Lemonade Gang + FreeBird

As a girl gang ourselves, we at FreeBird get more and more bright eyed when learning of the increasing number of girl gangs who are bettering different aspects of the creative industry day by day. When we came across Lemonade Gang, we were instantly compelled to share with our FreeBirds the work they are doing for female freelancers across the UK. Their main focus being community, networking and opportunity they are empowering freelancing womxn across creative industries to “reach their potential and learn from each other” could their objectives align with ours anymore?! Founded by Priya Thanki, Hannah Rothwell and Zara Askari, powerful women who have a plethora of experience between them, freelancing managerial roles in the events and production industries. Starting as three friends discussing their hardships as womxn in the industry; whether that be voices left unheard, the lack of understanding around family planning or the struggle with discussing the intricacies with friends and family who are traditional full time workers, they understood that there needed to be a space to ask each other the questions they didn’t have the answers for that other female freelancers may already have. We asked some questions and they poured us a cup of their lemony knowledge and we were desperate to make sure all of you FreeBirds get a glass…

We are aware that Lemonade Gang only began this year and you already have over 3000 followers, and a community of creative freelancing womxn. Tell us how Lemonade Gang began and why you felt you wanted to create this space in 2020?

Lemonade Gang started as a small group of women who wanted to share insights and information about the events industry. All the women in the original group were based in London and all had long standing careers in events. The small community that we created was one which helped everyone within it. 

As the world started to come to a halt, we had more time than ever to have open conversations with each other and one thing that we kept looping back to was the lack of support for female freelancers 

We realised that we were on to something bigger than the events industry and that lots of women in creative industries felt just like us. We wanted to do something to give the community of female freelancers (Which, by the way, there are now more than ever!) have a voice and access to support.

On your website there is a space for freelancers to sign up and gain access to hundreds of freelancing, this is directly in line with FreeBirds values, however we aren’t naive, this must take a lot of time. Was initiative born as a result of freelancers being left behind in the wake of COVID? 

The main reason for setting up Lemonade Gang was to support womxn to further their careers. 

We are hungry for our community to succeed – We have a dedicated jobs board on our platform, and we upload freelance opportunities on a daily basis, we want our community to have access to as many opportunities as possible. We are also pushing companies to think about hiring females in the creative industry to create a more diverse playing field.

The jobs board wasn’t born out of  COVID-19 but it definitely helped people in a time where they may have lacked motivation. The jobs board is now one of our most popular sections on the platform and we have successfully matched lots of amazingly talented womxn with jobs we have posted. We have also found a lot of them have hired within the community which is exactly what we aimed for.

It sounds so cliché but we all love being freelancers and the idea of helping other womxn makes all the time we put into the community worth it. As founders, having community members being hired because of our platform and during this year of all years was completely inspirational. 

As I write these questions, it is ‘Equal Pay Day’, it seems the perfect time to bring awareness and ask you about your forum #paywhatyouoweme. Where you ask your lemonade gang to be anonymously honest about their rates of pay, how they identify, and also which industry. Can you describe to us your aims with this forum, and how it affects the community?

Secrecy around pricing creates several issues, not least that clients – and newer freelancers alike — have no guide for what a typical rate might be. This doesn’t help anybody.

Getting rid of the secrecy and encouraging both womxn and men to start talking about their pay is a major first step as very few freelancers talk about what they charge, either in public or private. 

The aim of this campaign was to create an open book regarding freelancers pay. Freelancers are often guided by clients on how to charge, allowing the client to decide what you’re worth rather than treating yourself like a business and determining your rate by the skill and service you supply. With an open book structure, you can further justify your rate as an industry standard and feel confident in your day rate. 

You recognise that the pay gap enlarges as women get older, and also specify to note down your ethnicity in the forum. Do you think the intersectional struggle of being a freelancer is recognised enough? 

Gender pay gap is something we feel strongly about because we have lived it. The experiences of getting older and the gap widening is sadly something we know because of experience.

After the Black Lives Matter protests, as a community we decided to have a table talk (which is our monthly catch up with everyone where we have a safe space to talk about chosen topics) During this talk, we got a lot of insight of how the freelancers felt about the lack of diversity and the way they were treated in their workplaces. We wanted to explore this further after the call and we emailed an easy five question form to 5000 creative companies to answer, it was asking how diverse their companies were. Not one company replied – their silence spoke volumes and I think it answers your question about recognition or should we say, lack of. 

The struggle is ensuring you get booked for work and do not get isolated for bringing up these issues when being hired. 

This is why it is important for us to work with companies to ensure they are made aware of the injustices facing women and ethnic minorities.

The more we are able to educate freelancers on their rights the more they can educate their loyal clients on how to make a change.

We need the support of businesses to make a greater change.

What all freelancers need to really understand is that they can choose who they work for and with and if you feel that a company does not represent your values, don’t work with them – and if you feel you need to make others aware of these businesses, do so. 

