Writing groups: Who, what, where, and when?

Last week, a small group of NU Women members met to discuss writing groups, to share experience, best practice, and thoughts on continuing to develop NU Women’s writing groups and others across the institution. The discussion space was used for collaborative sharing around writing groups and was facilitated by Dr Stacy Gillis.

Who are writing groups for? Who participates?

Based on the diversity of experiences from those participating in the session, it could be said writing groups, in some form or another, are for everyone! Particularly, they benefit people who want to develop their writing techniques or practices, and for those who are feeling overwhelmed and need a space to catch up on research work without working during the weekends/holidays. This is particularly helpful to people with parenting and/or caring responsibilities, to whom other approaches such as writing retreats are inaccessible.

Writing groups represent an opportunity to learn from and with our peers, and functions best when participants hold each other accountable, and each take phatic responsibility for the success of the group. With this in mind, some people mentioned that they found interdisciplinary writing groups to be particularly helpful for fostering these attitudes, as interdisciplinary groups relieved feelings of pressure and competition.

In more practical terms, it was suggested that between five and eight participants seems to be the preferred size of a group. The benefits of women-only spaces were also discussed, as these can be a safer space for participants, particularly as the organisational and emotional labour of running writing groups often falls to women.

“What can I give to a group? What can I take?”

What are writing groups for? What needs to they address? What work is needed to create them?

Broadly, there are three types of writing groups: long-term and open-ended ones; they can be short-term and organised around meeting a specific deadline or delivering a certain output; or they can be project-based and orientated towards collaboratively achieving a certain goal. Each of these has their own kinetic energy and are preferable to different people depending on working styles and current career goals. They can also be particularly helpful for skill sharing and acquisition among colleagues when organised around things like proposal writing.

Writing groups also present an opportunity to check-in with each other, celebrate each other, and be honest with each other about the research process and struggle. Their value also carries beyond providing a space for writing, into being a space for solidarity, making friends, and networking (particularly in interdisciplinary groups). In this sense, writing groups also function as an act of feminist solidarity – guided by principles of mutual support, transparency, and flexibility. They are a protected space of care within the neoliberal institution.

In terms of organising work, there is some logistical planning needed to set up and run writing groups. This is variable depending on the levels of commitment from participants, whether they happen online or face-to-face, and whether there’s suggested reading or other tasks for participants to complete before each session. What is appropriate for your writing group depends on the needs and preferences of your group and the amount of time you can commit to organising.

Where do/should writing groups happen? Where are they needed?

Within the meeting there was broad agreement that the ‘where’ of writing groups should be flexible, not only to the circumstances of the pandemic but to other factors such as childcare commitments and workflow. Much of the discussion however was focused on the relative pros and cons to organising online versus offline writing group meetings. It was noted that, while both have their own distractions a significant benefit of online meetings is that they alleviate some of the organising pressures of room booking. However, online meetings do carry the problem of Zoom burnout and low engagement.

It was also identified that, because writing groups can be useful to staff and students across the institution, there is a need to share best practices. However, there is some resistance to the institutionalisation of writing groups to preserve their feminist, counter-neoliberal strengths.

When do/should writing groups happen? How do we identify when writing groups are needed?

In practical terms, writing groups tend to work best when their meetings are around two or three hours long, and when they’re not just drop-in sessions but require regular commitment from their members (while avoiding being to rigid to the detriment of mutual care within the group).

At times, writing groups arise organically out of other meetings or networks, or out of reading groups. Similarly, we can ask when the right time is for writing groups to happen. Should they always be ongoing, or should they happen around crunch seasons? As was found throughout the session, the answers to these questions are dependent on individual’s needs and outside commitments.

Blended working: a resource sharing discussion

Last week, NU Women and NU Parents co-hosted a discussion space to allow colleagues to share their experiences of the transition to blended working in their corners of the University institution over the last few months. Hosted as a two-hour drop-in session over lunchtime hours, the attendees raised a wide variety of talking points, airing issues, and sharing coping strategies. There was a lot shared among the attendees, and the below is an abridged summary of the many points raised. If you’re interested in hearing more about this transitional period, please get in touch with NU Women to receive the full session notes.

