Summer 2018 I was lucky to be involved with the Bristol Old Vic Young Company’s production of “Make More Noise”, this marking the centenary of some women being granted the vote in the UK. It explored what advances women have made and, in no uncertain terms, called out how much needs to be done to achieve true equality. Hence the title taken from one of Emmeline Pankhurst’s speeches. In fact making more noise is what many of us older men and women are doing on a range of issues.
That the “MeToo” Movement was well under way by then lent fuel to the energy and vision the Young Company girls brought to this piece, under the direction of the amazing Lisa Gregan, ably assisted by Maisie Newman. There were only four of us women involved of whom I was the oldest but we were readily absorbed into the collective endeavor. A great leaning experience for me.
A herniated disc cut short my involvement just before the show opened. Very depressing but timely in that scans revealed a lot of wear and tear problems with my spine.
During rehearsals we all wrote pieces that connected with women we admired, or were close to, known and unknown and from all corners of the world. Madonna was one such woman cited by the girls. Her strong speech on ageism chimed with my reflections at the time on later life. https://www.vogue.co.uk/article/madonna-on-ageing-and-motherhood
Here’s some of what I wrote:-
Age Part One
I am 66 years old.
I self-identify as a woman.
I am on my home from work and I’m feeling good.
And I think, I think I look good.
I’m wearing my vintage St. Laurent jacket and Russell and Bromley boots.
But I confess they’re second hand. I’m not that flush.
And I’ve just had my highlights done.
In my left hand I have a Diamond Card - but don’t be fooled.
It’s an Old Age Pensioners’ Bus Pass. I’ll demonstrate how it works.
Watch carefully the interaction between the card and the mottled, wrinkled right hand. One reinforces the other. If you’re not careful society can get you just where it suits.
A woman – my age? – gets up to offer me her seat.
We all age.
But to be “old” is to have your sense of self stripped away.
Your professional self.
I am 66
Deal with it.
Age Part Two
No “Me Too” for you!
Not so, my friend Marlene would say.
After being harassed on holiday in Tenerife by hungry, young men
who took her and her girlfriends for ageing sex tourists.
She’s her own woman, is Marlene.
Out there tonight as it goes.
Wearing her black corset underneath a man’s suit she had made
By a Soho tailor sometime in the 70’s.
She’s slicked back her hair,
and with a can of Stella in one hand and her phone in the other,
she’s all set for her granddaughter Katy’s Hen Night.
All the girls, all the women making more noise, having a blast,
For one night ruling the world even if its only Bristol Harbourside.
And in quiet moments,
in the Ladies,
they’ll tell how life once was, is and how it should be .
And nobody, but nobody, will tell Marlene how to age better than she’s doing already.
Finally, a big thanks to all of my peers who continue to take part in Extinction Rebellion protests. Particularly our old family friend Oliver, also in his 60’s, who stripped off in the Houses of Parliament a couple of months ago to make clear to our government how much they need to do to protect our planet.