Women Aloud NI

One-day literary celebration aims to bring due recognition to our wealth of female authors, poets and storytellers

Tuesday, March 8 will be International Women’s Day – a day dedicated to celebrating the many different achievements of women around the world. It’s therefore the perfect occasion to shine a light on women writers, and one Northern Ireland author has developed an exciting project which aims to do just this.

Women Aloud NI is a one-day event which will take place on International Women’s Day to champion female writers – both published and unpublished – in Northern Ireland. Project manager and event coordinator is Ballymoney-based author, Jane Talbot, whose collection of dark fairytales, The Faerie Thorn and Other Stories, was published by Blackstaff Press last year.

As a writer and storyteller, Talbot is passionate about her craft and was inspired to organise the Women Aloud NI event to raise the profile of the many female writers scattered throughout the province. The day will subsequently see women in every county reading and discussing their work.

'I wanted to use the energy of International Women’s Day for this,' says Talbot. 'What prompted me to do it was the growth of conversations taking place about the role of women. Also, there was a growing conversation online about Northern Ireland writers after the publication of The Long Gaze Back short story anthology in the south.'

Edited by Sinéad Gleeson and published in 2015, The Long Gaze Back: An Anthology of Irish Women Writers includes work from both living and deceased Irish women writers. Of the 30 stories in the volume however, only four come from those north of the border.

'There was a conversation on social media asking why we didn’t have an anthology in the north,' says Talbot. 'My question was – what’s the impact of this conversation? For me, it showed a need to raise awareness of writers in the north and to add fuel to the conversation. Women Aloud NI can create a platform and help develop an audience for our work.

'If we want to engage people with the Northern Ireland literary scene – against the backdrop of the huge cuts which took place last year – then we as a community of writers can raise our own profile and that of the arts in Northern Ireland. We can create our own stage and invite a current and a new audience to engage with us as writers.'

Jane Talbot

Ballymoney-based author Jane Talbot is the driving force behind the project

With 65 writers already confirmed to participate in the project, Talbot estimates there will to be as many as 100 involved by the time the events take place in March. Despite the strength of this support though, the next step is to generate interest and awareness of it so that audiences will come to hear them.

Readers who attend any of the events on March 8 can expect to hear readings of everything from poetry and plays, to short stories and extracts from novels. There will also be an eclectic mix of genres, including young adult fiction, crime writing, fantasy and more, with something to suit every taste.

Audiences can find out more about each writer, asking them about their work, or simply listening to them speak about it, while editors of local literary journals will also be on hand.

Meanwhile, the day will culminate with an assortment of readings at No Alibis Bookstore in Belfast, with a mass reading from the writers to round off the event.

'We’ve got various core events organised and there’ll also be independent events from writers’ groups,' says Talbot. 'I think most of the organisers of the core events are trying to get a representative spread to showcase the diversity of writers here. So you can expect published and unpublished authors, poets and playwrights – both young and old.'

Everyone involved in organising the Women Aloud NI events, and all those writers taking part, are doing so on a voluntary basis, she adds. A comprehensive website has also been set up and is being added to daily, showcasing Northern Ireland’s female writers and linking to their work.

'We want people to know about us and to read our work, and for us to have a platform as writers. Women Aloud NI is about uniting each voice and creating a community. We’re adding to the cultural life of this country, but how many readers know about all the women writers in Northern Ireland?'

See the full list of events taking place as on March 8 at www.womenaloudni.com and stay up to date with the initiative on Facebook and Twitter. To find out about more creative events happening in Northern Ireland throughout March check the programme for Creativity Month.