In only its second year, the Audacious Women Festival will come to fruition next February with a culturally rich and unusual programme of events, which should appeal to most senses it would seem.

The Fountain interviewed one of its volunteers, Jess Orr, ahead of the festival to discuss its aims, programme and where it looks to venture in the future.

TF: What is the premise behind the Audacious Women Festival?

The tagline of the festival is ‘Do what you always wish you dared’, so the aim is not only to discuss what it means to be audacious and to hear from women who’ve done audacious things, but to give all women an opportunity to take part in workshops and try something new and daring for themselves. The festival also aims to foster an encouraging environment for women to come along and be inspired to step out of their comfort zones and achieve a personal goal – their very own audacious act.

TF: How has it developed since it first started in 2016, back at the beginning of the year?

The first festival in February this year was a huge success, so for 2017 we’re aiming for bigger and better. In many ways the first festival was embryonic; a way of testing out the concept, and figuring out what did and didn’t work, but the overwhelming positive feedback we received from audience members showed us that the idea had potential to grow. The festival is entirely volunteer run on very little funding, so the enthusiasm and willingness of partners to get involved and help to make things happen is key. We have been ambitious with the programming this year as we are determined to offer a wide range of events so there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

TF: With a committee that volunteer their time to organise, promote and ensure the smooth running on the day, it takes a fair commitment to be involved? What inspired you to get involved?

I have worked a lot with festivals in the past, especially book and literature events, but this festival really stood out for me as it offers such a wide range of events and engages with its audiences in a really meaningful and empowering way. The committee are great to work with – they put so much energy and passion into the festival – and they were particularly keen for someone to develop a more substantial book strand this year in partnership with The Edinburgh Bookshop in Bruntsfield. Taking on this aspect of the festival has given me a great chance to work with some brilliant authors and partners and dream up some really exciting events.

TF: Their also must be great partners involved in the festival if all voluntary run – do you want to mention some of those and how they feature in the festival?

The Scottish Storytelling Centre and City Art Centre were instrumental to the establishment and success of the first festival and they continue to be important venues for us this year, joined by Augustine United Church and a spattering of other locations across the city. As I mentioned The Edinburgh Bookshop have been involved in the book strand, but other programme partners for 2017 include Radical Voices, Kask Whisky, Iyengar Yoga, Glasgow Women’s Library, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Saltire Motorcycles, Edinburgh City Libraries, LGBT Health and Wellbeing, SCRAN, Women in Focus in Edinburgh and more. I sometimes lose track of all the different things that are going on and I have a feeling there are a few late additions to the programme still in the midst of creation as we speak!

graffitti11TF: And what are we likely to see on the agenda for 2017’s programme? And what specifically have you programmed and looking forward to?

My favourites for this year include a whisky tasting for women with experts from the industry, a roller derby exhibition, a beginner’s stone masonry workshop, a chance to meet some of Scotland’s Paralympian women, a motorcycle testing day and a special finale party with Scottish folk musician and singer Mairi Campbell on Saturday 25th February. In terms of authors, we’ve got children’s writer Lari Don talking about her dragon-slaying heroines, historical novelists Sara Sheridan and Catherine Hokin (Sara has been busy this year creating what’s been described as a feminist perfume, so I can’t wait to hear about that!), poet and campaigner to end gender-based violence Nadine Aisha, and a very special performance poetry workshop with Katie Ailes from the Loud Poets collective. I’ll also be running a shared reading session where we’ll enjoy stories and poems from some of Scotland’s most audacious women writers.

TF: And looking even further forward what is on the agenda for the Audacious Women Festival in the years to come? It would be great to see this unusual festival continue.

I am really excited for the festival in February and hopeful that it will continue to grow from strength to strength, with a network of partners developing across the city and maybe beyond. I think now as much as ever opportunities for women to come together and celebrate what it means to be audacious, at all stages of life and whatever that looks like for each individual – are hugely important. Social media can be a great place for women to connect and chat about these things, but the great thing about a festival like this is that it also provides a physical space to come together, learn something new and discuss the things that matter to us. And have lots of fun, obviously.

With such a diverse programme, it will be difficult to pick from these risky and attention-grabbing events, but to find out more about the festival which commences on 18th February 2017 click here