This piece was written by Jane who has made the amazing contribution to the Sistershow Revisited project by transcribing all the interviews collected so far, as well as some of the oral histories conducted in 2000/2001 by the Feminist Archive South.
Here Jane reflects on the geography of Bristol feminism and how hearing the women’s voices made their histories come alive in intimate and resonant ways. Thankyou Jane for all your hard work and for sharing these thoughts!
When I first heard about this project, I didn’t know anything about ‘Sistershow’, but the brief information I heard about this troupe of theatrical feminist activists in our city in the 1970s fired my imagination. So it was really exciting to transcribe the taped interviews.
What repeatedly came out was the passion, determination and sassiness these women shared. But what I found most fascinating was the varying ways the same events were remembered by different people… reflecting personal differences or power struggles, and sometimes the emotional hurt of almost 40 years ago, which was still clear to hear and at times quite moving. But there were many things that made me laugh out loud, too.
Listening to the voices of these powerful women, I was eavesdropping on conversations about a formative part of our feminist past, and learned all sorts of little details that have helped to make my contemporary feminist experience of Bristol more poignant. For instance, now, when I pass the ice rink sign on Park Row, I think of the fervent 1970s feminists defying the police to hand out family planning leaflets one Saturday. When I cross the underpass at St James Barton Roundabout by Broadmead, I recall Ellen talking about the protest for women to be paid the family allowance held there. And when I pass the Quaker’s Meeting House on Gloucester Road, I smile at the thought of all those exciting feminist meetings that were held inside.
So many people did so many wonderful things to help the women and men of Bristol get to where we are today. Transcribing these interviews has helped me mentally map their memories onto the physical streets of Bristol, and in whatever small way it has helped make sure these actions – however small they may seem – are not forgotten.