Women’s Equality Party debut conference is huge success
The Women’s Equality Party says it wants to do politics differently. And at its first ever party conference the party showed that it meant it.
Between 25 and 27 November, some 1,500 women and men gathered together at the Victoria Warehouse in Manchester for three days of policy formation, comedy, art and music. There was lots of debate, much laughter and occasional tears. But most importantly of all, there was mutual support and encouragement.
This was a space where it was OK to disagree. Where people of opposing views calmly talked through their ideas and listened to each other with respect. Where delegates from all walks of life had the chance to get up on stage and air their views. It was all a far cry from the passive-aggressive, stuffy, corporate, party conferences of the Conservative and Labour parties, which are dominated by middle-aged, privately educated, white men in suits and where insult and personal conflict are all too common.
For most of the delegates, it was their first experience of a party conference. And it would not be an overstatement to say that for many it was a life-changing one. Women got the opportunity to speak on a public platform for the first time (often shaking with nerves as they got up on stage); policy ideas were debated and accepted that have the potential to transform the lives of 50 per cent of the population; and delegates were empowered and inspired to lead on the change they want to see.
“What an absolutely fantastic weekend. My first time at a political conference.
First time in a while I’ve felt optimistic about politics but I really
think this party will make some things change.”
Some of the highlights included:
* Sophie Walker’s passionate leader’s speech, which covered the economy, public services, violence against women and much more. There are too many key points to mention here so I would ask that you watch the full speech and make your own minds up.
* The debating of 26 individual motions and the adoption of brave policies including the decriminalisation of abortion, making misogyny a hate crime, and action to protect women’s pensions.
* A cross-party panel discussion featuring the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Greens. This is unheard of at party conferences where lines are drawn that no one dare cross. But for the Women’s Equality Party, gender equality is too big and important an issue to let politics get in the way. Disappointingly the Labour party didn’t accept it’s invitation to join the panel.
* Sinitta making a surprise appearance to share some of her experiences as a black woman in the pop industry during the 80s and to discuss being authentic – interviewed by yours truly (a career highlight for someone who as a young girl used to dance around her living room to So Macho!
* Some 1,500 women and men hearing from more than 70 speakers and performers, and attending more than 60 sessions packed with insight, shared experiences and training aimed at providing delegates with the tools and information they need to help the party achieve its goal of gender equality.
The team at Slack Communications is still attempting to come back down to earth after it all. We were hired by the Women’s Equality Party to help it put on the event, and have provided support in the form of fundraising, communications and logistics. We have brought corporate sponsors on board, sold tickets, liaised with suppliers, provided stage management, problem-solved, helped to co-ordinate more than 200 volunteers, provided communications and PR support, and worked very hard to ensure that everyone from the leader of the party through to the newest members were able to enjoy every single second of their conference experience.
We were therefore thrilled with the feedback from the co-founders of the party. Sandi Toksvig said the event had surpassed her expectations and Catherine Mayer said it was the best party conference she had ever been too. High praise indeed, and testament to the hard work and superb effort from our team.
It has been an honour and a privilege to work alongside the Women’s Equality Party, a group of dedicated, hugely knowledgeable and highly skilled women. We are proud to have contributed to the event, to have helped made history and to have challenged the status quo within politics. Momentum is building and we look forward to sharing in more of the journey with the party and its 65,000 members and supporters.
Photo credits – Alan Howard, Women’s Equality Party