I am pleased to be involved with the ‘Women of Newport’ Project and Barnabas Arts House welcomes women of Newport (and men, of course) to its doors. Kamila is a powerhouse of talent, ideas, words and energy and wherever I meet up with her I want to sit her down and get her take a deep breath and give herself five minutes peace. In many ways her enthusiasm and ongoing creativity reminds me of myself 30 years ago. Where has that enthusiasm and creativity gone in me? Nowhere. It is all still railing around in my head at 65!
The older I get the more I realise that at the heart of life, of success in life, in relationships and friendships, business and families is COMMUNICATION.We need to be able to share, to exchange ideas, build new projects together and support one another in any way we can.
My working life is largely a complete pleasure. I have several roles – I own and run Barnabas Arts House, Gwent Picture Framing, Robbins Lane Studios and the new kid on the block The Phyllis Maud Performance Space. These three venues are used by people as creative space for solace, for friendship, for recreation, to learn and to run businesses from. If these environments were clinical, sterile spaces they wouldn’t be popular and would not work. My role in these venues is to lubricate them with communication and creativity. A warm welcome at BAH always awaits you, an oasis of calm, wonderful art, delicious food and drink and array of creative businesses are always on offer.
Apart from working in the Arts for 40 years I work as a Primary Health Care Counsellor for McMillan/NHS. A patient once told me of a mantra of her Dad’s. He said, “Remember you are as good as anybody else but at the same time no better than anybody else!” Food for thought, eh?
Back to Women in Newport. I am all for equality across the board – old/young, black/white, men/women.
Are men and women treated equally? Have they been treated equally up until now? Are they now? The answer is on a human level we are all equal, but society has been dominated by masculinity in creative areas, politics, medicine, commerce etc and yet it is women who are designed to look after another human being even without seeing it! To budget, to mend, to plan, to cook, to clean, to pacify.
Thankfully these roles are changing and shared responsibilities of children, housework and financial security are commonplace. Let’s drink to that.
In the 1870s when the Phyllis Maud Performance Space was built as a public toilet, it was for gentlemen only! At that time in history there were no public toilets for women and when the first women’s toilets were built it was a penny to use them, thus the expression to ‘spend a penny’, however back then a penny would buy a sack of grain! Discrimination or what? Gents toilets were free to use.
Back to 2020 with its weird challenges and ever changing illogical rules, we have to remember we have come a long way. We have great potential, fantastic minds, incredible will and abundant energy. We are creative beings. We as the women of Newport need to use this creativity in our day to day lives now more than ever.
Thirty seven years ago I rented my first workshop from Newport and Gwent Enterprise Agency in Bolt Street, Newport. The idea of small rentable units built on railway sidings was a new one. I had a child of 5 years and a baby of 6 months. I was interviewed for tenant suitability and during the interview my 6 month old daughter was sitting on my lap. Where I went she went. I was told the policy of the site read ‘no dogs or children’. I suggested that the archaic rules were changed pronto!
They were and my baby daughter came to work with me every day – I built a small nursery within my workshop. At the time I was seen as a strange, mad woman (nothing changes) I think. I gained a lot of publicity on radio and in the press by essentially doing a man’s job, making picture frames and yet I was caring for a baby at the same time. I was the site novelty and I used the site interest to the advantage of my business. My baby daughter learned to walk on the carpeted floor of my studio and the constant scrutiny by visitors to my unit caused her to be the confident, gregarious woman that she is today. I would pick up my older daughter from school each day and she would come back to the workshop and often take telephone calls for me from the age of 5!
I have never been or tried to be anything other than authentic. I believe that in life we have to be real, be ourselves, no pretence.
All those years ago I remember sometimes going to ‘Business Women’s Network’ meetings. In the 80s women would wear shoulder pads and carry fancy briefcases to emulate successful businessmen. Many of these women were not working for themselves anyway, they were fulfilling the dreams of men. It wasn’t for me, I’m afraid.
So here we are today Women of Newport – real, hardworking, innovative, talented, compassionate human beings who happen to be XX in the chromosome department. So I will leave you with our trademark… XX.
Janet Martin – September 2020