We’ve collected an archive of Festival events here, so you can see everything that has happened over the years.

Saturday 14 March 2015, 11am – 1pm

Paris was a Woman film screening

The Left Bank of 1920s Paris was a hub for women writers, artists and publishers. From Gertrude Stein with her writing experiments and literary salon, to Sylvia Beach running Shakespeare & Company, and Natalie Barney’s decadent parties, women flocked to the city because Paris was ‘the only city in the world where one can live exactly as one pleases.’

Greta Schiller’s 1996 film explores the lives of some of the key Left Bank women, including Stein, Djuna Barnes, Colette, and Sylvia Beach.

The film will be followed by a brief audience discussion, chaired by Sian Norris. Sian is the founder of the Bristol Women’s Literature Festival and is currently writing a book about Gertrude Stein and her circle.

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Women, Feminism and Journalism, 2.30pm – 4pm

Feminist activists, writers and journalists, Beatrix Campbell, Nimko Ali, Finn Mackay and Helen Lewis, the deputy editor of the New Statesman, will discuss feminism, writing, the development of the movement and their own careers. We’ll be exploring the challenges and triumphs of feminism.

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Poetry, Prose and Palestine with Selma Dabbagh 6pm – 7.30pm, Waterside 3

Selma Dabbagh is a London based British Palestinian writer of novels, short stories and plays. Her first novel, ‘Out of It,’ (Bloomsbury, 2011) is set between Gaza, London and the Gulf and has been voted Guardian Book of the Year. Selma also works as a lawyer. The work of Palestinian writers and poets has been a major influence on their lives. This evening, alongside their own works, Dabbagh and Jacir will read and discuss the poems of other well-known Palestinian writers. Their presentations and discussion will explore how prose and poems challenge the dominant narratives on Palestine and the occupation, reaffirm Palestinian identity and maintain a constant struggle for equality and fairness, land, home and nationhood. They will explore why it is that people on a global level relate with the Palestinian cause in the way that they do and the role that the arts have in influencing activism and change. The event will be chaired by Alice Guthrie.

This event is organized in collaboration with the Bristol Palestinian Film Festival, as part of Conversations about Cinema: Impact of Conflict.

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Sunday 15 March 2015

The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History, 11am 12pm, Waterside 3

In her new book, academic Emma Rees considers why British and US culture has such a problem when talking about the female body. She maps the long history of advertising that profits from the taboo of the vagina, and she reflects on how writers, artists and filmmakers have been influenced by, or even perpetuate, this ‘shame’.  And it’s not all in the past – the vagina still causes outrage, derision and discomfort today.

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Women Writing in Shakespeare’s Time, 1pm – 2pm

Helen Hackett is Professor of English at UCL and the author of five books on Renaissance literature. She has special interests in Renaissance women writers and in literary images of Elizabeth I. Her latest book is A Short History of English Renaissance Drama ​(I.B. Tauris, 2013), which includes a section on women’s contribution to drama in Shakespeare’s time.

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Women Writing Today, 3pm – 4.30pm

Sarah Lefanu will be talking to novelist and short story writer Michele Roberts, playwright and memoirist Samantha Ellis, five times winner of the Foyles Young Poet award Helen Mort, novelist and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo, and first-time novelist Amy Mason about their work. 

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The Glory of Pride and Prejudice: An Evening to Celebrate Jane Austen

Watershed, Bristol

Tue 26 November 2013, Discussion: 18:15-19:15, Film starts at 19.45,  £8.00 /£6.50

200 years since it was published, Pride and Prejudice still exerts its fascination on the public’s imaginations. Chaired by Professor Helen Taylor, this panel discussion will explore Austen’s lasting appeal and the misconceptions that have dogged her public persona. The discussion will be followed by a screening of the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice. This celebration of one of Britain’s best-loved novels is a must for all Austen enthusiasts. The evening will be introduced with a performance by actor Kim Hicks.

Professor Helen Taylor will be joined by Jean Burnett, author of Who Needs Mr Darcy; Professor Jane Spencer and the winner of our very special Austen competition.

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Our first programme of events, from March 2013:

Feminism on the small screen

Bringing women’s issues to a mainstream TV audience

TV screenwriter Emilia di Girolamo will talk about her career writing for popular shows including Eastenders and hit ITV drama The Poison Tree. Emilia was Lead Writer and Co-Producer on Law & Order: UK and is currently Associate Producer. She has a particular passion for bringing the challenging issues around VAWG to a television audience and has written controversially about group rape, women’s imprisonment and child abuse.

She’ll explore with the audience how through her writing she has brought issues surrounding violence against women and girls into the nation’s living rooms, asking them to question their preconceptions.

Book your ticket for Feminism on the Small Screen

Women’s Writing Today

Contemporary women writers discuss their fiction

The literary scene is packed with inspiring and talented women. We are lucky enough to be joined by some of UK’s best writers as the read from and talk about their work, their inspirations and the issues facing women writers today. Are women marginalised in the literary scene? Do we still need women only prizes? What does the recent success of women writers in the Costa Prize say about women’s writing today? Bidisha will be joined by Stella Duffy, Beatrice Hitchman, Selma Dabbagh and Helen Dunmore.

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Bluestockings and Muses

A history of women’s writing

Women have always written. Academics have long been re-discovering women writers and placing these great women in the canon where they belong. Bidisha will invite Professor Helen Hackett, Professor Helen Taylor, Professor Joan Adim-Addo, Dr Marie Mulvey-Roberts, Dr Charlotte Crofts and Kate Williams to talk about their areas of study.

Which women writers should be on everyone’s reading list? Who has been excluded from the literary canon and why? How did the feminist movement help us re-discover women writers who had been forgotten and marginalised?

This talk is a must for anyone who wants to study English Literature at university.

Book your tickets for Bluestockings and Muses

Out of the Ivory Tower

Writing feminism for a non-academic audience

The last few years have seen an explosion in feminist publishing, as discussion of women’s rights is back where it belongs – in the academy AND in the public imagination. Bidisha will be joined in conversation by Kristin Aune, Deborah Withers and Josephine Tsui, before opening questions out to the audience.

How do we reach new audiences with feminist ideas? What are the key concerns of feminist writers today? How has new media – such as blogging and Twitter – helped to transform and invigorate feminist discussion?

Book your tickets for Out of the Ivory Tower


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