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Introducing Flis Tattersall, the creative behind women’s heritage project ‘SHOUTING softly Swindon’

Team Scary is a wide and welcoming web for women within the creative sector. We champion and support women, recognising that our stories get lost, our needs missed, and our contribution overlooked. We are always thrilled when we find other women doing the same thing.

Today, let us introduce you to independent creative practitioner Flis Tattersall. With fingers in many creative pies, Flis is an author, an illustrator, a multifaceted theatre practitioner and quite a lot more. Flis joined us at The Tower of London in 2023, as we rehearsed FIRE and captured the action with her pirouetting pencils. Her current project, Shouting Softly Swindon is finding and sharing women’s voices from Swindon’s past and present.

“My background is in museum work. I lived in Cornwall for 12 years, until the end of 2022. I’m not Cornish, but I worked in lots of museums down there, in cataloguing and curatorial work, and I did lots of community engagement projects. I then retrained as an illustrator, doing an MA, and went back and worked with communities and museums on interpreting historic collections and archive stories in creative ways, often drawing based. During the last 10 years, I got really interested in writing, and did The Writer’s Block’s playwriting course. I really loved it, and started writing plays. I’ve also written and illustrated a children’s book and I do freelance illustration as well, often for museums or cultural organisations. And right now, I’m working with Scary Little Girls Artistic Director Rebecca Mordan, who is mentoring me with my latest project, Shouting Softly Swindon.

Supported by the Arts Council, Shouting Softly Swindon is a community playwriting project, working with young women aged 14 to 25 in and around Swindon. We are exploring local women’s stories past and present. Working with Becca is great here, as she brings all her experience from the Greenham Women archive project I’ve done of smaller community engagement project before, and I’ve written plays, but with project managers and lead creative practitioners – here I’m doing all of it, learning absolutely every step of planning a theatre project, from safeguarding to health and safety, to planning performances, auditioning actors, all these things that I’ve never done before. Becca is supporting with all sorts of aspects – she’s been amazing, it’s a massive privilege to have someone like her involved and mentoring me.

We started researching in March 2024, and the research phase has been fascinating, it’s involved physically going into the archives. The curators and archivists have been amazing. They’ve been finding out stories, and we’ve now got a Swindonian women’s timeline of history, which is lovely – I want to share that during the play. One of the female stories that Swindon is already proud of is Edith New, one of the first suffragettes who used vandalism as a political tactic.. Within our project we want to celebrate her ‘herstory’ by enabling contemporary young women to be inspired by her story. More broadly, though, it’s really apparent that information about women’s stories just doesn’t get recorded or held.  It’s rarely collated, it’s often just memories – and they deserve to be captured, held, and shared. 

Next, we’re running creative workshops with young women (dates and info below). They’ll all be encouraging participants to respond to women’s stories from the archive – they will look at photographs, maybe listen to some audio, and then respond. There’ll be exercises that might be drawing based, creative writing based, maybe writing dialogue. But more importantly, I think, is that we’re creating this space for them to discuss and reflect. This project is offering a unique opportunity for young women specifically to reflect on and discuss the legacy of the silent labour that women contributed to the history of the Great Western Railway and the social evolution of Swindon in so many important ways. The Great Western Railway was an enormous part of Swindon’s history, and a question that underpinned this whole project was, ‘How does it feel as a young woman growing up in Swindon today, where you see Brunel and the names and statues of the managers from the GWR everywhere? Do today’s young women feel their career aspirations can be met here or nationally?’ I’m getting the sense that young women really want to be asked these kinds of questions, so that’s really exciting. There will also be a couple of public events in the summer, a drawing and story collection event, working up to the plays, which will be in February 2025.

The project will end with four 45 – 60 minute performances, in unusual venues – we’re looking at places that can take perhaps 40 people, and that might include the museum in Swindon, and the central library. We’re hoping to have one in a street location, and one in the civic offices. We really want to spread them around in these different spaces, and they’ll be completely free – we want them to be quite simple but really impactful in terms of capturing the discussions and dialogues that have been shared, really bringing those women’s voices into the public realm.

We’re working really closely with really great partners including STEAM the museum of the Great Western Railway in Swindon, and Create Studios, a fantastic digital media organisation, who are filming the performance and making a film about the project. Then there is the Local Studies department of the Library, helping us with access to the archive, and Swindon Central Library themselves who are hoping to host one of the performances, Hub Swindon are hosting a community drawing event where we will be offering a range of art materials, so people can draw Swindonian women past and present. We’re also working with the youth theatre, Prime Theatre and the Mechanics Institute, who are the Preservation Society. We’re further supported by the Wyvern Theater who are letting us use one of their spaces for a scratch night, and Swindon Borough Council are also supporting  lots of elements. It’s great to have everyone behind us.

Want to get involved? Booking is now open for Workshops 1-3 – all are free to attend, and refreshments will be provided. Booking for workshops 4-6 will open shortly.

Workshop 1: Framing and Story Seeking

Workshop 2: Drawing women into the picture

Workshop 3: Site specific response: Domestic stories of hearth and home

Keep up to date with the project on Instagram @shouting__softly.swindon and/or use the hashtag #ShoutingSoftlySwindon and follow Flis on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram 

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