A brand-new audio work is being released online concluding a two-year project exploring the resilience, activism and community organising of women in Merseyside over the last 50 years.
The Ballad of 18 Women highlights the stories of 18 Merseyside women giving insight into the incredible contributions women make every day to improve lives in our region. It has been produced by Liverpool-based Collective Encounters thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Interweaving interview footage with poetic commentary, music and song, the ballad is performed by local women who were also researchers for the project. It incorporates the actual voices of the women they interviewed and includes original music by composer Bethany Kay Hopkins; building on the radio ballad format pioneered by Charles Parker, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger in 1958.
The interviews took place between September 2020 and June 2021 following a call out for women who have made a difference in their communities to share their stories.
Some women came forward after encouragement from their peers, such as Doreen McNally from Women of the Waterfront (WOWs) who generated international solidarity around the Liverpool docker’s strike in the 1990s.
Others, such as Maddy Vaz who runs Sanctuary Family Support in Toxteth and Imogen Woolley who is responsible for the newly established Liverpool Tool Library, were nominated by project volunteers who wanted to recognise the achievements of women in their own communities.
Other interviewees were approached by the project team due to the timely relevance of their actions, such as Chantelle Lunt who set up the now prominent Merseyside Black Lives Matter Alliance, and Zi Lan Liao whose activism made a huge difference to Liverpool’s Chinese community during Covid-19.
The interviews also provide an insight into the experiences of women standing for elected office, the setting up of adult education provision for women, local climate and environmental action, fights for rights at work, queer women’s activism and health initiatives including the ongoing (so far successful) campaign to Save Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
Many more women across our region are making incredible contributions and while it hasn’t been possible to capture every voice, The Ballad of 18 Women aims to honour them all.
As the stories unfold, we see the radical positive differences these committed women have made in the world. Woven together, they give a glimpse of the multitude of positive actions that hold, nurture and empower our communities.
The Ballad of 18 Women will be available in March on the Collective Encounters website, as well as on MayDay Radio, an online oral history project connected to the radical archive May Day Rooms: audio.maydayrooms.org
Listeners will also have access to the full recording of each interview conducted. The interviews will also be held in a permanent archive at the Museum of Liverpool.
The ballad will be launched at an online and live event on International Women’s Day (8 March) hosted by Museum of Liverpool.
Time: 12:30pm – 2pm.