How ‘Older Women Rock!’ came about
My name is Leah Thorn and I am a spoken word poet in my late 60s. ‘Older Women Rock!’ is a project of poetry, retro clothes, performance and film and the idea for it grew out of my experience of ageing as a woman and from conversations with other women my age.
In 2015 I had a ten-month Leverhulme Trust artist residency in the Kent Academic Primary Care Unit at the University of Kent and in the England Centre for Practice Development at Canterbury Christ Church University. This enabled me to run poetry workshops and have conversations with a wide range of women in their late 50s and 60s, including artists; women in prison; women with physical or learning disabilities; women in a Zumba Gold class; women at a MIND Day Centre; lesbians in an Older LGBTQ project and daughters of Holocaust survivors.
We talked about being knowledgeable and resilient and inspiring. And we shared things that are hard about ageing as a woman, including –
- The lack of older women in the media and when we are present, we are a stereotype or a joke
- The beauty industry making a fortune out of older women’s insecurity
- Poverty – many women having small pensions because they had low-paid work and/or breaks in employment to raise children or to care for ageing parents
- The need to conceal, or be ‘discreet’ about physical changes like greying hair, facial hair or incontinence.
I also wrote poetry about the cross-over of age oppression and sexism. When the artist residency finished, I decided I wanted to ‘publish’ the poetry in an surprising, subversive and in-your-face way and had the idea to bring together my love of poetry as a tool for provocation and witness and my skill at finding retro clothes in charity shops.
I collaborated with some fantastic older women artists – sculptor Nicholette Goff, knitting artist Deborah Nash, fashion stylist and fashion lecturer Claire Angel, textile artist Trish Bishop and members of the brilliantly-named Profanity Embroidery Group – who embroidered, burned, printed, cut, beaded and stained my poetry and other women’s testimony onto retro clothes and accessories.
These clothes form the exhibits for the pop-up shops. There have been two so far – in Folkestone, Kent and Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. More are planned.
The Space Gallery, Folkestone
Empty shop in Newcastle-under-Lyme
For details of upcoming events contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org