Community is the theme FreeBird has been working with the past two months, it is also a staple part of your mission, what can freelancers do to help each other? 

We would not be where we are without our community. It’s the most important part of our mission, structure and success.

We have many channels of communication in our community that allows freelancers to talk amongst themselves, collaborate and meet (when able) to discuss how they feel along with opportunities that they may want to share and work on collaboratively.

We have come out of an age where womxn need to be pitted against each other and have walked into an era of championing creativewomxn.  

Our main focus is community over competition and womxn supporting womxn. 

This is a mantra for us, and this can be completed in many ways through our community. 

Promoting their work on social media platforms, taking someone under your wing in a workplace, putting forward another womxn for a job you see that could be of interest to them. All of this focuses on pushing all of the womxn around you to succeed – we want to break the glass ceiling, but we don’t want to be there on our own when we reach the top.

We need to get away from the 21st century mentality of being the only womxn and we need to push to be an equal sex.

This all applies when working as freelancers and in some ways it’s even more important as you do not have the safety net of a HR team.

We would love for Lemonade Gang to give our Freebirds your 3 tips that will be your best friend as a female freelancer!

  1.   Believe in yourself and your skills – you are talented, you know what you’re doing, do not talk yourself out of your own merit
  2.   Ask questions and talk – freelancing can be pretty lonely but there are thousands of freelancers out there ready and willing to share information and support. 
  3.     Write, distribute, sign contracts – We can’t stress enough how important this is. Not all clients will have a contract for freelancers so make sure you have a template so that both parties are aware of what will be supplied and what is expected.



A totally FREE platform, sign up at the website below…

When you do there is an ‘invited by’ box, whack ‘FreeBird’ down there for us so they know we sent you!! (Women supporting women right?!)

Website: https://www.lemonadegang.co.uk 

Instagram/Twitter/Facebook: @lemonadegangldn


“When She Is By Herself”

Photo by Levi Clancy on Unsplash

Twitter is a place where we can all express ourselves, free of charge, about anything we want. Yes, there are ‘guidelines’, though a lot falls under the radar. And yes, it is a place I regularly use and enjoy the discourse and jokes that occur. However, as a by-product of free expression we have a place that possesses countless triggering topics on almost every scroll. Whether its hopping on your lunch break to see another lifeless black body painted on the timeline head to toe or waking up in the morning, checking your phone to see yet another accusation of sexual assault and abuse, it’s everywhere. To some, there may be a momentary thought, a ‘that is so awful’. To others, it cohabits their mind and exists with no movement. Remember behind every tweet is a real-life person and not everything can be closed down with a swipe up and off the screen.

Georgia Harrison, a reality star known for not taking herself too seriously, has recently been trending on Twitter alongside reality show counterpart and ex-boyfriend Stephen Bear. Georgia has accused him of filming their sexual experiences together via his CCTV in his home and garden, without her knowledge or consent, sharing it with friends and distributing it via his OnlyFans account. On her Instagram story that boasts over 1 million followers, having created her platform featuring on shows such like Love Island and The Challenge, she told the world that she possesses evidence in screenshots and videos and is ready to take him to court. Meanwhile ‘Bear’ was in Dubai, denying all allegations, claiming it to be another girl and accusing Georgia of using his name for ‘clout’. That is a brief overview of a life altering story, I’ll let you read the full story or head to Georgia’s account for more information. This isn’t a piece, I haven’t put this together to feed your mind’s eye with poetic flashbacks, this is just something I need to get off my chest. 

With this story trending, twitter is very triggering for me and many other people. My inability to swipe up and off is only a reflection of my inability to switch off the mirrored thoughts that exist in my mind that have a life with or without twitter. For every tweet I see in support of Georgia, I see another screaming attention. I also see many tweets from both men and women in disbelief. “How could anyone do something like this? (Sick emojis in abundance)”. Scroll down, more tweets of, “girls, favourite this tweet if you’ve ever been assaulted, I’m trying to prove something”. Underneath; thousands of likes, staring back at you. This, my own experiences plus knowledge of my friend’s stories leaves me with one thought; how can we all know someone who has been assaulted, yet can’t name one person who has assaulted someone? Apart from the perpetrator of our own experiences. 

The people carrying out these acts are real people, who live amongst you and me. Someone you may consider a friend, may be the source for another woman’s trauma. He may be the reason why she no longer wants to go to that specific club on a Saturday night or why she struggles to leave the house by herself anymore. To you he is your friend. Your colleague, your brother or the personable cashier at your local supermarket. ‘Nah, they wouldn’t do that’ you think to yourself, but reality is, anyone has the ability to. They’re not monsters under your bed, and though men in alleyways wearing balaclavas exist, as of 2018 in a survey carried out by the BBC out of 1,000 sexual assault and attack victims 90% knew their attacker. 

