In 2016 I attended my first-ever party political conference. The WEP’s first-ever conference. This was not a co-incidence.
Party Conferences have always intrigued and repulsed me, and I had never really felt invited or included. WEP’s first-ever conference held shortly after the Brockley by-election, in which I stood as the first-ever WEP local council candidate – and in the same as year as I’d been elected to be on the Greater London Assembly WEP candidate list – changed all of that.
It was another example of how WEP does politics differently. It was a thrilling learning experience (with a lot of laughter, dancing and yes the late nights, speeches, ovations and voting).
Over 2 days a mix of events from 1-2-1s, open space, panel discussion, podium speeches and exploratory workshops, we covered the whole world of women’s experience. My own track through took me from co-presenting with an academic leader in climate change as a gendered issue, facilitating and writing a discussion on women in the criminal justice system in open space with the inimitable Stella Duffy, encouraging other members to find their own way into standing as a candidate. I watched Sophie Walker’s tour de force leadership speech, laughed my socks off at the an all-female line up of comics, met women from all over the country who opened up vistas of what we need to fix and how it’s already being tackled. I watched friends take the podium, overcoming their nerves to address hundreds of people they did not know (not strangers but a force of feminists willing them on, even if they didn’t always agree with what they wanted to propose).
My highlight was not seeing our Big Canvas photo included in the WEP highlights video – as unexpected and delightful as that was –
The highlight was the solemn moment of voting for our 7th objective an equal health and medical research policy, proposed by Catherine Mayer in dedication to her sister.
The exhilaration of realising that there were so many people from across the UK and beyond representing all our intersections with energy, curiosity and growing determination to change the world, changed me.
For the better.
I came away with:
- A bunch of new friends and allies, people I can ask for knowledge or advice when I’m not sure (and often do).
- A reading and films list (ever-growing obvs).
- A much more focused idea of what I can do in this Party and how together we make the change happen. Sounds trite – happens to be true.
In 2017, I campaigned in General, local and Metro Mayor elections for Sophie Walker, Nimco Ali, Harini Iyengar, Celine Thomas, Tabitha Morton, took WEP to Latitude with Deborah Mason, made my first steps into working on policy, and spoke about the inequalities in access to IVF in the UK at the House of Commons.
WEP is mounting its second conference this year – themed Managing the Change. Of course I’ve already booked!
Come and experience that shift in yourself. Come with your curiosity, your anxiety, your sense of humour, your challenges and your questions. Come with your kids (bursaries and child care available) your partners, or leave them at home. For 2018, I’ve got stuck in further : I’ve proposed a motion about amending our Equal Education policy (It’s called from STEM to STEAM) – In 2017/18 I’ve been part of the working group creating our Equal Health and Medical Research Policy and I’ll be co-facilitating a session about being a candidate. Earlier this year I stood again for WEP in the local elections gaining 26% of the vote in my ward. And I will be stepping up again at conference too, I’ll be putting myself forward to stand for the Policy Committee to be a spokesperson.
I hope you’ll be there to experience this wonderful event for yourself and support me and the other candidates. There will be a lot of people who were like me in 2016, finding their way through one beat at a time. If you’re not sure whether you should come, you should probably come, just to see….