Our next workshop is quickly approaching, and I cannot wait. It is always a fantastic opportunity to meet more women interested in DIY and learning new skills. It really warms the heart and reminds me why we started Practical Woman.
Just over a year ago, I felt stuck. Stuck in my job and frustrated by the lack of change with regards to equality and inclusion. From this sprang the idea of helping the cause and giving women the tools (literally!) to take more control over their lives.
At the workshop in April we saw women who at the beginning of the day didn’t feel confident with DIY and found drills scary, drilling into concrete walls by the end of the day! It was quite the transformation and very powerful to witness. At our next workshop on Saturday 21 July, we will see more women becoming more confident and striding forward. I can’t wait.
Last week, I had the honour and privilege to be invited to the ‘Tools of Change’ open evening at the Maya Centre.
I brought along my toolbox and together the group and I talked all things DIY. I was in my element and for the first time, flying solo! A year ago, I would not have even considered going to speak about DIY to a group of women. How times have changed!
I have realised in this past year that terminology and jargon aren’t the most important thing. What matters is having the confidence to stride forward, try new things and share knowledge. Don’t let worry or doubt stop you. Being intimidated by the professionals and put off by the jargon is a waste. No longer will I feel shy about getting the name of a spanner wrong (it was, in fact, a wrench as a woman pointed out!). It really doesn’t matter as long as you have a go.
It was a great experience and I enjoyed seeing how skilled the other women were or wanted to be.
This might just be the beginning of our relationship with the Maya Centre as we might go back and do a longer session in the future if that is what the women want. I hope they do.
In April, we gathered for the second Practical Woman workshop of the year, at Mears workshop in Islington.
The day began with a warm welcome from Practical Woman founder Kara followed by tea, coffee, and a chat about attendees DIY confidence levels.
Our resident carpentry expert Mel covered measuring basics and safety best practice as well as how to handle different wall types. After the introductory talk, attendees got the change to get familiar with the tools and practices of the trade before heading to the workshop to get practical.
Working together everyone had the chance to attach traditional and floating shelves, to plasterboard and brick walls. They ran into issues with misaligned drilling, visual considerations and bracket positioning but with practice and guidance accomplished the task.
On to the next challenge, a series of DIY troubleshooting exercises designed to give the women the skills to accomplish everyday tasks with ease from changing locks to assembling flatpack furniture and using a hacksaw.
After lunch, we welcomed our plumbing experts Jenny and Jo who guided the group through basic plumbing principles and parts identification.
The ladies learned how to fix dripping taps, toilets with flushing issues, sluggish radiators and much more. With our experts on hand, to answer questions not only about the task but also troublesome domestic DIY issues giving them the knowledge and confidence to use their new skills at home.
At the end of the day, the women discussed their improved confidence levels and received their certificates of achievement.
Big thanks to the Mears Group for providing the facilities and our experts for giving their time and expertise.
Practical Woman is a community interest company and doesn’t make a profit – all funds go directly to the running costs of the project and help us make the workshops accessible to as many women as possible.
If you are happy to make a further optional donation of £10 it will help us to run Practical Woman workshops for vulnerable women who are unable to pay.
On Saturday 17 March, we ran a one-day workshop for eleven lovely ladies from NW London WI at the Mears Group workshop in Islington.
After grabbing a hot drink to warm up from the snow, everyone discussed their current DIY confidence levels and then our volunteer carpenter Mel kicked off the day with guidance on measuring best practice and an introduction to the tools and fixings needed for each task. Attendees were given the chance to try out drills and take a look at the different wall plugs needed for different materials.
Mid-morning it was time to get practical. Relocating to the workshop, Mel demonstrated how to put up brackets for shelves by drilling into plasterboard and the workshop’s brick walls. After a few hands-on demonstrations, it was the WI ladies’ time to have a go. A short time later everyone had shelves up on the walls with some attendees having a go at racks too.
Following lunch, attendees had the chance to try some more drilling, learn how to change locks or have a go at building flat pack furniture.
Mid-afternoon, Jenny our volunteer plumber led a session on how to fix common plumbing issues including how to find your stop cock, cutting plastic and copper pipes, unblocking toilets, changing washers on taps and lots more.
At the end of the day, attendees were given a certificate of attendance and provided some wonderful feedback on their experience of the workshop. Big thanks to our experts Mel and Jenny as well as the wonderful people at Mears Group who provided the facilities.
“I now feel able to attempt to use a power drill! This is something I have always avoided”
“It has given me more confidence”
“Very helpful and approachable. Friendly atmosphere.”
“Everything was a mystery and now I feel like I could have a go myself”
Kara shares her experience of International Women’s Day and the WOW festival
March has been a fantastic feminist power week so far with the Women’s March, International Women’s Day, the Sex/Work strike and the WOW (Women of the World) festival at the Southbank.
During this period, I have been fortunate to hear some fantastic and inspiring women speaking. What strikes me amidst all the shuddering awfulness of our current situation with Trump, Weinstein, the pay gap etc, is the resilience and brilliance of my fellow sisters. We still laugh even when we are angry.