Our world is driven by technology and with that, image has become even more valuable. People want to capture everything, whether to share or save for later, they want it at their fingertips and they want it now. The number of intimate moments that are being recorded is rocketing, with or without consent. Revenge porn is a term we all know. And the age of children with smartphones is dropping lower and lower.  I am done with the limited sex education taught, I am drained hearing that ‘no means no’ and moving swiftly on to give a basic overview of the menstrual cycle, leaving children finding themselves in situations they aren’t equipped for. In the age of technology, evidently this scratch the surface lesson of consent isn’t working (was it ever?) and there needs to be lessons taught in depth, by people who are confident and experienced in approaching conversations about sex in a way that is relatable, conveys reality and strips us of that ridiculous voice and demeanour teachers pick up ready to ‘tackle’ what they deem ’taboo’. Because we are all going to go through it, sex I mean, one way or another.  I am sat writing this praying that the young women I know don’t have to look at themselves the way I do, feeling what I feel, after choices were made for me that I had no say in. 

One part of me would like to keep lid shut tight on this, another part of me is struggling to resist the urge to take the lid off, questioning whether without explicit ownership of our stories, it gives people permission to talk as though sex crime is an identity-less political issue shared on Instagram infographics and removed from their reality. In reframing our thoughts, we have to honour individual stories, as and when the individual wants to share them, taking into account the sheer amount of emotional labour that takes. Not just group the individual with thousands of others whose experiences vastly differ from each other. Just like I said the perpetrators live amongst us, we live amongst you too. We are your sisters, mothers, aunties, friends. I can’t speak for Georgia’s experience, or anyone other than my own but I do want you to hear first-hand what a few seconds of fun, power or whatever it is that is dictating the mind of a person who commits a sex crime can result in…  

  • Imagine feeling like you have a lump in your throat, that appears periodically throughout the day along with butterflies that leave you feeling like you could throw up at any moment.
  • Imagine this creeping up on you at any time (the worst is when you’re actually enjoying yourself, and it intrudes).
  • Imagine the loss of breath or beating heart which makes you feel like your legs may fold beneath you and not even the ground will catch you.
  • Imagine standing in the mirror feeling nothing but anger towards the person in front of you, for ‘allowing’ yourself to be in the position you are now. Hours of playing the blame game.
  • Imagine the feeling of lying to your friends and family on the bad days when they ask you “how are you?”, because you can’t find it in you to tell them that you’re not okay in the fear of the conversation it would result in.
  • Imagine every time you look for therapy because you’ve accepted that you’re struggling, you scroll online for an hour before closing all the tabs of any potential leads as you’ve gaslighted yourself into thinking you’re wasting a councillor’s time.
  • Imagine the fear running through your mind that you’ve always wanted a daughter, but you know they will be subject to sexually inappropriate situations at some point.
  • Imagine that because you have been so vocal in a woman’s right to sexually liberated and you party a lot, you question whether if you did report this or tell a friend, they would use this against you.
  • Imagine that whilst dealing with this moment, other experiences push themselves to the forefront of your mind that you didn’t think affected you, until now.
  • Imagine being paranoid that you’re boring the two friends you have told everything to when you bring it up or feel like you’re draining them by bringing a moment down (I’m lucky – at least I have someone to talk to, there are many that don’t and are living this solely by themselves).
  • Imagine wanting nothing but silence and darkness when you go to sleep, but each time you close your eyes, it’s like it puts your brain in first gear to let your intrusive thoughts roll out at 90mph. So instead, you roll over and reach for your phone again and pop on a guided meditation, thankful that the light your phone gives off lights up a little bit of the room.
  • Imagine that when the screen light goes off, you tap the screen because you sensed the darkness and you felt scared, you repeat this till you fall asleep.
  • Imagine revisiting the moment remembering each specific detail chronologically, just to tell yourself all the things you could have done at each point to stop the outcome.
  • Imagine mindlessly watching a film that you’re enjoying, until the narrative unfolds, and you learn it might be a little bit much for you to take right now, but you keep it on and struggle silently, because asking to turn it off halfway through will provoke questions.
  • Imagine having all the time in the world to think about this because you’re in a global pandemic.
  • Imagine going through all of this and then telling yourself that because you still laugh, and smile, and see friends, and go to work and do the things expected of you that it can’t be that bad and feel that if you were ever honest with those close to you, they almost wouldn’t believe it, or at least, not the severity. You’re laughing and smiling when you see them, so why would they?
  • Imagine looking at someone’s stature and feeling fearful over something part of you finds attractive.
  • Imagine having the feeling of loneliness engulf you on a relaxed evening, which starts off normal and then turns into a wave of terror because you recognise how much harder it is now going to be to build relationships, and trust people’s company, forgetting to mention becoming sexually trusting in someone.
  • Imagine scrolling through Instagram and going from mindlessly laughing to having a panic attack in a matter of seconds…

That’s what happened to me when I saw Georgia Harrisons story. 

