 'P'olitical platform, have used the arts to reach into the core of their concerns and place them in the public domain.

Sonja Tiernan(Department of History and Politics Liverpool Hope University), whose biography of Eva Gore-Booth (1870-1926) was published by Manchester University Press in 2012, will present on 'Eva Gore-Booth; politics, parity and poetry' discussing how Gore-Booth used her creative writing to advance feminist causes.   ( and

Ailbhe Smyth, is a feminist activist, academic, and was a key figure in the development of Women’s Studies in Ireland – as well as in Attic Press. Her presentation is entitled 'More of your lip there, girl!': A Personal Reflection on Feminism, Culture and Protest.

Catherine Cabeen is a former member of the Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and the Martha Graham Dance Company among others. 

“Ready,Aim…  is a 20-minute solo performance created and performed by Catherine Cabeen.  The comedic, dance-theater work explores the history of Western concert dance in relation to female objectification and relates changes in traditional costuming to the manifestation of eating disorders. Ready, Aim… is a celebration of female anatomy and at the same time a reminder of the politics that are inherent in the female body in performance. Ready, Aim… is interactive.”  See Catherine’s website at

Members of Sawa Le Arts Collective came together in 2011when the women involvedwere at various stages of their asylum/migration journey in Ireland. They will perform scenes from the devised play “On our Way” and engage in discussion with the audience. The performance will be framed by an introductory video involving Women’s Studies PhD student Nilmini Fernando, whose feminist participatory research project brought the group together. It introduces ‘one formulation of feminist participatory research within an artist/academic/activist model using
drama as a “de-colonising” research tool that can facilitate self-representation and “embodied” activism - bringing the women along with
their stories.’ (See
and )

Valerie O’Connor, Chairperson of the National Campaign For the Arts is curator of the The Legacy Project,which has been initiated by the National Women’s Council of Ireland in the year that marks the centenary of the 1913 Lockout. Launched at the One Struggle
, organised by SIPTU Equality, on 9 March 2013, the project aims to challenge mainstream thinking on women and work and to celebrate women’s activism. The NWCI website notes three things that emerged in the development of the brief for the four artists involved:

 ‘Firstly, the growing experience of ‘precarity’ among women in particular; how changing work practices that remove security and redefine paid and unpaid work are becoming more and more mainstream. Secondly, the concept of access to 'representation'; whether that is legal, political, or cultural remains a struggle. Thirdly, 'visibility', or the lack of it; typically, the day to day work and working environments of those active in the voluntary and community sector remains invisible as the focus is normally on outcomes and specific output. In this case the commissions offer a great opportunity to address this at a time when the sector is undergoing change.’

(See and

Caitriona Reilly of Queens University Belfast will present on Performing Prostitution and the Postfeminist Problem in Contemporary Ireland: The Boys of Foley Street and Taking Back Our Voices: A collaboration with Ruhama. Caitriona will look at the representation of prostitution and the lives of sex workers in Ireland as depicted in contemporary performances.  With the current review of legislation, the paper raises current and key issues.

 Emma Campbell,artist, photographer and film-maker will present a short film and photographic series, representing the abortion journey in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The text and audio for the film are taken ‘verbatim from Hansard notes of a Northern Ireland Assembly debate on abortion access in June 2000.’ (See

 Katie Gillum,  activist filmmaker and researcher, and artist Siobhán Clancy will present on ‘how media may be used creatively - using the
Abortion Rights Campaign - as a case study and how creativity in the form of participatory arts can broaden feminist discourse.  Our multi-media
presentation examines post-modernist theories of cyber-feminism in current activist contexts.  We hope to reflect on how we, as an intergenerational network of pro-choice activists in contemporary Ireland engage in creative communicate currently.’  (; Katie has also contributed to:; Siobhan has also contributed to: ; 

 Liz Dunphy is a journalist and film-maker. LauraKinsella is an academic and film-maker whose research at DIT focuses on using media as a tool for social justice.  This research perspective influenced the work they will present on 15th June. Their ‘No More Shame Project’, an initiative designed to give voice to women in Ireland who have had abortions and who have been silenced for decades by ‘fear of criminal reprimand and
crippling social stigma’. ‘Migrating feminist activism to a digital platform, this lens based presentation focuses on the methodology and generative process of No More Shame.’ ( ; )

 Ann Rossiter’s bookIreland's Hidden Diaspora:The 'abortion Trail' and the Making of a London-Irish Underground, 1980-2000was launched at our Women’s Studies conference in 2009 ( ).

As Ann says, ‘Since Edna O’Brien sent The Country Girls to London more than half a century ago and imbued them with much of her own life experiences, including sexual desire, Irish women of the diaspora have become increasingly emboldened to dig where they stand and tap into their own life stories despite being marginalised or even edged out of the ‘mainstream’ Irish community in Britain.’  Ann will present three three-minute tales from a work in progress. Describing them, she says – ‘Rather than being in the established genre of ‘flash fiction’, these are in the style of ‘flash’ life writing.’

Colette Nolan’scontribution promises to be both challenging and playful. She suggests that the fact that the word ‘cunt’ is mainly used in anger or hate but very rarely in joy or love speaks volumes ... ‘ She works to encourage ‘the use of this word in a positive way’ . Colette’s workshops use poetry and Cuntcraft to encourage women to tell their stories. She will use spoken word performance, a continuous loop presentation of images from previous events and play-dough on 15th June. ( )

Lynne Glasscoe is a business woman and trainer who recently returned to Ireland after working in the Caribbean, Singapore and Central Asia. She raises a sustainable entrepreneur's questions about feminist activism and the arts. Asking us to be honest about the extent to which we are talking amongst ourselves, she considers some ways in which feminist activists might draw on entrepreneurial thinking to get their
messages out.

Women's Studies

Léann na mBan