I wonder when we are going to stop letting our politeness stop our progress. I definitely feel the pressure to confirm, smooth over to maintain the status quo. Since being a child, I have felt compelled to be polite, go with the flow and not create ripples. However, after this intense week of joining with other women, hearing from other women and seeing some truly kick-ass protest signs I am feeling more empowered and confident to push against and work to begin to change our society for the better.Practical Woman is one way I see myself able to take action as well as calling out sexist attitudes and behaviour where I come across it.
The theme of Mirth Control at the WOW festival was #artsovertit and the night explored the huge inequalities in the arts including sculpture, painting and conducting and composing music. Sandi Toksvig and other women challenged us to find a historic artist and find out about their lives and their works and then promote them. You will read who I have chosen in a future post.
As I left WOW, I felt overwhelmed and deflated. There is still so much to do, and at times it seems completely impossible. I wondered what would happen to light the fire under us and make us do something but I am reassured by the messages of the last couple of weeks – #PressforProgress and #westrike etc.
At Mirth ControlJude Kelly, the founder of the WOW festival and the Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre, discussed the situation abroad (such as Iran where it is illegal for women to sing in the street) and that whilst WOW has gone from strength to strength, her own personal experiences of people in positions of power holding her back is still accurate today. This was from her recent experience of speaking with women in Australia.
Kelly finished by saying that now is the time to put your foot on the accelerator, keep it down and keep pushing. Overall it felt like a sombre night with less laughter and more reflection on the state if the world and all the statistics and facts to show the reality as it is. One horrifying fact is that we have in fact increased the amount of time, by 47 years, that it will take to get equal representation in Government.
I like to think the millennials with their optimism and determination might be the ones to force change and I, for one, will be right by their side.
A few weeks ago the Practical Woman team hit the road and ran a workshop at the brilliant Feminism in London conference.
We had a great time and wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who attended the session and shared their thoughts and especially to the women who volunteered to take part in the DIY activity as part of the workshop.
During the workshop, we shared reasons why women should consider developing their practical skills. A lot of the women already had great skills which was great to hear!
Here are our ten reasons why learning practical skills can be helpful:
A strong sense of achievement
Once you get past the jargon you can see how easy it is to do. Anybody can do it!
It’s distracting and relaxing
It can improve your feelings of self-worth to complete jobs around your home
The buzz when you ‘do it yourself’
You can feel more independent and courageous in other aspects of your life
You save money and avoid the complications of bringing in an expert
Get together with friends to learn new skills and take on tasks – you feel good supporting other women
You learn new life skills which could lead to a change of career and different hobbies
Finally, it’s actually really good fun!
Dates and how to book a place for our upcoming workshops in January 2018 will be soon available on our website. It might make a good present for a female friend or family member in your life!
Happy Friday everyone! We’re so excited we might actually burst! We’ve had such a good week here at Practical Woman and we just had to share. Now where shall we begin…
1. Lights, Camera, Action…
Last Sunday, we started and finished filming a video to promote Practical Woman and the quick and easy ways we can get practical right now…
We had some amazing support and it was a really good atmosphere on set, thank you to everyone for collaborating, sharing ideas and supporting Practical Woman.
The video is currently being edited by the wonderful Terry and will be available very soon. Watch this space…
2. Making it official
We’re applying to be a Community Interest Company (not for profit/social enterprise) registered with Company House. Once it’s all official we’ll be able to apply for funding and support. This will be a major milestone for Practical Woman and we’ll keep you updated.
3. FiLiA conference
We will be running a Practical Woman workshop at the fantastic FiLiA Conference on 14- 15 October 2017 (that’s next month!). Whoop!
Our session is an afternoon breakaway session on Sunday 15 October. Come along to learn more about us and some new skills. Let us know if you’re attending on our Facebook event page.
For tickets and more information visit the FiLiA website at filia.org.uk
If all this talk of fabulous feminist conferences and last week’s blog has got you thinking, like us, about the brilliance of sisterhood then there are lots of events and organisations our founder Kara would recommend.
Kara is involved in the Women’s Equality party and if you’re similarly minded it might be something you’d like to check out.
We’re also a big fan of the WOW – Women of the World festivals which Kara has been attending for the past five years. WOW caters for everyone and we’ve attended talks ranging from Annie Lennox discussing AIDS and hearing Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel talk about their book, We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere, to having a laugh with Sandi Toksvig at the cabaret-style Mirth Control. Well worth investigating if you don’t already go!
5. A letter from our MP
A few weeks ago, Kara popped along to her local MP surgery and just last week received a lovely, supportive letter from the RT Hon Emily Thornberry MP.
“Practical Woman sounds like a fantastic idea which will equip women with important practical skills.”
Ending the letter that if I would like any further assistance or support from her to not hesitate to get in touch again. Wonderful encouraging stuff, thank you, Emily.