For our latest #WomenMakeSheffield blog post, Cai met a number of activists engaged in campaigning against sexual violence within the Steel City. Through our discussion with the co-organisers of last year’s vigils for Sarah Everard, student-led campaign Our Bodies, Our Streets and one of the co-founders of local anti-racist collective Take the Knee, we discovered the wide-ranging means through which the women of Sheffield are taking action against gendered violence. This short post does not do justice to the importance of their work, but SFA wants to provide a small platform through which to document their voices.
One of the most poignant themes that emerged in our discussions with these women was the spirit of collective solidarity giving life to their movements. Violence against women and girls is understood not as an individual problem, but as a shared grievance requiring a collective and community-driven response. It was this urge to gather that brought together hundreds of women in the wake of the horrifying murder of Sarah Everard in 2021, with Sheffield being one of the many cities in which vigils were held in her memory. One of the co-organisers of the vigil spoke of the raw emotions she felt upon seeing the news of Sarah’s death; “Every time things like this happen, you have that moment of [thinking]… will anything change? How can I, as an individual, gather with people who feel the same as me?”
Following the example of women across the country, she reached out on social media to find out if there was a vigil going ahead in Sheffield, soon discovering that there was a shared desire to come together across the city. As growing numbers of women expressed interest in joining the Reclaim These Streets collective, including those with no previous experience within feminist activism, she describes the transformative transition into feeling “powerful rather than powerless”. Despite disappointment at the physical vigil being called off following threats from the South Yorkshire Police Service, images filled local media outlets of the moving tributes that filled spaces on Devonshire Green in the form of candles, flowers and messages expressing solidarity with victims of gendered violence.
A delve into the Women’s Papers housed at the Sheffield City Archives reveals the long legacy of resistance against sexual violence in the Steel City, from the huge Reclaim the Night marches of the early 80s spurned by the horrific actions of the Yorkshire Ripper, to attempts to establish community self-defence initiatives and peer support groups. Such self-organised communities of resistance are once again emerging across the city, with the founding of the intersectional feminist collective Our Bodies, Our Streets (OBOS) in June 2020, with a mission to “campaign for safer spaces free from public sexual harassment through creativity, protest and empowerment”. The principles of community engagement and collaboration are central to their strategy, with the group leading a coalition of Sheffield collectives that held a vigil in memory of Sabina Nessa – another woman lost to gendered violence in September. The event saw people of all genders and ages come together to share their collective grief and anger at the further loss of life.
Amongst those in attendance was Yaz, the founder of local anti-racist collective Take The Knee, who reflected on the emotionally charged atmosphere at the vigil as one in which “people actually felt like it was a safe space to get up and talk… they didn’t think they were actually going to speak, and they did speak… and we needed to hear their voices.” Streets that many of these women have learnt to walk in fear were transformed for those few hours into a site of mutual understanding and the breaking of silences. Such spaces will continue to colour the Sheffield landscape, as the OBOS plan “to host vigils regularly, rather than waiting for a high profile femicide. We feel that this is important to keep the victims in our memory and show solidarity to their families and communities”.
Driven by a vision of social transformation, the activism of Sheffield women is one that recognises gendered violence to be a product of existing structures of power, demanding resistance on all fronts. Yasmin expressed the power to be found in challenging the divide and conquer strategy of the national press that seeks to legitimise existing structures of violence and hide “the real connection between systemic sexism and systemic racism” that “sustains a culture of violence against women and people of colour”. As a founding member of Sheffield Take The Knee, an anti-racist collective formed in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in 2020, she believes that education and consciousness raising are some of the most powerful weapons available to Sheffield organisers in challenging the normalisation of state violence. Central to building this consciousness has been establishing a visible presence on the streets of the Steel City, through weekly protests at which activists take the knee as an expression of solidarity against racist violence. One of the most powerful outcomes of these women-led actions from within the Sheffield community has been, for Yasmin, that “it is really empowering for young women to see, and to hear our voices and not be shouted down like we have for years.” It is at moments when violence dominates the media that “we think about what kind of world we are bringing our children into”, and most importantly “what power…we have to empower them.”