I sat and I read what is going on in her life and felt terror about mine. So, when I suggest that this isn’t just about Georgia Harrison, I feel for her that it isn’t, but also feel a sense of pride that she is recognising that this is bigger than just her individual story and fighting for justice and change. Georgia’s platform means that she isn’t going through this privately with her best friend, family and lawyer by her side. We are all here, watching. Every post, every step of one of the most vulnerable places to find yourself, and whether she is choosing to publicly post about it or not, the lack of privacy will still have a large impact on her mental health.

The way that this case is dealt with sets a standard that young people will see and subconsciously recognise, specifically about consent in the age of technology. We haven’t even touched on the (lack of) safety of sharing websites like OnlyFans, Stephen Bears video existing on the platform for way longer than it should have when the company were aware of Georgia’s accusations.  Even if we didn’t have the lessons or the safety ourselves, we have to want for a better education and security for the people after us, surely? That is why after a triggering moment on twitter, I typed this out chaotically. Since then, Stephen Bear has landed at Heathrow from Dubai and was arrested, he has also now been released and we are awaiting the details. I have also edited this, removed the things I am not ready to share and that is okay. I also have had plenty good days. I just want people to understand the aftermath, they don’t see. 

In the recent channel 4 programme ‘Adult Material’, Hayley Squires character ‘Jolene Dollar’ says of sexual assault “The thing you have to be ready for is even though you think about it every single day, he might not even remember”, a bizarre thought that resonated entirely with me. My story isn’t even half as traumatic as others I have heard, but I recognise everything we feel is relative to everything we, personally, have been through and no longer want to silence myself because someone has been through worse. There are days I am myself, existing without it polluting my mind, I can see trending stories and carry on with my day and there are days I feel like I am being swallowed. I just wonder how Georgia is really feeling, when she is by herself, cameras away, on her own, because when I’m alone is when it hits the most. 

Sending strength, love and light to Georgia Harrison, and every other person battling trauma from a sex crime.


To all the black women I never knew…

I hear stories, I see images, I read statistics, I consume art, I learn. I learn names of women doing prodigious things that I have never known. Throughout my adulthood I have found myself frequently asking, “why did I never know this?”. Why was I deprived of this knowledge? How could I never know that the first female self-made millionaire was a black woman who earned her fortune developing black hair care until only a few years ago? I am aware we wouldn’t spend each day thanking every person for every invention, remembering every person that came before us in every avenue of life, that’s intense. However I can’t help but ruminate over the days I was made to feel alien because of my curly hair (or very much frizzy at the time) as a teen, in a predominantly white secondary school, having a teacher threaten a uniform report on my natural curls citing it as an extreme hairstyle. The next morning as I dolloped a large amount of of pink or dark and lovely (if you know, you know) in the palm of my hand and ran my fingers through my hair attempting to tame it in the hopes of steering away another similar public disagreement, with not another brown face present to shoot me a knowing nod in relation and support. I wonder, had I possessed the knowledge of this self-made millionaire whether my mind would have floated to Madam C. J. Walker with thanks and I would have walked a little taller, left my hair a little bigger knowing this hair was the catalyst for an idea that brought in a fortune, before I was even an idea in this world, my hair was history, history that had been hidden away for far too long 

Throughout history too many women have been overlooked, too many black women have been expelled from our lessons. Over the past month we at Freebird have released our first three instalments of our ongoing feature “to all the black women I never knew…” we aim to shine a light on the names that have been concealed from our vision. We directed the torch on Phillis Wheatley, Claudia Jones and Olive Morris, but come on, the depth of these dynamic women’s stories cannot be crammed into an instagram square. Though still just a snapshot view of their multifaceted lives, Wheatley, Jones and Morris deserve the brightness directed their way, so we at Freebird urge you to indulge in their stories and dare you to share them, think ‘pay it forward’, intersectional feminist style.

Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784)

The first African American woman to publish a book.

As a poet myself, Phillis Wheatley is dear to my heart. Born in West Africa, Phillis Wheatley was kidnapped in 1761 by slave traders and at just under 8 years old was forced to America on a slave ship called ‘Phillis’, that she would later be named after. Surviving this transatlantic journey alone was a feat, it killed nearly a quarter of the passengers. She was ‘bought’ by John Wheatley as a ‘gift’ for his wife Susanna, as a personal servant and in his mind a ‘companion’, taken to their home in Boston and named against her will. When John and Susanna noticed her brainpower, after finding her writing with chalk on a wall, they began teaching her. Her innate talent, along with her studious attitude empowered her to become fluent in English in under two years. Alongside learning English, Greek and Latin, she studied a myriad of subjects mainly surrounding the humanities. 

