Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Women Build Fires! International Women's Day


Women Build Fires!
International Women's Day at New quay

Photo By Miranda Betts


I have never built a fire.
In the School Summer holidays, back in a time when 6 weeks seemed like forever, our street was its most laden with forgotten fruit; cheeky children and tricky teenagers gloriously absorbed in Play scheme, Knock down Ginger, Red Rover, and to spice things up further, on those years when the sun was kind to us, we eagerly prepared for what we knew to be the ultimate in excitement.
Huddled together ‘round the garages’ after countless games of Blocky 1, 2, 3, someone would throw it out there,
‘Shall we go camping over our fields tonight?’
We’d all run off to our different coloured front doors.
‘Quick Mum, where’s my stuff, we’re going camping.’
Off course, we couldn’t afford to go anywhere too fancy but where’s there’s a will, there’s a way. Estate kids are easily pleased. After gathering our overnight things in a carrier bag, we made our way along the dust and rubble lanes.  Five minutes later, we would all arrive at our ‘holiday’ destination.
Its funny how, as children, we grew up living by sets of unwritten roles and rules. The lads were ALWAYS in charge of lighting the fire. The girls half heartedly searched the fields and woods bringing back the odd branch and then sat together chatting, leaving the boys to it.
It seemed to us that these luxuriously lazy days would last a lifetime but this was the era of the home owner and so, the big diggers finally arrived and they built on our fields; on them, behind them, beside them, beyond them; A huge private housing estate called Jersey Farm, only it wasn’t Jersey farm anymore because farms are not full of shiny new houses.
I can remember spending literally half days at a time in the Show House pretending I lived there! Imagine being a person who could live in a house like this, with matching furniture, colour coded appliances and carpets that fitted right up to the walls!
It’s not so easy for 30 children from the street to go camping when their field has been ruined, but you can’t keep a good dog down. 
‘Get the wood. We’ll start the fire,’ the boys shouted and off we obediently toddled. We soon found ourselves on the building site; stumbling through the darkness without a torch, we only just avoided falling down a 40 feet foundation hole. We girls howled with laughter, finding it hilarious that we had nearly plunged to a sticky end. Curious, the boys came running over to see what all the fuss was about.
‘There’s loads of wood in here girls, come on and give us a hand.’
It was camp fire heaven on that building site.  Needless to say, a week later the local paper reported that a significant number of skirting boards had ‘gone missing’ and they suggested that whoever had taken them would be in big trouble.
We didn’t go camping again. The threat worked, so much so that I’m actually nervous writing this, just in case the skirting board police come knocking at my door!


Me: Filming the Waves: Photo By Miranda Betts


So, I’m wondering if that’s why going to New Quay beach, nestled into the jagged edges of West Wales to build a camp fire, watch the moon rise above the Irish sea and sing with like minded kindreds, seemed like the perfect way to spend International Women’s Day.


Photo By Miranda Betts


Miranda Betts is a dancer. She lives and breathes dance. Her speciality is creative movement and improvisation particularly with women’s groups. I will be working a fair bit with Miranda during Fusion Inspire because she will be leading the LegaC group (funded by Arts Care Gofal Celf)  This group  will be taking part in the filming and live productions of Fusion Inspire. I’m very excited about that because I really like Miranda. With some people there is a wonderful warmth about them; an immediate genuineness. Well, that’s Miranda. When she smiles, it’s as if everything will be OK.
Miranda put a group invitation to quite a few of us on face book to come and share international women’s day on New Quay Beach and I would like to thank her and her partner Hannah for an absolutely magical evening.
It dawned on me before I left that the making of a women’s fire would be a very exciting thing to film and edit for one of my film scapes for the Fusion Inspire end productions.
It was so very exciting! Arms filled with wood, kindling, paper and boxes, women scurried like ants on a mission down the narrow concrete steeply descending steps to the sandy beach.
There were huge diggers on the beach being manoeuvred by lumber jack clad drivers. They were quite noisy, but we were unperturbed as the bubbling enthusiasm of the group drowned out the machinery of modernisation.


Photo by Miranda Betts



First, Hannah and Miranda put down the paper and kindling, everyone ripping up the cardboard boxes. Then they lit it! Simple as that! All those years of the boys mystifying the ritualistic creation of the heartbeat of the camp, and actually, women build fires too! And it wasn’t even difficult with all hands on deck. Pretty soon the flames grew and as they reached into the dusk sky, the waves edged their way closer.
I filmed the entire fire from start to finish, right through to the sea taking its last lap at the embers and carrying them off on the tide. The fusion of these elements seemed most fitting on a day where across the world women were gathered to celebrate.
At 7.00pm Miranda led us in group songs. Many gatherings of women across the world had agreed to sing at this time. In particular, we had linked to a Goddess Group in Glastonbury to sing for peace.


Photo by Miranda Betts

When the tide had come tight in and the fire was no more, we gathered up everything, but the steps had been consumed by the tide. My trousers were already rolled up from paddling, so I tip toed through the wet sand that squelched through my toes. I stopped and looked out into the darkness, taking a moment to breathe. I felt alive in that moment, surrounded by the laughter and giggles of the women in the group, reassured by the rhythmic waves, and in my heart, I was 14 years old again, gathering up my things and getting ready for the School Holiday Summer Camp.

When we arrived at Miranda and Hannah’s House everyone had brought a plate of vegetarian food to share with each other and it had become a feast; plump raisons, mango based fruit salad, olives, hummus, cous cous, beautifully made with the love of everyone in the room … er … well, my contribution was given with love, but I bought it with my fair hand in the Spar rather than risk food poisoning the entire party with my cooking.
We went upstairs to Miranda’s music room, singing and dancing into the night, and there, central to the room, keeping us warm and holding the dimming light at bay, was an open fire. It felt as though the flames were following us for International Women’s Day, burning just for us, that they knew what day it was and somehow had managed to burn more brightly. But by the same token, caged in the grate, I had an overwhelming desire to lift that fire in my arms, take it down to the beach and set it free.

Since coming home, I have had a long think about the evening.
I have edited my Fire Film and it looks very beautiful in slow motion, mesmerising. I have also drafted out a sound scape framework using music technology. I am going to add found sound to this from the coast line and with live musicians for the end productions.
I have also booked into Women’s Creative Movement Workshops on Sunday 22nd April,  Cellan Millennium Hall, Lampeter, 11.00am – 16.00pm. The cost is £15/£20 for the day. I want to go so that I can feel where Miranda is dancing from, to gain an insight into her delivery because I think it will help me with the music compositions.

It would seem, that inadvertently, I have launched Fusion Inspire with a fire on the West Coast and have decided that I should have a fire ceremony next March when the funded productions come to a close and I launch all that I have created this year into the next phase of my life. And who will be building this fire? Me! Because Women build fires!

Note to self. Miranda has very kindly said that I can use some of her beautiful photographs. It is important to be respectful of another’s privacy and so I have decided not to include the ones with women in. There are people in other cultures who believe that taking a photograph is stealing the soul.





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Thanks for being on this journey with me!







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