We could look at the contemporary socio-political situation and feel cynical about the prospect of long term transformation – contemporary demands closely echo those found in material from the 1970s Women’s Movement in Sheffield. None of the individuals we spoke to believed that the physical and emotional labour involved in this type of activism had shifted away from the shoulders of those most impacted by sexual violence. Growing encroachments on the right to protest throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and included within the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill have raised the stakes of the decision to engage in protest action. One of the organisers of the planned vigil for Sarah Everard reflected on the “heavy decision” taken by organisers to call off the action following threats of a £10,000 fine from the local police force. A source of tension within the groups, she recounts that “we wanted it to be a moment where we felt powerful, and it ended up feeling…more jaded than that.”
Despite these moments of disappointment, not a hint of cynicism can be detected when talking to the women of Sheffield about the future of organising in the Steel City. Reflecting further on her personal experiences of organising the vigil for Sarah Everard, the organiser we spoke to understands it as a moment of transformation within which she became more aware of “what I was capable of”, and the ability of women to come together spontaneously in a “moment of national solidarity”. This growing awareness of our own capabilities in calling out violence at all levels has been a call to action for many women, with members of TTK and OBOS participating in the Sheffield Against the Policing Bill coalition. Ending each of our conversations with a discussion on the theme of hope, these activists reflect upon the ever-present and ever-growing spirit of collective resistance and solidarity within their movements. Put simply by Yaz; “this generation is coming through, and they are coming through with a huge force… I just see so many good things happening around me within our community.”
#WomenMakeSheffield is our campaign to tell the stories of the many women and feminists, past and present, who make the Steel City great. To round off Black History Month 2021, we’re celebrating some of the vital, pioneering projects and organisations led by Black women in Sheffield. This blog highlights just some of the Black women and collectives who continue to fundamentally shape and enrich the city’s cultural life, strengthen ties between local communities, and make Sheffield a vastly more exciting place to live.
Writer, activist, broadcast journalist and self-described ‘South Londoner up North’ Désirée Reynolds is one of Sheffield’s leading creatives. Since the release of her debut novel Seduce back in 2013, Désirée has written widely, penning plays and short stories, facilitating creative writing workshops and much more; her writing is a tool for exploring Black and Brown women’s experiences at the intersection of race and class and disrupting the white, male gaze.
Since March 2021 Désirée has been Writer in Residence at our partner organisation, Sheffield City Archives, where she’s been tracing untold stories and listening for voices in the archive. Reflecting on her residency for Now Then magazine, Désirée reflects on how ‘in these archives marginalised lives are spectacle’, fated to either hypervisibility or complete erasure, with conspicuous gaps and silences where the material traces of a life should be. Using a range of creative methods to weave these stories, Désirée’s residency concludes with ‘Dig Where You Stand’, a citywide exhibition with hubs at Theatre Deli, the Moor Market and Sheffield Central Library from 25-30 October 2021.
Find Désirée on Twitter and Instagram, where she’s currently sharing some of the stories she’s unearthed during her SCA residency, or get to know more about her work and publications on her website.
Founded by theatre practitioner Mojisola Elufowoju in 2012, Utopia Theatre represents and celebrates voices of the African diaspora. Combining African theatre and storytelling traditions with Western theatre practices, Utopia focuses on theatre production and touring, nurturing new and emerging playwrights and storytellers of African origin, and African theatre in the community. As residents at Sheffield Theatres, Utopia is the only African theatre company in the North of England; it encompasses more than forty theatre professionals working in every capacity.
Utopia Baobab is the company’s project to secure the future of African storytelling by developing and honing the creative talents of a group of African playwrights through a tailored mentorship programme, the production of three new plays, and the publication of a book. Amidst the uncertainty that the pandemic has cast over the future of the theatre industry, Utopia’s African Theatre to your Home online streaming platform provides another means of shoring up the future and legacy of the company’s rich portfolio of previous works; productions can be purchased to watch and download to your user profile. After more than eighteen months away from live performance, Utopia made its return to the British stage in September, with a double bill of ‘Here’s What She Said to Me’ by Oladipo Agboluaje and Zakes Mda’s ‘And the Girls in their Sunday Dresses’ at London’s Arcola Theatre.
