Last weekend (25th-26th July) London’s first Girlcon took place. It’s organisers (Anna Hill and Kara Stanton) aimed to create a space for positive discussion surrounding gender-based issues and arranged a programme of events from panels to film screenings. The event was aimed at ‘young women, teenage girls and non-binary folk’ with the intent of ‘building a supportive community and having fun’ and took place at the May Day Rooms on Fleet Street. Girlcon included workshops on poetry and self-care and talks from amazing people like Soofiya Andry who recently launched a ‘zine on periods with the goal of breaking taboo and educating people. Panel topics ranged from girls in literature and black feminism to Youtube and ‘selfies’.
Considering how much people of marginalised genders are pushed aside, it’s incredibly important that spaces like this are provided from which people can empower and inspire each other whilst working to eradicate social injustice through activism. This is particularly true for the younger generation, who in not yet being at university or in work and their own space, may find it even more difficult to seek a community in which they can feel comfortable. Aiming Girlcon at younger girls and non-binary people and providing panels which cover topics that are acutely relevant to this demographic, just increases its value even further.
The values and goals of the event, as listed on their website, certainly encompass this ethos, pointing out that ‘as girls we are often pitted against each other’ creating competition, when in reality we need to support each other against pressing feminist issues. Providing a specific code of conduct for attendees to read beforehand allowed the organisers to create a space for ‘frank and informative discussion’ about issues that affect our everyday lives, in a non-academic format. Girlcon promoted inclusion and encouragement of creativity, with female fronted music performances each evening as well as craft based workshops to help young people express themselves and relax.
The event has been mentioned all over social media in the last week with people reporting that it was a roaring success. It seems to have had the desired effect of encouraging young girls and non-binary people to feel comfortable with their gender and sexuality, whilst providing a friendly and supportive community where people made friends for life. Twitter users have described the weekend as ‘amazing’, ‘wonderful’ and ‘an insanely happy, mutually supportive place’, asking friends they made there to add them on Tumblr and Snapchat.
H Beverley of Royal Holloway’s Feminism Society and subsequent #Uglygirlsclub member, was invited to speak on the activism panel and selfies panel as well as taking part in the ‘Big Sisters’ event to offer advice on sexuality and sex. As I was so disappointed to be unable to attend Girlcon, they were kind enough to let me quiz them on the event in order to get a proper idea of what sort of space it was.
How much did you enjoy Girlcon and did it act as a good space to meet a variety of interesting people?
It was brilliant! GirlCon was one of the loveliest and safest spaces I have ever been in. I met so many kind and interesting people, along with seeing lots of friends. The space was so comfortable that everybody quickly felt like they were old friends.
Can you give a brief explanation of the event and its aim?
GirlCon was an event that was about celebrating young women and non-binary people and building a safe and supportive community. The idea for the event came from the novel Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.
Do you think the organisers will hold it again next year?
I hope they do and I would certainly be willing to help them to try and make this event be possible again.
Can you give some examples of the panels they run? Which panels did you speak on?
There were panels on Self-Care, Poetry, Black Feminism, Make-up, Zines, Witches, Fangirls, Religion and Body Positivity. I spoke on the panels about Activism and Selfies and I was also one of the “Big Sisters” that gave advice on sex and sexuality.
Can you give a brief summary of the topics covered on each one?
On the Activism panel we talked about what it is like to be a young woman in activist spaces and the perception that online activism is “slacktivism” which of course we all thought was rubbish. On the Selfies panel we talked about how selfies had shaped our perceptions of identities and our relationships with our bodies.
Would you recommend the event to people, who would you recommend it to most and why?
It was a really fulfilling experience. I definitely would recommend this event to anybody that had the chance to go to this or something like it. There was so much love and solidarity from everybody there it was beautiful.