While International Women's Day (IWD) doesn't garner as much attention as it should in the USA, it is quite a phenomenon overseas; a quick perusal of the IWD website yields hundreds of events around the world - including in America - with the theme "be bold for change." I did just that and chose a few cities at random to see what they were up to on March 8.
For example, in Maun, Botswana the community could attend an event called "Bold Women, Inspiring Stories." The description reads thus:
I most definitely want to hear those stories! The Facebook page for the event reported that "The women were inspired and challenged to take bold action towards their goals and dreams. It was a night of laughter and inspiration!" The photos posted there show a room packed with energy as these women grew bolder together to face the challenges of their lives.
Most smaller cities like Maun (ca. 60,000 people) had only one or two events. London, UK, however had no fewer than 100 events, and those were only the ones advertised on the site. These events ranged from international involvement in hashtag campaigns (for example, the #Smashshame campaign) to teas, sports events, business development events, film screenings, and a march. And music!
OK, I admit, I didn't choose London at random. As most visitors to this website probably already know, I was part of London's IWD events with BBC Radio 3, and had a wonderful time visiting the city for a few days! The indefatigable great-great-great granddaughter of Fanny Hensel, née Mendelssohn, Sheila Hayman, helped to organize and splendidly pull off the UK premiere of Hensel's "Easter Sonata" in partnership with BBC Radio 3, the Royal College of Music, and me. (My role in finding the manuscript and making an edition can be read here.)
Hayman and I were interviewed together - live! - on BBC Radio 3's program "In Tune" on Tuesday, March 7. The interview had a bit of a comical start as the host, Sean Rafferty, accidentally identified Fanny as Robert Schumann's sister, instead of Felix Mendelssohn's sister! We put him immediately to right, though, and even though he apologized for the error later, it really served as quite a good ice breaker for the interview. I think the fault lay with the lead-in: the work that was playing as we took our seats in front of the microphones was by Robert Schumann. Oops! Otherwise, though, the interview went very well and I felt I was able to say what I wanted to say and help share the story of Fanny's perseverance with a worldwide audience of over 1.5 million listeners - that's more than she ever had the chance to do for herself!
The next day, on IWD proper (March 8), the Royal College of Music hosted a Women in Music concert, which was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3's Lunchtime Concert. The program included new works by two local women in music - one even inspired by the "Easter Sonata"! - and the UK premiere, and world broadcast premiere, of the "Easter Sonata" by pianist Sofya Gulyak. I have never before heard Hensel performed with such grit and intensity - almost even a "no nonsense" practicality. These are the same words we use to describe Hensel's personality, so I absolutely enjoyed Gulyak's interpretation. Hayman and I spent the rest of the day doing some filming about my rediscovery of the "Easter Sonata" and capped off the day with some delicious chicken tagine at a Lebanese restaurant in Kensington. The weather was unusually balmy, and sunny, for March in London and I enjoyed strolling through Hyde Park to admire the spring flowers and the Prince Albert memorial, as well as a couple of hours in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
It was a fitting tribute to Fanny Hensel's story. It was music written by women, performed by women (Gulyak was the first female top prize winner of the Leeds Competition in 2009), and organized (mostly) by women. A wonderful moment that occurred just as I arrived in London for the events put a smile on my face the whole week: as I was going through immigration, the immigration officer asked, as usual, what business I'd be conducting in London while I was there. When I told her I'd be on BBC Radio 3 and attending a concert of women in music, she asked if it were for IWD, and, when I confirmed it was, she said "Good on you!"
Good on everyone who participated in these richly varied IWD events around the world! And good on everyone who continues to #beboldforchange!