British-born Somali poet and teacher Warda Yassin burst onto the UK poetry scene in 2018, when her first pamphlet Tea with Cardamomwon the highly prestigious New Poets’ Prize. Since then Warda has gone from strength to strength, winning the Rebecca Swift Foundation Women Poets’ Prizeand taking on the mantle of Sheffield Poet Laureate in 2020. Warda’s poetry marks ways around the city by memory, casts Sheffield in the warm light of familiarity.
Warda is a passionate advocate for engaging young people with poetry and creative writing, namely through her job as a secondary school English teacher and in her role as the coordinator of Mixing Roots, a project for young people of colour to find their voice through creative writing, run in partnership with Hive South Yorkshire. Warda reflects on her own creative journey, and her work with Hive, in this recent interview with the Star.
Learn more about Warda’s poetry, publications and current projects on her website, or follow her on Twitter.
Based at the Wicker, ADIRA is a survivor-led mental health organisation for Black people of all ages, led by Ursula Myrie and Marjorie Frater. ADIRA offers a range of services including events to raise awareness of issues that specifically affect the Black community, engaging with and nurturing young Black people, and the ADIRA Listening Service, a safe, non-judgemental space for callers to talk through difficult issues and personal problems. Listening Service appointments can take place virtually, over the phone, or face to face at SADACCA.
ADIRA are marking this Black History Month with an African-Caribbean Market that brings together the experiences of the Windrush Generation, while celebrating Black culture through a range of live performances, song, dance, and food & clothing stalls. In collaboration with the Unity Project Sheffield and Action Collective, the Market runs from Monday 25 – Saturday 30 October 2021 at Fargate in Sheffield City Centre. As part of a wider programme of events held at Moor Market throughout the month of October, the market runs alongside a series of stalls, exhibitions and live performances platforming voices, both historic and contemporary, at the heart of Sheffield’s Black community.
If you’d like to support ADIRA’s vitally important work, the easiest way to do so is to attend one of their community events, or consider making a donation via their website.
Founded by writer and poet Danae Wellington, Nyara School of Arts is a Sheffield-based arts organisation bringing together members of the Black community. Since 2018, Nyara has provided vital spaces for artistic expression and development across a wide range of artistic disciplines. Spanning local film projects to engaging workshops focused on building skills in dancing or traditional methods of African storytelling, Nyara has played a critical role in building an artistic platform for the voices of South Yorkshire’s African and Caribbean communities. Playing an active role in challenging a cultural sector often dominated by white voices, Nyara has worked on critical projects such as Sistah:Sister – The Erasure of Dark-Skinned Black Women, an educational workshop exploring and deconstructing harmful representations of black women in on-screen media, produced for Sheffield DocFest 2021.
Currently Nyara is leading ‘Passing the Baton: The Legacy of the Windrush Pioneers’, a community-led heritage project aimed at documenting the experiences of Sheffield’s Caribbean community. Spanning multiple generations, the project brings together their individual stories and memories, weaving a collective narrative of Sheffield’s Windrush Generation, and its role in moulding the post-war history of the steel city. With the support of funding from Sheffield City Council, the interviews, poetry and film produced as part of this project will be housed in the Sheffield Archives for years to come. Those interested in seeing the film in person can attend its first public screening at Theatre Deli next Monday (1 November) at 6pm GMT.
Content warning: Discussion of sexual harassment in the beer industry and the #MeToo movement.
In our first #WomenMakeSheffield post, we’re spotlighting Jules Gray (@beer_revere), owner of the award-winning beer shop Hop Hideout (@hophideout), based in Kommune at the heart of Sheffield’s city centre. SFA’s Jenny, Laura and Sophie joined Jules last month to chat all things: women in the beer industry; recording and preserving the female narrative in beer; Jules’ journey into beer; and how we can continue celebrating the positive stories arising out of Sheffield’s diverse beer industry, to counterweigh male violence against women. We learned so much from Jules about all of the incredible people who work toward achieving equity for women, people of colour, and the LGBTQ+ community (to name a few!), in beer communities up and down the country, and we hope to shed light on all of this amazing work in this post.
