For more than 100 years the achievements of women have been celebrated on 8th March, International Women’s Day, as well as raising awareness of inequalities still facing women across the world today. This year’s theme is #BreaktheBias, something I’ve always placed at the heart of Window Wanderland and will continue to do as long as the festivals last.
As a woman who has faced many challenges myself, I understand the battle faced by those who find their voices stifled or position not as strong as they would like it to be through no fault of their own. Window Wanderland seeks to break down barriers and bring communities together, sharing experiences and celebrating our differences.
Before Window Wanderland I was a set designer within the male dominated media industry, but my world was turned upside down when a series of accidents left me in crippling pain, living with hidden disabilities, housebound and living in a new city. Embarrassed by my unsteady walk, finding it tough to adapt I retreated into a shell of social isolation. I wanted to connect with my community, but didn’t know how. As part of my recovery I would take short rehabilitation walks around my new neighbourhood, under the blanket of night as there were less people around. It was on those walks that the light from houses who had left their curtains opened drew me in and into the present moment. My pain and anxiety lessened, and at first I assumed I was just being nosy, but soon realised it was the warmth of the light and the sense of connection that was making me feel better.
It was out of this feeling that Window Wanderland was born in 2015, which has since seen over 300 community arts festivals taking place across 7 different countries with thousands of personal window displays. An achievement that I still can’t quite believe.
That feeling I experienced of being connected through light and beauty I see being passed on each year to those involved in the festivals. Each window is different, an individual expression from the owner within. From communities joining together for window making workshops, to those wandering around spotting beautiful, humorous, even political windows in their neighbourhood. This brings an overall reduction in loneliness, from those living in care homes to those simply feeling more alone through the pandemic. It is breaking barriers window by window, as it is genuinely accessible and inclusive.
How do Window Wanderland #BreaktheBias?
The feeling of creating space for all runs through the heart of the festival, including the make up of the team. Reflecting on what makes us different as an organisation this week, I found my goal is to allow people who work for us to breathe and work with self-kindness, and that’s how we want every element of what we do to operate. That’s how we’ve designed the resources for organisers too, to allow them to work at their own pace, utilise what is there and just enjoy it. We even ask organisers to agree to commit to self-compassion, as it’s all too easy to stress out about running projects like this, and that is the opposite of what we need in the world.
I’m proud that we have maintained a sense of equality and diversity on our board having an equal gender split and including 50% representation of those from a black and ethnic minority along with someone with a disability there front and centre, there aren’t many organisations, sadly, who can say the same. The team who keep the festival running are a diverse gender mix too and we are keen to ensure that whenever we recruit we let people know that we are open to applications from people from all walks of life. We want to be representative of the communities who come and join us in lighting up their neighbourhoods. The vast majority of our organisers are women, and we are delighted to see women leading these initiatives to bring warmth to their communities, though it’s great when we see men get involved too.
Myself and the Window Wanderland team are joining thousands around the world this year to #BreaktheBias and speak out for gender equality.
International Women’s Day Windows
Throughout the festivals some of the most notable women in history have been celebrated through window displays, from Frida Khalo to Marie Curie, The Suffragettes to the journey of everyday women.
The great thing about Window Wanderlands is they create space for people to develop their own magical displays that can be driven by passion or politics or anything that grabs them. It doesn’t matter how artistic (or not) people are, anyone can join in. We’ve seen many important causes represented in wanderland displays across the years, and it’s always that bit more moving when you see something that resonates. When we’ve been looking back at some of the stand out windows representing women and women’s rights in the lead up to International Women’s Day, I feel a sense of pride of what we can achieve as women, and driven to continue to push for equality.
Here are just some of the wonderful windows our makers have developed to celebrate women. We’d love to see your windows, so do tag us in on social media using #WindowWanderland when you put them up.
And if you feel inspired to have a go at organising a Window Wanderland in your area visit our ‘Organise’ section of our website to see how easy it is to get started.