From 2016-2019 Idle Women were granted the Arts Council Ambition for Excellence Award to create a major new partnership work in St Helens with Heart of Glass, ANU Productions and the women of St Helens.
Helen addresses a deep and radical need to dismantle in order to reveal, expose and rebuild. Developed in a town with a higher than national average of domestic abuse, Helen responds to an urgent need to address violence against women in all its forms; the systematic, the structural, the domestic and the social.
Women in the arts and on tools
Helen is concerned with the lack of progress for women across the board but for this project specifically in arts employment and trade; in the technical, design, photography and production roles and also the sizeable barriers women face in construction and trade industries. IDLE WOMEN formed a cross-sector collaboration with women in trade including electrical engineer Diane Mills and female plumbing franchise Stopcocks and worked with female film company Luca to ensure that only women were employed in every aspect of Helen. Helen embedded training opportunities including a film school and construction training and stopcocks launched their annual Women Installers Together conference now in it’s third year.
Idle Women work create partnerships with specialist support services for women. For Helen we partnered with the Helena Domestic Violence Refuge. Women and children learnt bricklaying together, through a process of watching you tube videos (inspiration for Power Tools) and working it out together we created brick planters in the communal garden space that were filled with edible plants and installed a fruit orchard on the grounds for everyone to enjoy.
De-construction and Re-construction
Idle Women invited women to join a programme of skills workshops at the Refuge and at the re-purposed IWI in the town centre. Developed with Diane Mills and Stopcocks these workshops included using power tools, principles of electrics, plumbing and other survival skills such as bolt cutting, lock picking, and disguise.
Through the process of these workshop we dismantled the interior of a street level building, removing walls and fittings then renovating the space to include heating, a kitchen and new wiring, resulting in a fit for purpose space made by and for women.
The Land Rover Project
The space to the rear of the IWI was transformed into a workshop for mechanics and welding, we drove a Land Rover defender into the space and artist Dina Rončević worked with groups and individuals to explore the basics of mechanics before completely dismantling the vehicle. The project culminated in a series of 1:1 MIG welding workshops.
Charmian Griffin worked within Helen to develop a digital strand, she lead the consolidation of three years of work with women to create Power Tools, a series of household DIY videos made by women, for women.
Power Tools presents fourteen fun, approachable and concise videos that give instructions on basic DIY tasks like changing a lightbulb, smashing a window, painting a wall and using a drill.
Distributed via You Tue and a major social media campaign they are for every woman.
The theme tune to Power Tools was created by WAST Choir through collaborative improvisation with Cis O’Boyle.
WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together) are women of all ages, nationalities, ethnicities, sexual orientation and disability. They speak many languages, practice many religions and accommodate for all.
The choir is formed of women who share experiences, empower and support one another whilst fighting for our rights and raising awareness about the issues that force women to seek international protection and the effects of the injustices experienced through the UK immigration system.
Make your own Power Tools video
Want to share your skills to encourage and empower women around the world?
Power Tools is an ongoing series of DIY videos made by and for women. The initial 14 Power Tools videos showcased on this website and on YouTube were made by a film crew consisting of professionals and enthusiastic amateurs. Equally, the presenters featured are a mixture of tradeswomen and those mucking in and having a go for the first time in their lives.
You don’t need to be an DIY expert nor a professional film-maker to join in. The Power Tools site shares some of the assets and advice you could use to make your own Power Tools DIY video and help other women to do a job that you have learned to do. Toolkit
Once you’ve made your video, publish it to your chosen online video platform and use the hashtags #PowerTools and #ForEveryWoman there and on social media to link up your contribution with others like it.
Helen developed with women local to St Helens, campaigners, activists as well as women in trade. Every woman who can be named is listed below, we also thank the women who can’t be named for safety .
Suzanne Dempsey-Sawin, Adelaide Bannerman, Alana Jelinek, Alberta Whittle, Anna Hart, Anna Smith, Arooje Butt, Bedford Fabrics staff, Candice Purwin, Charmian Griffin, Cheryl Anderson, Cis O’Boyle, Claire Walmsey Griffiths, Cllr Jeanie Bell, Collette Mara, Crin Claxton, Deni Francis, Diane Mills, Dina Rončević, Dr Maeve Malley, Ella Anderson, Emma Blackburn, Farzana Chand, Firoza Mohmed, Francesca Castellano, Geraldine Esdaille, Gina, Hattie Hasan, Janette Scott, Jean McEwan, Jesse Presley Jones, Jessie Leong, Jill Raymond, Julie Scahill, Kariima Ali, Laura Healey, Laurie Peake, Lindsey West, Liv Proctor, Liz Cross, Lynn Froggett, Lynn-marie Dennehy, Maria Carroll, Maryam Patel, Mica May, Misbha Khan, Mojisola Adebayo, Morayo Sodipo, Nao Nagai, Natasha Gordon, Nicole Flanagan, Parveen Butt, Posy Dixon, Rachel Anderson, Rachel Brewster-Wright, Raksha Patel, Refugee Women Connect (formerly MRNG), Rehmat Hasham, Salma Saleh, Sara Nesteruk, Selina Thompson, Shakeela Miah, Shamim Nawaz, Shazia Khan, Sheree Angela Matthews, Sheri Jones, Split Britches, St Helens Mind Women’s Group, St Helens Refuge staff, Sue @ FlexFitness, Sue Hopkinson, Uzma Kazi, Verity Wolstenholme, Victoria Tea rooms staff , WAST Choir Manchester, Women from The Landrover Group, Women from the Survival Skills workshop, Yasmin Namaji
All work commissioned by the Helen partnership formed of Heart of Glass, idle women and Anu Productions. Helen is made possible by Arts Council England’s Ambition for Excellence programme and supported by St Helens Council and John Moores Foundation, more information here.