Southampton’s Largest International Women’s Day Celebration in Decades

I have lived in Southampton for nearly six years and feel like I’ve only just uncovered the tip of the iceberg on what this city has to offer (no Titanic pun intended). There is a definite underground scene here and once you delve into its waters, you’ll find a hive of bustling businesses, independent music venues and a truly thriving community.

This community, which I have only truly felt a part of very recently, is one of a kind. With its arms wide open, it welcomed me from the day I moved here: I just didn’t realise it. It has taken me quite a while but I finally left the comfort of a silent observer role and became an active member of the community. I finally broke out of the well-known university bubble and embraced Southampton as my home.

This huge change all came about because of International Women’s Day (IWD). Last Summer, rumour had it that a city wide IWD celebration was being planned, on a scale like no other event before it, staying true to this years IWD theme of “Be Bold For Change”. This was my chance to get involved and help run sotonIWD.

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Headed by Hampshire Constabulary’s Ishret Damani, on the 11th March West Quay played host to the largest event in its history. With 500 to 600 people gathered around at any one time, crowding around balconies on all floors, filling up all available space, the event was a resounding success.

A mixture of stalls, live music and performances filled West Quay with an atmosphere of excitement and joy. Communities, charities, the police, the NHS, local musicians, performers and both universities came together in a true collaboration to give the people of Southampton a real celebration of women and their achievements.

The general public were able to play with robots, get their hands on science experiments, have bone health screenings and blood pressure checks, talk with numerous women’s, refugee and human trafficking charities, don police helmets and jackets, and celebrate women from all walks of life. And the best thing was this was all for free!

The stage captured the eyes and ears of passersby with live performances from local famous artists such as The Lounge Kittens and Lucy Kitchen, intermixed with children street dancing, traditional Indian dancing, fashion shows, spoken word poetry and much, much more.

The Art House, my favorite place in the whole of Southampton, in conjunction to the West Quay event, hosted a whole day and evening of talks and music. Organised by Devin Valentine, it was a huge hit with guest speakers including Dr Rhiney discussing domestic abuse intervention, a panel from the University of Southampton debating what it means to be a woman in science and live music performed by Southampton Solent University students.

There was a true buzz around the city that day and all thanks to a group of truely inspirational people. It is these people that strive to make Southampton a friendly and safe space to live and work, creating this gem of a community.

Special thanks must go to Ishret Damani, Lynda Walton, Devin Valentine, Mike Toy, Margaret Ross and Sam Henderson. Without these people this event would not have been possible.

Photos displayed on this page were taken by students from Southampton Solent University.

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