Her enthusiasm for writing came from within, the tender age of 13 brought her first published poem ,“On Messrs. Hussey and Coffin” in the Newport Mercury newspaper. From here she travelled to London in 1773 to publish her book “Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral”, a collection of 39 poems. The works were published here in the UK as the publishing industry was more established here than over the pond. She was the first African American woman to have a book published, and the works were captivating; consequently scepticism was rife with the questioning of Wheatley’s authorship. Rightly anticipating this may happen, Phillis and the Wheatley’s recruited eighteen of the most notable and respected New England religious and political leaders to sign a document, verifying her as the author. They were well aware this was a political statement and were awaiting the controversy, Phillis’ story was extraordinarily different to many other African people who were dehumanized and enslaved, as she had the opportunity to explore her talent and intelligence. Her works’ popularity across the United States and United Kingdom eventually earned her freedom and she went on to be a pivotal supporter of the colony’s independence during the Revolutionary war.  Wheatley was a creative and an intellect, we at freebird urge for an equal representation of genders across the creative industries. The patriarchy wants us to believe that women as serious creatives is something that is new, yet we have been here, letting our thoughts pour onto paper the whole time. Fighting for equal representation in all avenues in 2020 seems ludicrous when Phillis Wheatley was out here representing in the 1700’s. Thank you Phillis. 

“In every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle which we call Love of Freedom; it is impatient of Oppression and Pants for deliverance”- Phillis Wheatley


Claudia Jones (1915-1964) 

Political Activist and founder of the Caribbean Carnival (precursor to Notting Hill Carnival)

This year, every annual carnival goers heart was broken (me included), with the confirmation of what we already knew, Notting Hill Carnival was cancelled, for the first time since it’s beginning due to uninvited, ill-mannered Miss Rona. With a Carnival shaped hole in my heart, it feels more important than ever for us to know, understand and celebrate the woman that created a space that allowed carnival to develop into the euphoric honey pot, attacking the senses in all the right ways that it is today.

Trinidad born Claudia Jones, moved to Harlem, New York aged eight with her family, in an attempt to find a better quality of life. They were met with prejudice and discrimination and so her parents struggled to find long term work, leaving them with poor living conditions and consequently, health. Claudia was diagnosed with Tuberculosis, and her mother died prematurely at 37, which she noted as her first major realisation that the mistreatment of black people was costing their lives. Jones is the covergirl of working your way to the top and giving a voice to your community, starting at a local newspaper, landing a position on the communist party’s editorial staff and eventually became the editor of Negro Affairs. Jones advocated for the rights and mobilisation of black women long before Kimberle Crenshaw coined the term ‘intersectionality’. (Watch Kimberle Crenshaw’s TED talk on the urgency of intersectionality, thank us later**).  Forms of discrimination are not isolated, they befriend and work together at the crossroads of oppression. Her most famous piece ‘An End to the Neglect of the Problems of the Negro Woman’ screams intersectional feminism, loud and clear. 

It’s the mid 50’s and Senator Joseph Mccarthy is leading a pro-conmunism witch hunt, and Jones being a key face of the Conmunist party, is charged with ‘un-american activities’ (she wasn’t even american). She was deported, bypassed by her home, Trinidad, and sent to London, unaware of the mark she would make. Her deportation coincided with the windrush generation – she had a community to join and build. She founded England’s first major Caribbean newspaper the ‘West Indian Gazette’, her office located above a small record shop in Brixton, she was the beat in the heart of the culture, wherever she went.

What you’ve all been waiting for… Notting Hill Carnival. The Notting Hill race riots took place over august bank holiday weekend 1958. Racist English defence leagues were growing, inciting violence on black communities. 5 days that left people injured, dead and those surviving, distraught. Jones knowing she had to act for the community, picked celebration over mourning, it was time to honour their heritage and the community – showcase, feel, and bask in all its power and glory. Did you know the Caribbean has more than 700 islands? The culture of our people is vast, with colourful sounds, dance, food and drink in abundance. The Caribbean Carnival celebrates that, inviting others to entangle themselves in the sounds and glimpse into the West Indies. First held indoors at St Pancras Town Hall (I KNOW!!), the precursor to the Notting Hill carnival we know today now has over 2.5 million attendees. Claudia died only 5 years later, at only 49! She achieved what many could only dream of in a lightning amount of time. Carnival, ‘til we meet again.

“A people’s art is the genesis of their freedoms” – Claudia Jones 

Olive Morris (1952 – 1979)

Political Activist and British Black Panther Party Member.

When Claudia Jones passed, Olive Morris would have been 12 years old. As I write this piece, I find myself imagining a spring afternoon outside a Brixton record store and a conversation between Olive Morris and Claudia Jones, had they crossed paths. The things they would talk about and movements they could make, if only Jones lived a little longer, south London’s overlooked icons of their own time. 

