By Leana, Maryam and Rahimah (Mulberry School)
The first ‘Partnership of Equals’ conference, organised by the Mulberry Schools Trust, took place at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre on Friday 12th October 2018. Over 400 students from schools across London and around England came together to discuss topics which affect us. In particular, we discussed gender inequality, with the expressive arts as a key focus.
The day began with a discussion between Grayson Perry and Jude Kelly which opened up the conversation about gender equality and gender identity. As Grayson Perry identifies as a transvestite he was able to share his experience on how gender stereotypes affect his daily life and others like him. This inspired us to explore the challenges we face in relation to our gender identities and sexuality.
Following this we explored gender in dance, helped by a panel which included choreographer Matthew Bourne. The conversation got us thinking about gender inclusion and cultural diversity in the performing arts. The afternoon was dedicated to the exploration of gender in Shakespeare’s plays and we had the chance to watch an open rehearsal led by Director Carrie Cracknell as well as engage with a panel of actors and directors about gender in theatre. We learned acting should be based upon character interpretation and not stereotypes. One participant said ‘’I learnt how gender inequality affects the arts and how important it is to be aware of this’’. Edwina Dunn, Founder of the Female Lead, then explained her work as an advocate for female role models and shared the stories of many inspirational women. The final keynote speaker, Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, gave a meaningful speech to close the conference, which inspired us to take action for gender equality.
The conference included many opportunities for students to share their talents. These included a dance performance which challenged the roles of gender by the outstanding students from Mulberry School for Girls and Heston Community School, as well as a thoughtful Shakespeare performance by Mulberry Academy Shoreditch. Prior to the conference, we were given the opportunity to write poems and enter them into a competition which was judged by a specialist panel. All the poems were published in an anthology, ‘Letters to our Daughters’ and the winning students performed their poems at the conference (please see below for the winning poem).
Students said they learned that “solidarity is how we change the world” and that the conference inspired them to “break gender stereotypes”. The message of the conference is still being spread by our Year 10 Partnership of Equals leadership group who are launching campaigns to promote gender equality through assemblies, displays and surveys.
The day sparked conversation about gender equality between young people from across the country. It had a large impact on us and developed our understanding of these issues. We are very proud of our peers for their amazing contributions to the day. We would also like to thank the Mulberry teachers and staff for supporting us. We hope this conference will inspire a future in which we can enjoy a true ‘Partnership of Equals’ between all genders.