Jules founded Hop Hideout in 2013, one of the first ‘drink in’ beer shops in the UK. You can choose from over 200 delicious beers to either take away, or to drink inside the independent food/drink hall of Kommune. Jules is also the founder and director of both Sheffield Beer Week (@SheffBeerWeek) and Indie Beer Feast (@IndieBeerFeast), which have grown immensely in terms of popularity and attendance nationally (more on that to come!). Hop Hideout has won a number of awards and commendations; it was the winner of Independent Beer Retailer of the Year 2018 in the Drinks Retailing Awards, and since then has also been highly commended or has reached the final stages of multiple awards ceremonies. Jules also recently appeared on Channel Five’s ‘Summer on the Farm’, hosting beer tasting for Helen Skelton and Jules Hudson, and can be watched at around 45 minutes on this episode. Hop Hideout’s beers have also featured on Sunday Brunch, Jamie Oliver’s Magazine, and in the Telegraph, showing just how much national coverage the business has had. These are just a few of the things that highlight the success of Jules’ business, not least the wonderful reviews on Hop Hideout’s Facebook page.
Jules’ experiences in the beer industry have been incredibly varied, with many high points, as well as challenges, along the way. We asked Jules about what drew her to Sheffield in the first place. She was brought up in Durham and came to study at the former campus of Sheffield Hallam University at Psalter Lane in the late 90s, whilst also doing some volunteering for Sheffield’s International Documentary Film Festival in the early 2000s – she described Sheffield as a friendly and welcoming place to be yourself and to learn more about the stories of diverse people. There were also benefits to living close to the hustle and bustle of the city, while also being able to appreciate the outdoors in the neighbouring Peak District.
Jules moved away from Sheffield due to a lack of opportunities for her career, and began working in Leeds at Molson Coors brewery (who brewed the iconic Sheffield Stones Bitter, at a time when Wards Brewing Company had been closed down in Sheffield!). She also worked in technical support resolving issues in pubs, which eventually led to her working in sales in the North-East beer industry. Like the experiences of many other women at the time (and to this day), Jules was told she wasn’t ‘good enough’ for a sales job in the industry, but was able to work her way into the male-dominated sector as a result of her self-guidance and hard graft. The sales job allowed her to develop relationships with colleagues and customers in the industry; she enjoyed hearing about what others would like to achieve, and making it happen for them.
As Jules recognised, people often see bar work as transient; something to do on the side for extra money. However, Jules was excited by the possibility of gaining more and more knowledge about the inner-workings of the global beer industry, which led to her success today. She feels her journey has allowed her to run large-scale beer festivals today, and has given her the opportunity to connect with so many groups of people.
Recognising Women in Beer
It was clear to us that Jules has a passion for learning about, and documenting, the untold stories of women and marginalised groups in beer. As Jules said, women often don’t get the recognition they deserve until they’ve passed away, and that we should also be recognising and celebrating the achievements of women doing amazing work in the present moment. Jules is also interested in sharing the stories of the women who worked in the large-scale breweries dotted around Sheffield, such as Whitbread Exchange Brewery; such stories dispel the myth of a solely male workforce. Jules also highlighted the importance of women during war-time who took up roles in production. The names of women appear on the doors of many breweries today, for instance, Abbeydale Brewery was founded 25 years ago by not only Patrick Morton, but his wife, Sue Morton, who oversees so much of the production, IT and admin. Additionally, at Saint Mars of the Desert (SMOD) in Sheffield there is a husband and wife team, with Martha (Simpson) taking on just as much as Dann (Paquette) in terms of the brewing, artwork for the beers, events marketing, and more. Martha also has a PhD in microbiology from MIT in the US, and oversees the canning at SMOD, and is therefore a prominent figure in her field.
Jules also highlighted the work of Jaega Wise (@jaegawise), founder and owner of Wild Card Brewery in London, who recognises the importance of inclusivity in beer, and has done the groundwork in ensuring diversity is at the heart of the brewery’s message (see her incredible story here written by Beer52). Lily Waite (@LilyWaite_) also aims to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ people in the brewing and hospitality industries through The Queer Brewing Project. These are just a few of the stories and experiences by women that deserve recognition and celebration now, and beyond. SFA instantly saw a connection with the work that Jules is doing (alongside many other women in beer), and the aims of SFA, in telling and celebrating the untold stories of women in the Steel City and across the country.
