With the roaring success of the first ever Fylde Coast IWD festival in March, it was time to gather the attendees, sponsors and activity providers to thank them for their support and demonstrate the impact of the event. Hosted by the Blackpool Sixth Form, over 80 guests were invited to share the analysis of this year’s event. The 2019 Festival was entirely funded by the generosity of local businesses and councils and this gathering demonstrated just how much of a difference to their community these contributions have made.
In a more relaxed setting of afternoon tea, Sue Littlefair of The Washington Group acted as compere and the stories were told by the participants, role models and workshop providers from the day whilst students from the University of Cumbria shared the conclusions of their research project.
Dame Julia Cleverdon opened the event with a quote from one of the parents of the students. “My 15 year old daughter attended with a couple of friends from her school. When I went to collect her at 5pm, I was expecting her to be tired out but she was actually buzzing with excitement and ready to take on the world! She enjoyed the day from start to finish, especially the self-defence class where she learnt some valuable techniques. She also loved the curry demo, bath bomb and soap felting workshops and wood fired pizza bought using the vouchers in the welcome pack. She happily told me about her three new friends from another school. Together with her school friends who attended on Sat, they have started a WhatsApp group to keep in touch and are planning to meet again. There was clearly a lot of work which went into planning this event – thank you for a great day!”She then delivered a message of hope that Blackpool would follow its northern neighbours in Burnley and Blackburn and, with women in leadership roles, develop its economy and thrive.
The evening passed through a rollercoaster of emotions, with students from Westminster Primary Academy, Baines School and LSA Technology & Performing Arts College reflecting on the event – an achievement in itself as several students were new to public speaking. As a result of the festival, schools have taken the lead from the experiences of the girls and are changing activities to reflect this, including the set up of new mentoring programs.
Carolyn Mercer related her experience as a role model and in life and made it clear that this new network of schools and strong women from the community was necessary in helping young women build their own circle of support. Tanya Southern, of Whambajam, led a short drumming workshop which raised the roof and brought the room together with the rhythm of percussion.
Finally, Debbie Terras of The Washington Group thanked everyone for their valued support of the 2019 event. All attendees were asked to pledge their support in whatever capacity they could to repeat the experience for a new cohort and make the Festival even better in 2020.