THE STORY OF BRAVERY SCHOOL
Have you ever considered what tale you are telling about your life,
and why you tell it that way?
Perhaps there are moments when you fleetingly catch something out of the corner of your eye, which like the film Sliding Doors, suggests another life, an alternative path,
a different set of choices . . .
The birthing of Bravery School for me,
was one such moment.
Diving in to stories of sisterhood, unpacking our conditioning as women, delving in to where, why and how
we give away our power, and what happens when we do, these were all part of this first exploration
at the experimental Bravery School pilot based in Bristol, UK.
But I am getting ahead of myself . . .LETS START AT THE BEGINNING . . .
Finding myself, as the prevailing culture would describe, on the wrong side of 50, and after a year when certain sections of the UK and the USA seem to be intent on reliving the 1950's, if not the 18th century with regards to gender equality, I found myself muttering 'something has to be done' so many times, that eventually my reflection in the mirror surprised me by snapping back . . .
And as I began somewhat apologetically to explain in mumbled half sentences about time, energy, commitments, courage (or lack of), that woman in the mirror, all steely eyed and hands on hips, simply said,
If not now
Staring back I felt a myriad of feelings coalesce, fuse together, and in an instant, as if alchemically transformed,
Bravery School had arrived!
It wasn't an answer; but an inquiry . . .
2016, when Bravery School was conceived, it was deemed to be a challenging year for many, for example
with the Brexit vote result, and the election of Donald Trump in the United States to name just two major events;
stories of war, mass migration, emperors with new clothes spreading bile and division, despotic leaders from corporations we unwittingly support; all amassing obscene amounts of wealth whilst many continue to struggle
to put bread on the table, these are the tales that spill into our eyes and ears on an almost hourly basis.
How do we respond?
Looking from this particular end of the telescope, and yes, yes, I know . . . undoubtedly in some circles, I will be dismissed as just another mad, bad, angry old woman, it seemed to me in that moment of time, how would it be if more of us could shake off the shackles of these old stories, and for me, part of that story, is the challenge of a system we call patriarchy.
Now before some of you immediately click away from this page and possibly even this site at my audacity for having mentioned the P word, lets be clear about exactly what we are talking about, lest I am branded (heaven forbid) as just another man hating feminist!
I adore men! The very smell of fresh male sweat, the very sight of rugby playing thighs . . . the joy of being held in a strong embrace, (you get the gist), but seriously, men and all the wonderful things they have and continue to create,
is not in any doubt here, where would we be without them, well, we simply wouldn't we? But I digress . . .
What I am talking about is systems of power; cultural and institutional habits that affect us all. What I have observed is this, it seems to make little difference what scale or type of group you claim to be; from global multinationals to small independent charities, no matter how shiny, supposedly humanitarian or deep green, few organisations escape; scratch the surface, and the many tentacled creature of the patriarchy is often found lurking, very much alive and well, and often dressed up, as simply 'this is how it is and this is how it works' . . . which led me to ask?
How do we stand up, step forward and hand back the chains that bind us?
Patriarchy, (in case you needed a reminder) is defined as; ‘a system or society of government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it” (Oxford English Dictionary), " Patriarchy is the term used to describe the society in which we live today, characterised by current and historic unequal power relations between women and men whereby women are systematically disadvantaged and oppressed. This takes place across almost every sphere of life but is particularly noticeable in women’s under-representation in key state institutions, in decision-making positions and in employment and industry.” (London Feminist Network)
Why, when women make up more or less 50% of the planet, are we still living with patriarchy as the dominant model?
Are we not all thoroughly bored of this story?
So for me, this where Bravery School began, as a mixture of personal inquiry, aspirations, and wider curiosities about being brave, about the affects of the system of patriarchy on us as women and the often unspoken and hidden legacy it leaves us all with.
Spurred on by questions and frustrations around power, sisterhood, discrimination, I was filled with a desire to unpack some of these issues and examine their effects. I wanted to get a better understanding of how living within such system affects us as women using a more creative model. I wanted to examine what were the perceived barriers for me, for any of us, that seem to prevent us stepping in to greater bravery.
Another personal goal for me was a long held curiosity in the role of curator/director, and an interest in how I might begin to explore the intersections between the roles of facilitator, narrator, social artist, performer and socio-political commentator. My aim to experiment with a live laboratory style of working, to dive into our stories and unearth the common and divergent themes.
The concept of bravery was used, because my sense is, to challenge the existing paradigms, and make the changes we need to make individually and collectively if we are live and work more equitably, bravery is exactly what’s called for.
The idea of 'school', because I wanted to encourage others to join me on a journey of learning, drawing on the root of the word educate, which in short, means to draw out.
Whilst fully appreciating my starting place was a particular one, I wanted this experiment with Bravery School to explore questions around what we might need as women, individually and collectively to change the story, our own very personal story, and wider, our family or cultural story; whether that story relates to how we currently work in the world, raise our children, or relate to our friends and partners.
Are we simply programmed to live out our familial, cultural, ancestral
and environmental inheritance?
BRAVERY SCHOOL ~ A pilot process