Three years ago, this woman dared to speak up about the appalling gender inequality in Irish theatre. What began as a simple Facebook post decrying the lack of women writers represented in the Abbey Theatre’s 2016 Theatre programme, snowballed into a movement called Waking the Feminists and what had been quietly tolerated for years was called out as utterly unacceptable.
The dirty little secret of sexual harassment and institutional misogyny was a secret no longer as hundreds of women told their stories and artists from all around the world lent their support.
Lian Bell, along with many others, stood up and spoke out at the now famous event at the Abbey Theatre in November 2015 and it’s probably not disingenuous to say that the surge of determination and desire for change had a lot to do with some of the most remarkable changes in Irish society in recent decades. Since the WTF tsunami, there have been referenda on Marriage Equality and Abortion Rights which resulted in changes to the constitution ensuring that women’s voices are heard and that their personal lives are not dictated to by a patriarchal system that for many has been unfit for purpose for a very long time.
On a personal level, had it not been for Waking the Feminists and subsequently Mothers Artists Makers, there wouldn’t have been the benefit performance of The Vagina Monologues earlier this year in Belfast, the proceeds of which went towards creating Northern Ireland’s first rape crisis helpline.
I recorded a conversation with Lian in 2016 for the podcast and I hope you’ll listen in and continue to be inspired to stand up and speak out.