Olive Morris moved from Jamaica to South London aged 9, as part of the Windrush Generation. For many political activists there is a pivotal moment remembered, that is the impetus for a life of considered action. For many young people today, it will be the normalisation of the countless lifeless black bodies painted across the TL, it will be 8.46, the number that was given meaning on May 25th 2020, it will be the name Breonna Taylor that appears every time they close their eyes. For Olive Morris the catalyst was the 15th November 1969. Not a headline in the news, but a firsthand experience that would solidify her path. Nigerian diplomat Clement Gomwalk parked his Mercedes near Desmond’s Hip City, a Brixton record store. The police accused him of stealing the car. (Let’s talk about the “sus” law, in which the police were empowered to stop anyone they suspected of wrongdoing. This law was used and abused as a tool to keep black people down. It was hard to prove ill-use. Many organisations wrote reports that demanded revising of the law and it was finally repealed in 1981. Yet, as many systemic forms of racism do, it has just been given a new framework, the official figures for england and wales show black people are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than white people, as per 2019-2020.) Gomwalk naturally objected to his arrest (this is where accounts vary), and the police became forceful, 17 year old, 5 foot 2 Morris interfered, confronting the police on their treatment of the diplomat, which riled them even more and the aggression turned towards her. She stated “each time I tried to talk or raise my head I was slapped in the face”. When in custody, she was threatened with rape, forced to undress while police watched to prove her womanhood and brutally beaten. She was fined, given a suspended sentence and released. 

At this point she was already a part of the British Black Panther Movement youth group and similar to Claudia Jones, she was thrust into the world of intersectional politics and became an integral mobilizer of black women socially and politically in the 1970’s. She set the first networks for women, both black and asian with her two organisations; the Brixton Black Womens Group and the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD), a physical space for women to have their voice heard for the first time. Whilst studying in Manchester between ‘75 and ‘78, her activism didn’t take a backseat, she took it with her north setting up the Manchester Black Womens Co-operative. 

Whilst her activism was broad she had a particular fixation on, housing/squatting and black women and children. In 1972, two black children died in a fire after their portable heaters were knocked over. Morris led a demonstration for more secure heating in public housing outside the local government offices, which resulted in central heating being installed. She squatted in 121 Railton Road in Brixton and created a space for community groups to meet, it also housed the Sabarr bookshop, one of the black communities first. She died of Non-hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1979. She was 27. All her activism was carried out in just one decade, in the UK and across the world. 

“She represents the kind of Black women who, over the years, have thrown themselves into the struggle of this country and made an indelible, if anonymous, mark” this quote about Olive Morris from “Heart of the Race: Black Women’s Lives in Britain” rings true for Wheatley, Jones and Morris, and many more black women who have been overlooked. The history of black people is rich, overflowing, and is so incredibly varied. We, as black people, are multifaceted leading incredible and extraordinary lives. We are itching to learn, we are itching to share, we are itching to teach, and we can’t wait till all the black women we never knew, becomes all the black women we adore that we know. 

(Keep an eye out for my poem “To all the black women I never knew…”, which will be featured on FreeBird in the coming weeks)

Yasmin Dawes

Further learning: **Kimberle Crenshaw – TED Talk – The Ugency of Intersectionality https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akOe5-UsQ2o 


A letter on ‘Growth’

"<spanPhoto by Clemens van Lay on Unsplash

Life is made up of hundreds of thousands of moments. Some move us, others change us, and some moments provoke us. Busy lives, distracted lives, and daily routines tend to take us away from important moments. However, 2020 has been full of moments, and it’s been the time to slow down. We’ve stopped. We’ve listened to 2020, and we’ve focused.

The moments of 2020 have provoked us. 

We desperately want to go back to ‘normal’, but it’s just not possible. And frankly, even if we could go back, the life pre-Covid that we used to know simply wasn’t… normal. 

Thanks to Covid-19, life as we know it has fundamentally changed. We’re staying apart to keep each other healthy, but none of us can feel completely well while we’re apart. Some of us are probably asking questions we’ve never asked before; about ourselves, our families, our careers, our culture. And there aren’t necessarily easy answers to those questions– no quick fixes for the crises we currently face. 

We’re all going to need a deep re-think about many areas of our lives. Our attitudes, our priorities, and most importantly, our compassion. We’ve been forced to take a beat and assess how we think, decide what we stand for, and how we voice it. And most importantly, we’ve had to dig deep into thinking about how to make changes for the better.  I know, myself, I’ve learnt a serious amount in the last few months, been forced to think about other people (rightly so) and made bolder choices than ever before. 

Routine allows us to go through life without thinking much; change forces us to look at things with fresh eyes. In this post-Covid world, people around the world are now changing paths– in their careers, studies, relationships– and opening up to the idea of something new. Many people have more time to reflect, adapt, and finally make room for growth. Growth isn’t easy. We know it’s often uncomfortable, confusing, messy and can be full of feelings you weren’t expecting. But let’s be honest: normal wasn’t working. And with FreeBird, we want to help support this communal growth into something new.

At its most basic level, this pandemic is dealing us two options: evolve, or regress. 