1. Main concerns and suggestions:

  • Overall, the attendees viewed blended working as a net positive to their experience of employment at the University. Everyone emphasised that they were committed to keeping blended working open as an option.
  • All attendees noted that a lot of their anxiety during this transition period stems from a lack of certainty around longer term plans from the University regarding the longevity of blended working.
  • The University should establish a set of guiding principles around blended working. This would prevent feelings that blended working arrangements are implemented at the whims of management and would help staff feel more secure in their own arrangements and empower them to advocate for themselves.
  • The University should invest in blended working. Many noted a clear difficulty in communicating across OC and WFH colleagues, particularly in meetings that take place simultaneously online and in-person. To make blended working more sustainable, the attendees suggested investing in coaching or training on different listening and communicative styles, and in technologies to bridge this gap.
  • Part of protecting staff members’ ability to flexibly WFH is recognising the benefits of blended working beyond the COVID pandemic. Every attendee noted ways that being able to WFH, even occasionally, has benefitted their personal and family lives.

2. Workplace culture

Attendees communicated a general sentiment that the University leadership’s framing and implementation of blended working has thus far been unjustified and uneven. Primarily, many people spoke on a feeling that they weren’t being trusted by their leadership to work from home effectively and that this was particularly disappointing given their efforts to keep the University running over the many months of mandated WFH time.

Ultimately, it felt to many attendees that their experience of blended working was very much dependent on the preferences and good will of their line managers. Some cited frustration at a lack of justification for individual managers’ emphasis on presenteeism, while others praised managers for taking extra steps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their staff as they returned to the office. One attendee shared that she was grateful that her manager had taken the care to ensure that staff working on campus will be working with a wide variety of colleagues to combat the feelings of isolation among the team.

However, some were concerned with their managers’ emphasis on productivity over wellbeing, stating that they felt discouraged at the current blended working set up prioritising hours spent at work (in the office or at home) over the quality or quantity of their work itself. It was the experience among the group that this resulted in a poorer relationship with their work and often put undue stressors on their wellbeing in already challenging circumstances. Many were also struggling to keep their productivity high alongside the distractions of returning to busy office environments and they wanted to feel more supported in making this transition, particularly in recognition of the social benefits of returning to campus.

Attendees also commented on their very different experiences of blended working depending on their role at the University. While not all this difference was problematic (i.e. the expectation that estates and student-facing staff will be expected to be on campus more than ‘behind the scenes’ colleagues), others noted that their experience was very dependent on the locations they worked at and who they worked with. One attendee on a satellite campus greatly appreciated the relative quiet at her workplace and wasn’t sure if she would feel as safe on central campus. Other attendees commented on feelings of unease around colleagues and students refusing to follow mask-wearing and distancing guidelines.

3. Disabled staff and staff with parenting and/or caring responsibilities

Even before the current pandemic, blended working arrangements would have been helpful for disabled staff and staff with parenting and/or caring responsibilities. During the session, it was noted that, due to being able to work from home many had been able to take on more work hours and thus bridge some of the pay gaps experienced by these groups. Presenteeism is physically demanding and puts strains on care arrangements, and blended working arrangements have enabled staff to take better care of these areas of their personal lives while maintaining their workloads.

Further, the normalisation of this style of working was experienced as contributing to a more accessible workplace, particularly when also taking care of their own and their dependents’ wellbeing. However, this was coupled with concern that these arrangements would only be available during the pandemic, while abled and non-parenting/caring staff are in need of them, and attendees wanted to ensure that blended working would remain an option into the future.

Dr Barbara Read: Casualised Academic Staff and the threat of ‘failure’: power, legitimacy and (im)permanence

To tie into other events on neoliberal research cultures this year, last week Dr Barbara Read delivered a lecture on feelings of illegitimacy and fear of failure among casualised academic staff.

Where traditionally, lecturers have held high authority and status over their students, as well as a great degree of legitimacy in delivering education, the rise of neoliberalism in University institutions has changed how educators and students are constructed as well as how they relate to each other.

As students are re-constructed into ‘consumers’ and lecturers as ‘service deliverers’ these new embodiments come into conflict with existent ideas of idealised, legitimate lecturers resulting in a great deal of shame for casualised staff, particularly as they seek to validify their self-presentation as academics.

“I sometimes wonder how the students see me – do they think they’ve drawn the short straw by being given a teacher who does not have an office, isn’t around so much, is less confident and experienced and clearly isn’t part of the main faculty?”

Olivia, part-time teaching fellow, aged 41-50, white British middle-class.

Based on email interviews with twenty academic staff members, all on temporary, part-time, and hourly contracts, Dr Read’s research investigates how these staff members navigate their students’ perceptions of them. Of the academics interviewed, most were white and middle class – seventeen were women and all but two were under 40 years old.

