Adele Patrick, the Glasgow Women’s Library’s Lifelong Learning & Creative Development Manager, is Guest Selector at the 2018 Edinburgh International Book Festival and has thereby curated a series of panel discussions for the ‘Revolting Women’ programming strand, as well as a GWL Herland special, and the three day Take Over Tent for Revolting Women.
Adele spoke with The Fountain about what we can expect from her curation as well as offering her own personal preferences for what to see at the Book Festival.
TF: You are a guest selector at the Book Festival this year, what can we expect from your selection?
I wanted to take this golden opportunity to acknowledge the significance of the centenary of the Representation of the People’s Act. The idea that some women have only been enfranchised in the UK for four generations and with the challenges to the rights of women still a live issue for so many I felt compelled to make space for some lively discussions with authors that have audited the impact of a hundred years since the First Wave of Feminism (Helen Pankhurst) and have published some mythbusting work around suffragettes, sex and terrorism (Fern Riddell) I grew up with virtually nothing in libraries and bookstores about women let alone suffragettes to I am relishing some of the serious, landmark biographical writing on the movement by Jane Robinson and Diane Atkinson and for audiences at the Festival I’m really hoping to dispel the Mary Poppins with scones styling of suffragette activism.
I suppose those who know of me and my connection to Glasgow Women’s Library might have been expecting a more Scottish focussed menu of talent. This is certainly there in abundance in the Herland salon I have co-curated with the Library team but it felt impossible to equitably select scots women writers for the few panels I had to play with and to be honest this is something I am living, thinking and breathing 24/7 in my role at GWL. So, this was time to bring some voices into the mix and acknowledge the impact bringing international voices to Scotland can have. I have opted to spotlight some of the themes and topics that excite me. One, Detoxing Institutions or ‘Breaking Down Barriers’ as you will discover it in the programme brings some of the many brilliant Women of Colour who are, in a range of ways interrogating the structural, institutional and attitudinal ways that we find our arts and cultural institutions resisting change. This is so very topical as museums, galleries and yes, even literary festivals find themselves under increasing scrutiny to address the ways they are exercising the power to exclude. I feel lucky to have been able to ask the Festival to bring luminaries including Prof Heidi Safia Mirza and Museum Detox founder Sara Wajid together with brilliant Brazilian activist Djamila Ribeiro and chaired by Prof Akwugo Emejulu fresh from her triumphant Fugitive Feminism season at ICA together, all of them with revolutionary messages that have the power to inspire change. I am thrilled to have curated a strand that brings together fictional and non fictional accounts I have dubbed the Queering Nigeria. Hearing the voices conjured in the in the prose of Olumide Popoola and the stories captured by Chitra Nagaranjan have the power to evoke deepened understanding of complex difference, identities and of joy and I am hoping that audiences will be as moved and inspired as have been by discovering this new aspect of a country undergoing a blossoming of feminist, women’s and queer writing.
TF: This years theme Freedom sounds intriguing, what compelled you to curate the events you did?
I think the Festival is being bolder each year in championing risk taking, equalities focussed content and this theme Freedom chimes with my own values. I am especially keen to advocate for the freedom for everyone to have access to the lifechanging and life enhancing agency of culture and the arts. I am pleased that Herland is ‘pay what you can’ and that the Festival have supported my request to stage a free Feminist take Over Tent that will be buzzing with free events, workshops and activities on the 23rd, 24th and 25th August. Groups who would not normally visit the Festival will be making this their own and heading out to explore the main festival having been supported to visit through Scottish Government funding for Vote100 related programming.
One of the things that evokes the sense of Freedom for me beyond the remarkable literary roster on offer in 2018 is in the Spotify lists I have asked women writers to share. Over one hundred have responded with the songs, mainly by women that evoke revolutionary and inspiring thoughts for them. Some of them really typify that sense of personal, political and creative freedom we are trying to instil for people who visit GWL, what I have been trying to think about in my Revolting Women strand at the Festival. These will be unleashed at the Festival and via GWL and I hope will underscore the links between freedom expressed through the written word, in debate and discussion and through sound.
TF: You were recently in London for The Museum of the Year awards for the Glasgow Women’s Library also, what is it about the GWL that gets you nominated for this and sees you guest selecting got the EIBF?
I’d like to think this was as a result of the ground breaking work we are doing across the GWL team. My own, and GWL’s relationships with the Festival and with the Art Fund (who sponsor Museum of the Year) is one that we hope is a long term and meaningful one. It makes sense that our visibility should be heightened in such a significant year for women, not just due to Vote100 but as debates and campaigns concerning women and gender identity have become amongst the most vital globally that the sole resource of our kind in Scotland and one making an impact across the UK. It is a memorable year for GWL and gratifying that the organisation and myself as a cofounder are involved in such high profile events – why not!
TF: And congratulations once again, it’s been quite a year for you?
TF: And what are you personally excited about seeing at the Book Festival yourself this August, any personal tips?
Ok, having said I don’t want to favour any of the remarkable writers based in Scotland I have to confess I wouldn’t ever want to miss Ali Smith (I think we are witnessing a Woolf in our own lifetime…) and I don’t want to miss seeing Mara Menzies (in conversation with Maimouna Jallou). But what a choice of remarkable talent on offer from beyond Scotland. I admire Afua Hirsch hugely and the Festival have programmed a range of events where her sublime talents will not doubt be memorably deployed. And Maria Alyokhina – a genuine Pussy Rioter will be in the house! I have been tipped off myself about performer Donna Ogunnaike and I am also set to catch Joelle Taylor and Vanessa Kisuule. But really, what a vintage year…I am just thrilled to be a part of it.