Here at Freebird we believe in growth, we believe in change, and– as a core team– we believe in supporting something different . We all know that for anyone in the arts, if we were afraid to take risks and adapt to change, we wouldn’t survive. In an ever-changing industry filled with uncertainty and variation, we’ve learned to adapt to our surroundings on a daily basis. But what happens when life comes to a halt? Daily activities and routines go out the window and life as we always knew it, has completely changed. In my opinion, you have the option to step forward into growth or step backwards into safety. Come with us on this month’s journey into growth and let’s get inspired together. We are completely here for taking risks. If we didn’t ever jump, we might not ever fall. A brilliant colleague once said to me – “Sometimes you have to jump… and it feels like you’re free falling, but when you free fall, you land.” That one certainly stays with me. 

For myself personally, after several brilliant, busy years at Bill Kenwright Limited, I’ve now made the decision to step away. I couldn’t have ever imagined– on the 16th of March– the scale of events that were to follow. Over the next week, the country launched into lockdown, we’ll certainly never forget rushing home that night to watch Boris give that speech that halted life as we knew it. Having worked tirelessly for BKL from my kitchen table in the ensuing months, I remained part of a core team battling against the damage Covid-19 was, and still is, wreaking on the theatre, events and live entertainement industry– battling the unknown. As news of redundancy consultations, venue closures, and ongoing chaos unfolded across the performing arts each week, lives and careers came to a complete stand-still. And after five solid months of helping to keep the wheels turning, this girl now needs a break! 

How is it then, that somehow– in a time of ultimate crisis– I almost feel more grounded than ever? I’m a prolific planner; I plan my life day-in, day-out. I write daily tasks and lists, track my eating habits, my sleep, and constantly have things booked to look forward to, along with goals to achieve. Perhaps taking control of my time has enabled me to feel more steady. For now, I’m trusting that this has all happened for a reason. I’m allowing myself space to breathe, and understand that the events of this year are bigger than any of us. I’m allowing myself space to reflect and assess– I want time to consider the elements of my life and my industry that require change. I don’t know for sure, but a large part of my gut tells me this shake up hasn’t happened for nothing. 

One thing’s for sure– we’re ready for there to be something new; a world where fighting consistently for change and progress means there is no ‘normal’, but there are goals and ambitions that unite us and guide us forwards. We all know it’s time for change. Let’s take this opportunity for Growth–  we’re all in it together, and there’s a hell of a lot of power in solidarity. 

Milly Summer 

“It’s empowering, to know our own bodies”

We’ve teamed up with Hannah (@sustainable.period), a coordinator for The Red Box Project and Environmenstrual Ambassador for the Women’s Environmental Network, to talk all things Aunty Flo

More than 800 million. That’s how many active users TikTok has. 

It’s also the number of people who are menstruating on any given day.

Imagine that for a second. The number of people on TikTok– that gargantuan internet republic– is the same as the number of people who are shedding and discharging their uterine lining (along with, on average, 30-40ml of blood) every single day.

Let’s go even bigger. The global sex ratio at birth is around 48.8% female (FYI, population statistics on sex and gender are pretty complicated; for a preliminary explanation, have a read here). Even at a conservative estimate, we’re still talking around 3 billion people who will have to deal with Shark Week for around half of their life (on average).

Over this weekend, we want to make a point about the level of comfort we should have– the ownership we should feel– with regards to our bodies. Especially when it comes to the red menace, and the products we use to manage it. We’re deeply concerned about the impact our periods have on the environment, and about making sure everyone who menstruates has the right to access sanitary products in a safe, low-cost (ideally no-cost) way. Basically, we want to throw out the cultural stigma surrounding menstruation, period poverty, and spread the message about how we can all surf the crimson wave in a more environmentally-conscious way. 

Hannah, a coordinator for The Red Box Project, Environmenstrual Ambassador for the Women’s Environmental Network, and the vagenius behind @sustainable.period, has exactly the same goals. Aiming to show people the advantages of going sustainable when you’ve got Communists in the kitchen, Hannah brings new brands and resources to the attention of her followers– helping people make informed decisions about their monthly blood festival


So Hannah, what’s your experience of these kinds of products, and why is this so important to you? 

I switched to reusable period products around four/five years ago, and they have literally been a life-changer! They are much more convenient for me. I feel like so many people I speak to have no idea what a menstrual cup is, let alone cloth pads or period pants, so this gave me an idea. We have posters in the toilet cubicles at work which state ‘do not flush sanitary products’. This sparked an idea with me, so I contacted the relevant department and helped to design new posters– which included facts about flushing period products, and the damage it can do to our environment, as well as information about period pants, cloth pads, and menstrual cups! 

I didn’t know anyone who used a menstrual cup, so I had to do tons of research to try and discover which cup would be best for me. This made me realise– if I found it difficult to make a decision based on the overwhelming amount of information there is out there, other people probably feel the same, and some are probably even put off trying reusables, due to this!

