Claiming safe space
First Women’s Wednesday in North Sydney draws capacity audience
This year’s Women’s History Month theme is “Claim Your Place”. Thirty-six women of all ages did just that on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at the Higher Grounds Café and Bar in North Sydney.
The gathering marked the first Women’s Wednesday event organized by northside friends Gail Holdner and Shirley Dalton. The evening was filled with music, dance and storytelling in the chic, belowground space reminiscent of the early days of coffee houses.
“I was looking around when Lucy [Macneil] was playing. People were enthralled,” said Dalton, the evening’s emcee.
The evening began with contemporary dance performances by Olivia Wall and Madison Vokey of D & R Dance Ltd of Sydney/glace Bay.
Throughout the three and one-half hour event, the audience’s response to speakers and performers shifted from laughter, to captivated silence, to nods of empathy with speaker stories.
In between harp and fiddle tunes, Lucy Macneil of the Barra Macneils shared stories about life as a parent and travelling musician with the capacity-filled room.
“I’d like that to be my morning alarm ringtone,” exclaimed an audience member, following Macneil’s short and soothing harp tune “A happy song”.
Organizers Holdner and Dalton appear to have met their goal the first go around.
“We want to create that safe space. There’s a lot of single women who wouldn’t go to a bar by themselves, but they would come here. This is a space where women can take risks. It’s an opportunity for women to support one another,” said Holdner.
Each Women’s Wednesday will conclude with open mic. The audience was a little shy on Oct. 4, so Dalton brought the evening to a close with a song.
Holdner and Dalton are open to input about programming for the monthly gathering and welcome guest speakers who can share stories about how life has changed them.
Women’s Wednesday will occur on the second Wednesday of each month at Higher Ground Café located beneath Escape Outdoors clothing store at 299 Commercial Street in North Sydney. The next gathering is November 8th with featured musician Shelley Allan of Helle's Belles. Holdner urges people to follow “Women’s Wednesday” on Facebook for updates as the venue for future gatherings may change if interest in the event grows.
(Top Left): Audience members gather in the cafe area of Higher Grounds Café in North Sydney during a performance break. (Top Right): Northside friends Shirley Dalton and Gail Holdner organized the first Women Wednesday. (Bottom Left): Higher Grounds Café provided a perfect setting for the evening with its expansive undergound lounge (Bottom Right): Higher Grounds Café owner Sherry Finney takes a break from her hosting responsibilities to enjoy some of the the evening's entertainment. Photos by Carolyn Barber.