The Women’s Group, based in Sheffield, is a space for both action and reflection open to any woman 18 and over. Starting the women’s group has been an aspiration of mine (Val Monti Holland) for some time and the research gave me a framework to design and deliver it. I chose the theme of ‘Daughters and Mothers’. This was an important theme for me as I have a teenage daughter and my mother died shortly after her birth. It clearly struck a chord with other women who chose to attend because of the topic …though they found other reasons to continue coming.
As women have multiple demands on their time and energy, I was keen not to create one more. Therefore, there is no commitment to the project other than the one each woman makes to herself. Many women specifically mention how luxurious it feels to have two hours to discuss these issues in a facilitated format. People who have participated have appreciated a sense of belonging and fellowship with other women, new perspectives from which to consider their relationships and, for some, moments of catharsis.
We use sociodrama and action methods, a dynamic and experiential way to deliver the workshop which enables each person to have a voice and contribute in a safe manner. Sociodrama does not involve traditional role play. Rather it looks at the systems in which we live, work and play, the impact of those systems on ourselves and the roles we choose – however reticently – to play in the relationships we form and maintain. Understanding that new roles may consciously be created can shift the stuckness we may be experiencing in our situations. We often encounter stuckness in society on a macro level and on a micro level in our own homes – as a group, we considered ways to develop new roles that might be more effective. Spontaneity and flexibility are tenets of sociodrama and provide vehicles for change and transformation and so we use a spontaneous method to encourage people to reflect and experiment with changes as they see fit.
The group met weekly with time off for holidays and a break in the summer. From April through October, we explored territory as diverse as menstruation to tidiness, what happens in the playground to what happens after a divorce, all in the context of daughters and mothers. Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, we never failed to laugh, sometimes uproariously and bawdily. ‘Irreverent’ is a word used more than once to describe the nature of the group; yet, respect has always been paramount and the group holds itself together by an agreement that includes stating the importance of respect at the outset. All this energy and the range of topics we covered then fed into the podcast we made together. We also recorded our thoughts and experiences each week on a very long roll of wallpaper. An experienced radio broadcaster worked with us to turn our ideas and the record of them into a piece for others to hear, that even includes a song which one of our members wrote.
Following the research, the group is continuing to meet on a monthly basis and a new theme has been chosen by the members – Men and Women.
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST
(The link will take you to another link which you will have to click as well in order to listen. And then be patient, as it takes a while to load…)