These products have to end up somewhere. If they aren’t being flushed and causing blockages, when these products go into the sanitary bins in toilet cubicles, they’ll usually go into landfill and can take hundreds of years to break down– and very few places are starting to convert this waste into refuse-derived fuel. A lot of items that are flushed down the toilets end up in the sea, this is why it is so important not to flush wipes, pads, tampons, cotton buds, or anything else that should go into the bin! It also costs a lot of energy to create these products and their packaging, which in turn affects our environment.

When buying disposable tampons and pads I would encourage you to look at the ingredients and do your research on the company. Just because the box says ‘organic cotton’, it doesn’t mean the wrapper or applicator is plastic-free.

And it isn’t just tampons which contain plastic– one packet of pads can contain as much plastic as 5 carrier bags, and up to 90% of the pad can be plastic. Pads also sometimes have fragrance. Why? Sometimes it can be used to cover up the smell of chemicals used to create the pad, or it could be because the companies think we need it!

So I started collecting a variety of products and leaflets from many different companies, which I then took to work events, and also community events, to show people the different styles of products– as well as introducing a conversation around sustainability, and reducing the stigma of periods. Reusable period products aren’t for everyone, so I have some eco-friendly disposable tampons and pads to show people as well as period pants, menstrual cups, cloth pads and a reusable tampon applicator! People are so shocked at the variety of products, materials, colours, styles, shapes, etc… and I feel like this drives me more, because you can’t walk into a shop and actually get them out the box to touch them. If you walk into a supermarket, you’re lucky if there’s one menstrual cup on sale. 

Before lockdown, I had an information stand in the office at work, so colleagues could come and chat about these products and see them for themselves. I’m also lucky enough to have lots of discount codes, so if anyone reading this would like them, feel free to drop me a message on Instagram!

During lockdown, I decided to start @sustainable.period Instagram account, which looks at menstruation within the UK and in India. It’s a way to connect with the community, to arrange WEN workshops, and to help educate people on all things period. I choose to do this as a volunteer– I don’t get paid by anyone to promote their products. I believe it’s empowering to discuss periods and to know our own bodies.

I believe sustainable period products aren’t just great for the environment, but they’re healthier for our bodies, and so much more convenient– not to mention saving lots of money, and I feel like people need to know this! Who doesn’t love the idea of being able to wear a menstrual cup for 12 hours, that’s a whole working day, without having to worry! 

(ICYMI, period poverty is a widespread issue across the UK, and the world. For more context on period poverty, check out our conversation with menstrual mastermind Natalie Apted of Naturally Adapted

Can you walk us through how menstruation affects access to education?

This isn’t just due to not being able to afford the products; it can be because of cultural issues, or they don’t feel comfortable asking whoever it is that looks after them. 

When I was a co-ordinator for the Red Box Project, I collected donations from the public to take into schools. The RBP meant that period products, wipes, knickers, tights, and even soap, were available to students directly from their schools, via donations from local communities. This was an amazing initiative which has helped thousands of students, and I’m so grateful I could be part of that. 

Thankfully, the government have listened to our needs, and since January this year they have now started a new scheme, which means schools are able to order free period products for their students! They can even order sustainable disposable and reusable period products.

It’s kind of a ‘use it or lose it’ situation, which isn’t really fair, as this year, schools have been closed for months– so the budget will be far too low. There doesn’t seem to be a dedicated role within schools to order these products, so it seems to get forgotten about. It’s a matter of urgency that these schools make orders by December.

We need local MP’s and councillors to take a more active role– you can download a letter template from:

What’s WEN?

The Women’s Environmental Network is a charity taking action for our health, and for the planet’s health. When I became a WEN ambassador, it allowed me to give workshops about everything from period activism, and anatomy, to reusable products. I love being part of such a positive, inspiring community. The Environmenstrual campaign aims to raise awareness about hidden plastic and chemicals in conventional menstrual products. We aim to educate people through workshops, and encourage a period-positive discussion which is open to all. So far, the workshops have had to be online due to Covid-19, however we’ve been able to get so many people attending workshops and coming together in a fun environment, to discuss all things period-related. It really is empowering. 

There are so many ways to mark Environmenstrual Week– see the WEN website or my Instagram page nearer the time for lots of ideas.


So, are there reasons to be hopeful about the future, when it comes to period poverty? 

I think lockdown has increased the number or reusable products for periods, and household products, on the market. When people were unable to get hold of toilet roll, and, in some places, when the stocks were low on period products, people moved on to reusable products, so they didn’t have to worry about going out as much. 

Also, before lockdown I was planning on going back to India– a place very close to my heart. Once the current situation starts to settle down, I will go back and carry out my campaign! I will go into schools and community groups and give talks and workshops about menstruation, alongside some Indian friends who are also period activists.

Make sure to check out the resources at Hannah’s Instagram page @sustainable.period, as well as her amazing work with The Red Box Project, and the Women’s Environmental Network

To find more amazing period slang, check out this Refinery29 article from Sarah Couglin. And for a catchy tune about period sex, head over to Rachel Bloom’s youtube channel.

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