Claim­ing safe space

First Women’s Wed­nes­day in North Sydney draws ca­pac­ity au­di­ence

The Victoria Standard - - Community - CAROLYN BAR­BER

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.

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