Celebrating Diversity in Sheffield’s Beer Industry
Jules feels there’s work that’s yet to be done in Sheffield, but that there’s clearly an appetite for celebrating diversity. She recognised the need for representation across all communities in Sheffield, and that we should be collaborating on issues of equality, rather than communication about these issues being siloed to one area. Jules mentioned Migration Matters as one great example of this city-wide representation of marginalised groups, who celebrate the positive effects of refugees and migration upon Sheffield. Out And About also create and promote safe spaces for queer people and allies in Sheffield’s beer community. These types of events are necessary for sharing the stories of marginalised people, and Jules aims to build on the work of these projects.
Social media has been a powerful tool for Jules as a small business owner, and has given her the opportunity to find a voice as a woman in a male-dominated industry. She co-created Sheffield Beer Week with a friend, Clare Tollick (@FeastAndGlory). The yearly celebratory event has snowballed; starting as a Twitter and Facebook campaign in 2015, to collaborating with 10-15 venues to celebrate Sheffield beer and breweries for a week, to having 50-60 venues and multiple breweries signed up, along with the support of Sheffield City Council, and national coverage, in just six short years. Since then, she has continued to use social media to promote Sheffield Beer Week, particularly as a celebration of women in beer, with the festival falling in March (the month of International Women’s Day). The three key strands of Sheffield Beer Week are Beer and Food, Community, and Heritage, with the aim to bring together all communities of Sheffield to enjoy beer. Alongside this, Nicci Peet (@niccipeet), Freelance Drinks Photographer, has done so much work to capture diversity in the beer industry, with a photography trail up and down the UK of brewery owners. A result of Nicci’s work is that if women see people who look like themselves on the canning lines, delivering beer, behind pub counters, etc., then they are more likely to join the industry, making it a crucial project for celebrating diversity. During Sheffield Beer Week, Nicci’s work was exhibited as part of The People’s Photography Trail.
Every year, Sheffield Beer Week aims to foster different communities, and show that it is more than just beer. As Jules put it: “Beer doesn’t make itself; it takes people to make it!”, highlighting the hard work that goes on behind the scenes in the beer industry.
Male Violence & Male-Centred Marketing in the Beer Industry
In recent years, there has been a shift towards the awareness and recognition of violence against women in the beer industry. The #MeToo movement has extended to all sectors of work, including craft beer, with stories initially being shared in the US, and now in the UK too (see this article which highlights sexual harassment in the craft beer and brewing industry in the US). It began with Brienne Allan, a brewer from Massachusetts, who opened up her Instagram account to share stories of sexual harassment in the US beer industry (ratmagnet), leading to the launch of Brave Noise, a collaborative project working towards a safer and discrimination-free industry. To continue the #MeToo movement, Siobhan Buchanan (britishbeergirl), founder of Queer Beer Drinkers Edinburgh, opened up her Instagram DMs for people to share stories of sexual harassment in the UK. As Jules poignantly recognised, women take on a huge weight; not only are women taking on the brunt of violence and harassment from men, but they are also working to combat this. It is important to address such violence in the industry, whilst also spreading awareness of the positive stories arising from women in the industry – a powerful way to bring women to the forefront and celebrate their achievements.
Hop Hideout is part of the Know the Line campaign, which was launched by Safer Streets South Yorkshire in 2017 to address sexual harassment and violence in public spaces in Sheffield. The campaign has also received support from Sheffield City Council and local Labour MP, Paul Blomfield. Jules recognises the need for more training in the industry to make venues safer spaces. Currently, alerts about crime and unsafe spaces are spread by word-of-mouth in Sheffield bartending Facebook groups and through the Purple Flag initiative, but there is more to be done. Jules said that while there are positives arising out of beer, in its ability to spread happiness and joy, you must be aware as a licensed premise that people can be at risk, and that you have a responsibility of care for vulnerable people. Jules always ensures to challenge discriminatory behaviour, but as a woman this can be difficult.
