Truth to Power

A line-up of women who have just read their poetry live for the first time - a black woman in a dazzling bubble-gum pink smock dress and headwrap, a white woman in a patterned frock, a white woman with purple hair in a checked sundress, an older white women leaning on a walking stick, a tall blonde woman in a golden-brown bubble dress, a white woman in a funky-print black sundress, a white woman with henna red dreadlocks in a green short and long white skit printed with pink and blue elephants.
Thriving Women at their anthology launch

As we prepare to continue our partnership with the women of Thrive Teesside charity, writing workshop leader Julie Easley reflects on what we’ve achieved so far…

At the time of writing, it is almost a year since I began delivering a series of poetry workshops for Thrive Teesside on behalf of the Tees Women Poets. I had no idea how much the project would affect me and how much I would love it.

The workshops were titled ‘writing truth to power,’ and the focus on ‘living in poverty,’ and the wonderful diverse group of women involved floored me with their astonishing honesty of what it’s like to be forgotten and invisible.

In a time where the government’s choice is to further punish those already on the breadline, these women told it how it is, and I ranged in my emotions from an immense sense of pride to absolute rage and despair.

What is it like to be poor? The powers that be like to think they know what we need, that reducing benefits and raising taxes for the lowest paid in our society is a necessary economic choice that will help people into work. What a joke – if only it were funny – except in the reality of its delivery it’s a cruel political choice.

The workshops explored all this, and the women, some with no writing experience, produced poetry and stories that plainly contradict the politicians promises of ‘levelling up,’ and ‘we’re in this together.’ They pored over the Conservative manifesto with their pledges to ‘put us first,’ and tore it apart, erasing the parts that have proved to be electioneering soundbites. These women, with the lived experience of poverty, say loud and clear – from this most deprived area of the UK – that the slogans so beloved of our politicians are meaningless and empty.

The workshops had definitive aims – to empower those who are powerless and to produce a body of work that reflects their lived experience of that. These women, these resilient, down to earth, extraordinary women, citizens of a country with a political system that devalues and dehumanises them at every opportunity, used their voices and made their declarations known.

Their anthology, ‘Echoes of the Unheard,’ full of their poems and stories, was published by Thrive Teesside in March 2022, accompanied by their collaborative film poem ‘Poverty is a Weapon.’ In August, we had the launch of the Anthology at the beautiful Georgian Theatre in Stockton, where 6 of the women involved stood on the stage together, under the glowing lights, and spoke their truth in front of an appreciative and welcoming audience.

This September the workshops will continue, the Thriving Women group will meet again every Tuesday morning 10am to 12, at Newtown Community Centre in Stockton, wrapped in the supportive arms of award winning charity Thrive Teesside under the guidance of the Tees Women Poets.

The next eight workshops will explore the solutions to poverty and how those with the lived experience of it must be involved in that. We will discover poets, writers and musicians to inspire our writing, we will
watch videos, listen to spoken word performers and draw on all our experiences to write, to use our words as protest, to offer up our side of the story and to produce a body of work to put out into the
world.

If you’re a Teesside women with lived experience of poverty or social injustice, join our Thriving Women and write your truth to power – reserve your free place here.

You can purchase copies of Echoes of the Unheard directly from Thrive.

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