Women Who Inspire 2014

Southwold ‘s First Women Who Inspire Supper was a great success and our local women’s refuge, will benefit from the proceeds. Prior to the event, Erin Pizzey, who started the first ever refuge  visited our refuge to meet staff and mothers, who were currently being supported


Dr Jayne Taylor PhD. MBA. attended the supper and this is her report of the event.

Over eighty people attended a fantastic women-only evening held to celebrate the vision of International Women’s Day, marking women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. The event was held in the stunning setting of The Boardwalk Restaurant on Southwold pier on Monday 7 April – the rain and sound of the waves crashing onto the beach added to the emotional energy that filled the room. The evening marked the launch of a new project – ‘Women who Inspire’ – organized by Cathy Ryan, Southwold’s Community Matron and member of the Southwold and District Rotary Club.

The event certainly lived up to expectations – we all left feeling humbled by the outstanding energy, passion and tenacity of the speakers who had achieved so much in very different spheres of life. The first speaker, Erin Pizzey, had been the driving force of the women’s refuge movement which began in Chiswick in 1971. Erin has written over twenty books and spoke with passion about how she was able to make a difference to the lives of women and children and overcome so many barriers put in her way.

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The second speaker Lady Jill Freud, who is a well known actress and producer, gave a superb account of how she had been involved in the theatre in Southwold whilst bringing up her children and being the wife of a busy MP. Although Jill and Erin work in very different professions, they share a common bond of never giving up! Jill spoke about how she had managed to furnish the theatre,  become compliant with health and safety rules and getting permission to put on a play that she had been told would be ‘impossible’. Jill had the audience enthralled by her passion and her wonderful sense of humour.

After a delicious supper two more local women took to the floor. First was Sharon O’Brien, politician, writer and one-time nun to name but a few of the many things Sharon has experienced shared her incredible life-journey. She has overcome adversity to achieve the extraordinary and there are eighty members of the audience who can’t wait for her to complete her next book – ‘Nuns with Guns’! Sharon was a difficult act to follow but the final speaker, Suku Bailey, had the audience spellbound. She spoke of her early life in Zimbabwe, of how she was exiled for being involved in the freedom struggle where she risked her life smuggling documents across the borders strapped to her abdomen as if she were pregnant, and of how she came to England where she works as a social worker. Suku knows that her life could have been very different if she had not been able to escape. She talked about how many young women in Zimbabwe are destined to a life of poverty and pain and that education is the key to helping children break this cycle of deprivation. She gave examples of young people who had been educated who are able to return to their villages as teachers, how a bicycle can change the lives of people and how important it is that we support these children and young people.

The evening was rounded off by local choir Music Vox – a women’s choir started by two young women experiencing post natal depression who found the camaraderie of singing in the choir immensely therapeutic.

Monday evening’s event in Southwold was truly inspirational. We heard about extraordinary lives, told by extraordinary women who never gave up their dreams and who have achieved outstanding things which have touched the lives of countless other people whether they be people in fear or living in poverty, or people who have had their lives enhanced through the theatre, arts, politics and literature. We heard four women speak and heard the excellent choir organized by a person described by Lady Freud as the most truly inspirational woman in the room – Cathy Ryan – who changes the lives of many, many people every day – on our  own doorsteps.

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