Marketing in the beer industry is also male-centred. There is a lack of stories about women in day-to-day advertising, and as a result, male customers are more likely to go towards the male bartenders if they have a question about it. On the other side of the bar, Jules emphasised how women often feel uncomfortable in bars and pubs with the focus shifted towards male consumers; she recalled her experiences working in men-only spaces with the exclusion of women in bars, and despite the eradication of men-only bars in the UK, there is still a long way to go. Jules said it is not surprising that there are a low percentage of women in Europe that drink beer; Women On Tap Festival’s Nichola Bottomley (@Nichola_b1) created an online survey about sexual harassment in beer to better understand the statistics surrounding female violence. Some key findings, as reported in Beer Today, were:
“More than 80% of respondents said yes, they had witnessed sexual harassment while working in a pub or bar”
“More than 80% of women said yes, they had experienced sexual harassment while working a pub/bar (more than 30% of men said they had, too)”
“Only 30% of women said they felt comfortable going to a pub or bar by themselves (compared with almost 80% of men)”
While the findings may appear shocking, this only provides a glimpse of what women face on a daily basis, in all sectors and walks of life. When chatting to Jules we all recognised that women are aware of such violence and almost expect it. Data such as this are vital for documenting the problem; yet it is the small, independent businesses (often led by women) that are tackling the root, and not larger institutions or the Government.
On a positive note, some years ago, if you were to type in ‘women in beer’ into a Google search, there were likely to be many images of women in beer through the male gaze. In recent years, the work of Jaega Wise, Nicci Peet, and Lily Waite are attracting more attention and are being spotlighted, and bringing women and marginalised groups to the forefront of beer marketing. This type of positive work is an important method of counteracting violence against women in the industry.
Advice for Women
Jules is more than happy for people to contact her if they are looking to get into the beer industry. Here is some detailed advice she gave us for if you’d like to make a start searching for a career in beer:
Use Indeed.com to search for terms such as brewing, beer sales, beer marketing etc. – it’s generally a wide pool for jobs around the country. Follow your local brewery or fave venue on social media, visit them, talk to the staff, network, go on brewery tours if they’re available, do beer tastings if available; all of this will help you to be one of the first to hear if a job comes up and hopefully put you in good stead, as you have made the effort to make a connection already.
There’s also various groups on Facebook that post jobs such as UK Craft Beer & Beverages Jobs. Your local area may have a craft beer group to join which could be a good reference point, e.g. Drinking Craft Beer in Sheffield, Manchester Craft Beer Group, Crafty Beery Girls. Obviously ensure you have set up your security settings across all of your social media accounts and use two-factor authentication; Glitch runs great courses here.
Follow people on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) in the industry. Many great names have already been mentioned in the post but there is also: Maverine Cole, Melissa Cole, Rachel Auty, Annabel Smith, Jenn Merrick, Daisy Turnell, Jane Peyton, Emma Inch (British Guild of Beer Writers), Tasha Wolf, Natalya Watson, Ladies That Beer, Miranda Hudson (Duration Brewing). Daisy Turnell has created a list resource about women in all areas of the beer industry.
Check out if you have a local Beer Week and attend events, for example there’s events such as Sheffield Beer Week, Norwich City of Beer, Harrogate Beer Week, and more.
If you have the resources, pay for courses from places such as Cicerone, The Beer & Cider Academy, you may want to do some more research as some may offer appropriate discounts or grants. Teach yourself and read up on the beer industry; there’s free online learning from a wealth of blogs such as Boak & Bailey (which do a good round up of reading material) Adrian Tierney-Jones (maltworms.blogspot.com), Good Beer Hunting, Burum Collective, Pellicle, The Brewery History Society, or Brew Your Own, which all allow some free reading online. Loan books from your local library, and some authors to check are: Garrett Oliver, Melissa Cole, Natalya Watson, Pete Brown, Jane Peyton, Adrian Tierney-Jones, Mark Dredge, Marverine Cole (print media – BBC Good Food), CAMRA books, Brewers Association books. There’s also information on local Sheffield historic pubs here. And finally, listen to podcasts such as Beer with Nat, Good Beer Hunting, Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine, A Woman’s Brew, Ferment Radio, etc.
Start homebrewing! Join an International Women’s Collab Brew Day in March. This is generally open to everyone, and is not just a trade event (https://unitebrew.org/) You can also volunteer at a range of beer festivals which will allow you to network with others in the industry.
And finally, join in the conversation! Sheffield Beer Week (@sheffbeerweek) has been held annually on 2nd March since 2015, and Indie Beer Feast (@IndieBeerFeast) has now been rescheduled to 4-5th March 2022. Be sure to check out their socials for updates on the events – it is a great opportunity to get chatting to other women in beer, find out more about the industry, and to socialise over a nice cold beverage!