Her findings show that many respondents were concerned with how their impermanent status would affect their students’ perceptions of their authority and legitimacy as educators.

Arriving in academe, I felt ‘displaced’, like an imposter, where everyone appears informed and confident and this feeling has not changed since graduation [with a doctorate]. I feel that my ‘race’, gender, age and accent do not fit with the assumed image of an academic…Some students refuse to accept my feedback comments and/or me as their supervisor.”

Yvonne, part-time hourly paid lecturer, 61+, Black African Caribbean working-class.

Further, their contracts had direct impacts on the quality of their teaching. Several staff members reported feeling unable to deliver or unmotivated to design quality course materials in the knowledge that they might not be present to teach these courses again.

There was also a notable lack of personal and professional development in these roles, as the institution is less willing to invest in training casual academic staff.

Disclosing their casualised status to students felt ‘risky’ to many, although some were more open about it. Particularly, last years’ strike action was cited as an incident that helped some staff members be more open and candid with their students about the precarity of their work. Ultimately, many felt it was a refusal of a culture of shame.


To keep up to date with Dr Read’s research, access her work via https://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/education/staff/barbararead/ or follow @barbararead35 on Twitter.

A full recording of the event is available below:

The Girls Network

Thank you to Stacey Wagstaff, the Girls Network North East Manager, for joining us last week to start off our summer events.

The Girls Network is a national charity, operating in eight regions across the country with a mission to “inspire and empower” girls aged 14-19 by connecting them with hand-picked mentors in a variety of career paths.

The mentoring programme is designed to respond to the systemic social and educational failings for teenaged girls, particularly those coming from poorer homes.

To illustrate the difficulties faced by teenaged girls today, Stacey shared with us a video of girls sharing their concerns.

As shown in the video, the pressures from social media, bullying, body image, pornography, and exams are immense. This is compounded by educational difficulties and worries about the future: at sixteen 50% of girls from the poorest houses get no GCSE passes; less than 6% make it into higher education; and only 2% reach the most selective universities.

As Stacey explained, many of these girls had high aspirations, but didn’t believe they could actually achieve them.

You can’t be what you can’t see.

Here is where the mentorship programme is designed to intervene.

The programme connects women from a variety of professional and life-experience backgrounds with girls for a series of one-to-one mentoring sessions delivered over the course of a year.

The aim is to be an ally for teenage girls, offering them experience, confidence building, support networks, and a space to think about their future.

Beyond this, the Girls Network offers workshops and work experience placements, and the girls who participate have lifelong access to their Ambassador programme, providing them with long-term support.

The programme clearly has a big impact on mentees. Of the over one thousand girls mentored each year 96% reported improvements in their confidence, and 98% said they felt more positive about their future.


If you’re interested in becoming a mentor for the Girls Network, please apply at https://www.thegirlsnetwork.org.uk/become-a-mentor

There’s online training sessions coming up over the summer months, with mentor-mentee matchmaking events in the next school year. Participating in the programme requires a commitment of 2-3 hours a month.

If you want to get involved by fundraising, offering work experience placements, or delivering workshops – get in touch by emailing stacey@thegirlsnetwork.org.uk

Professor Muzlifah Haniffa: The celebration: diversity, unconscious bias and research culture

Just a week before International Women’s Day, Professor Muzlifa Haniffa kickstarted NU Women’s March event season with her talk titled The celebration: diversity, unconscious bias and research culture.

Nicola Curtin, who chaired the event, listed Professor Haniffa’s many accolades as a clinician scientist; Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, The Foulkes Academy of Medical Sciences medal winner, ACTERIA prize in immunology and allergology from the European Federation of Immunological Societies. At Newcastle University, she is a Welcome Trust Senior Research Fellow and Lister Institute Research Fellow as well as a consultant and clinician Dermatologist.

Alongside mapping her journey towards success in medical research, Professor Haniffa’s talk detailed raising awareness about diversity in such cultures, explaining her own experiences and how this may apply to a wider context. Professor Haniffa aimed to dismantle the ways diversity is often talked about, namely in the context of equality.

Defining diversity as an equal representation and opportunity for all groups, Professor Haniffa believed we shouldn’t stop here because there is more to the conceptual framework. Stopping here raises the question: Does diversity compromise quality if you don’t select the best?

Professor Haniffa explained that it was in her writing an article for Nature Medicine that she highlighted how that people who have been taught in the same way will always approach things in a singular fashion. Unfortunately, this is an inevitable consequence of specialisation and she personally felt that if you really want innovation in research, you need collaboration, equality and diversity. Pausing here, Professor Haniffa stated:

“I am not an anomaly, I was unpromising ten years ago and there are many more people like me”

To illustrate why diversity is positive and not just about making everyone equal, Professor Haniffa introduced an analogy in The Loudest Duck (2009) by Lauren Liswood:

“The loudest duck in China gets shot but the noisiest weasel in the U.S gets the grub”

In other words: you need to know the context and culture around you in order to gain a full perspective. Coupling Liswood’s ideas with Matthew Syed’s Rebel Ideas (2019), Professor Haniffa encouraged us to imagine a triangle as a research problem or idea space. What you want are individuals who occupy different areas of that triangle so you have a diverse group of people with a necessary skill set, creating an intelligent team to take things forward and innovate.

Conversely, if you have narrow selection process, hiring intelligent individuals but of the same backgrounds you get a team of clones occupying a small space. It is through this homogeneous way of thinking and narrow scope of operations that a team may not perceive threats, provide alternate solutions, and miss important information within the idea space.

Diversity is not just about skill set but respective of gender, age, culture and a different set of perspectives and experiences. With this understanding, diversity matters and it enhances quality. In her career, Professor Haniffa believed it was important for her to have mentors who were successful women, had a different mentor style, different leadership style, and were from all walks of life.

However, she explained that there are many barriers that can influence diverse representations, such as the lack of role models and stubborn structures or dialogues that exist within marginalised or under-represented groups. In addition, research selection criteria can be too narrow and a lack of opportunity is often mistaken for lack of ability.

Referencing her own experience, Professor Haniffa explained issues surrounding sponsorship, conflict of interests and evidencing sponsorship or mentorship throughout her career. One may ask why Professor Haniffa did not raise issues of diversity and unconscious bias sooner, but she explained that she did – intersectionality and panel dynamics silenced her questioning. By Professor Haniffa raising awareness of diversity issues within her research culture, she has in the past, been forwarded to psychological assessment rather than her boundaries being recognised.

As a result of such treatment, Professor Haniffa now raises awareness, promotes positive solutions and nurtures diverse talents in Newcastle and elsewhere in the UK and she believes she is not the first nor last.

For more of Professor Haniffa’s work, Please See:

https://www.ncl.ac.uk/chabi/people/profile/mahaniffa.html#background

A Full recording of the event is available below:

Emily Yarrow: An unequal opportunity? Female academics’ experiences of research evaluation in the UK

It was an absolute pleasure to welcome Dr Emily Yarrow to conclude NU Women’s February events.

Emily’s talk was anchored in previous PhD research which looked at women’s lived experiences of REF2014, bringing these endemic issues forward to the present day. Emily talked us through the impact of gender and women’s inclusion in impact case studies regarding gender more broadly in relation to the study.

Coming from a corporate governance background, Emily used a theoretical model which explored the relationship between governance, gender and the wider higher education context. In turn, she argued that informality and the subversion of formal practices, processes and elements of governance, such as the REF, serves as a real catalyst for inequality. Dr Emily Yarrow’s analytical framework was not only qualitative study that was built around one touring case study, but a progressive one.

In this sense, the study subverted existing notions, and explored how female research evaluation affects female academics’ careers. Moreover, the study investigated female academics’ perceptions of research evaluation and its career effects, whether this is gendered, and how this plays out in female academics’ career trajectories.

Dr Emily Yarrow shared her key findings from this research, firstly stating that the REF contributes to the maintenance of a regime of gendered inequality, primarily because of the ways it is implemented and its implicit reliance on informal networks, such as recruiting panel members within the university and REF submission readers.

“The importance of networks is argued further increased for recruitment and selection, if an individual was not included however, overall ‘the hustle’ still matters immensely”

(Yarrow, 2020)

Extending these findings, Dr Emily Yarrow found that research evaluation contributes to an increasingly individualised way of working. Further, it is modelled on idealised notions of the unencumbered worker because of it ineffectively accounts for time taken out of a REF cycle, which disproportionately affects women.

From this, we learned that the REF functions as a control mechanism over the work that is produced. For example, in some disciplines, such as Law and Business, certain types of conservative research are becoming more valued due to the level of risk associated with submissions.

“I no longer aim for lower ranked journals; I just can’t afford to do that! So I no longer consider certain journals that otherwise I would love to publish in”

(Lecturer, participant 35)

By the end of the talk, Dr Emily Yarrow demonstrated a lack of transparency in the processes surrounding the REF, with particular emphasis on recruitment, the selection of material evaluators, and final submissions. These appear to act against gender equality in the experience of the REF process at the individual level.

Moreover, the REF’s orientation towards time meant that care and parental leave had a significant gendered impact on academics’ careers. As a result, although research evaluation has the potential to be used as a career path clarification tool, it imports gendered measurement issues that contribute to precarity. Emily paused on this to add that the creation of a quasi-marketplace further drives the need for the ‘right type of publications’, and, in turn, precarious working.

Overall, REF frameworks contribute to furthering the notion that the unencumbered (disproportionately male) scholar is ideal, which continues to entrench gendered marginalisation within academics’ careers.

Further reference material for the presentation can be found here:
To Keep up with Dr Yarrow’s work, see:

https://emilyyarrow.co.uk/
https://twitter.com/EmilyYarrow1

A full recording of the event is available below

Dark Academia, Gender, Intellectualism

Last week, NU Women welcomed Dr Sarah Burton, a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow from City University of London’s Sociology Department to deliver her paper on Dark Academia, Gender, and Aesthetic Practices of the Intellectual.

Rooting her work in Nirmal Puwar’s work on Space Invaders, in which  certain bodies fit into spaces where others are read as alien or inappropriate, Dr Burton uses Dark Academia to consider how academic spaces are (re)built, embedded, and contested over time.

Specifically, she examines how this is enacted on and through aesthetic portrayals of the intellectual and scholar as a cultural figure. In this research paper, Dr Burton discusses the encounter of Dark Academia on her sociologist colleagues by asking: “What are intellectuals? What does intellectual life look like? How do you know if you’re an intellectual?”

 

“Just as Puwar has tracked this powerful whiteness from Eaton, to Oxford, to Westminster, I’m going to embark on a sort of return journey following the intellectual from Dark Academia, to popular culture, to its possible inception.”

Arising from social media such as TikTok, Tumblr, and Instagram over the last few years, the Dark Academia aesthetic trend is characteristically recognisable by its vintage dress reminiscent of 1930s-40s Oxbridge fashions: tweed jackets, plaid skirts, knit cardigans, brogues. Think Withnail and I, Dead Poets Society, and the kind of thing you see on Morse.

As a lifestyle the Dark Academia trend advocates for learning for learning’s sake, encouraging such things as translating Ancient Greek and Latin for fun, visiting museums and art galleries, and letter-writing by hand. It’s a romantic view of scholarly work, that takes a pleasurable view of writing and researching.

Dr Burton points to Dark Academia’s explosion in popularity amongst Generation Z during the pandemic. Isolation from school life, has led to an uptake in wanting to ‘feel’ scholarly through adopting this aesthetic.

Its call back to vintage fashions amount to cosplaying as an intellectual, embracing the quiet solitude of lockdown as a lifestyle choice. Its return to pre-digital simplicity is a response to the uncertainty and chaos of the current moment.

“It’s enticing and alluring and escapist, reminding us of putatively simpler times before REFs and TEFs…but it also works to demarcate and exclude. Outside of thin, white, Europeanness there is little scope to legitimately imagine yourself into this aesthetic.”

Most notably, this aesthetic framing of the intellectual is rooted in conservative, Eurocentric, elitist ideals.

Dr Burton notes that within its aesthetic and lifestyle markers, there’s no space for “most women, working class, people of colour, fatness, people with low economic or cultural capital, disability, caring and domestic activities and labour (especially the enjoyment of these), motherhood, queerness, and the mundanity of academic life.”

The fabric of Dark Academia as a look and lifestyle is woven from a preference towards whiteness, masculinity, and Eurocentric cosmopolitanism. Dr Burton’s research participants show that this exclusion is felt as imposter syndrome. It presents an unrealistic view of academic work that ignores the real demands and pressures of university life.

For more information abut Dr Sarah Burton’s work, please see: https://www.city.ac.uk/people/academics/sarah-burton#profile=overview

A full recording of the event is available below.

Ovarian Cancer Awareness

NU Women’s latest session was on ovarian cancer awareness, delivered in conjunction with Ruth Grigg from the charity Ovacome, Hillary an ovarian cancer survivor, and Dr Yvette Drew from Newcastle University’s Centre for Cancer.

Ruth is part of the Ovacome charity who supply emotional support and information to anyone who’s been affected by ovarian cancer and opened the session. As the charity has been run since 1996, Ovacome has spoken to a lot of women and have gained progress in promoting women’s knowledge of ovarian cancer.

Ruth shared this knowledge with attendees of the NU Women lecture stating that typically there is little known or understood about ovarian cancer. As ovarian cancer is uncommon, with 7,000 diagnoses each year (in the U.K. the chances are 1:52 ), it is not represented as loudly in the cancer community because the chances of other cancers such breast are much higher (1:7 in the U.K). Moreover, ovarian cancer usually presents late as a Stage 3 CD (there are 4 stages), so by this time the cancer has spread to the abdomen and other organs before a GP or any other services become involved.

The delay of spotting the cancer is due to vague signs and symptoms which don’t seem significant in the context of day to day life. Ovarian cancer is most common in people who are postmenopausal which means 83% of cases are diagnosed in those aged 50+. Regardless, the cancer can present in younger people too which is why it was so important for Ruth to go through the BEAT campaign, outlining the specific symptoms:

B is for BLOATING (this is new for you and is persistent)

E is for EATING DIFFICULTIES (you are eating less and experiencing reflux)

A is for ABDOMINAL PAIN (this is new for you and is getting worse over time)

T is for TOILET HABITS (unusual urinary or bowel movements)

Treatment for ovarian cancer requires a major hysterectomy surgery, followed by chemotherapy. 

A survivor of ovarian cancer, Hilary followed on from Ruth and gave a personal account of her journey from being diagnosed in April 2006 at the age of 48. Being a Chemist, with a long experience the pharmaceutical industry, BP and civil service, Hilary explained she was very used to being tired and stressed, especially when she switched between two jobs around 2006.

Notably, she remembers getting a smear test but the nurse couldn’t get a good enough sample as the process was too painful, she was told she would be contacted by the GP and thought nothing more. As life went on Hilary started developing bladder urgency but put this down to menopause. The turning point was when Hilary experienced persistent abdomen pain so severe she physically had to pull off the motorway as the pain was unbearable.

After going to hospital, the CT scans showed a 15cm cancerous cyst which grew to 17cm two weeks after. Hilary explained how her fallopian tubes, uterus and omentum were removed, which was followed by chemotherapy at the end of June. Between starting her chemotherapy in June and her treatment finishing in November 2006, Hilary worked part time with a supportive employer which helped her greatly- emotionally and mentally.

Hillary has now been discharged from her GP, reaching her 5 year remission mark and says that she is in good health but has experienced the side effects of surgical menopause such as brutal hot flushes, memory loss and depression. After 6 months Hilary began HRT and felt much better and is still on a low dose patch for the rest of her life.

After Hilary’s moving account, reminding us that sometimes  the session moved from the personal to the scientific. Dr Yvette Drew gave us a flavour of what the gynecology team are exploring – such as  the challenge of developmental therapeutics in ovarian cancer, as well as the lack of effective screening. Dr Drew explained that there has been significant barriers to progress in developing new treatments, shockingly stating that there has been no new treatments approved between 2006-2013 despite other cancers seeing developments.

However, we learned that this was due to the difficulty finding where the cancer originates. There is a common misconception that the cancer begins in the ovaries but in fact ovarian cancer starts in the fallopian tubes. Sadly, scans fail to show this. Nevertheless the management of ovarian cancer lies with the revolution of PARP inhibitors moving forward to PARPi combinations including immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Dr Drew stressed the importance of needing to recognise that epithelial ovarian cancer is many diseases in cancer drug development (High-grade serous, clear cell, low-grade serous, endometrioid, mucinous) and that programmes for drug development, design of clinical trials, and approaches to systemic treatment need to reflect this knowledge and focus on targeting the sub types of EOC.

With additional thanks to the chair, Nicola Curtin, Professor of Experimental Therapeutics at Newcastle University , this session addressed this challenging topic in an approachable way. Identifying the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer as well as discussing recent developments at Newcastle and beyond, hoping to reach as many women as possible.

For further information about Ovacome and the BEAT campaign please visit the following:

You can watch the recording of the full event below:

Rattle Snake screening review

On 6th December 2019, NU Women participated in a campaign to show a recorded performance of Open Clasp’s gut-wrenching and game-changing production, Rattle Snake, to as many people as possible. Why? Because despite living in a country where discussions about domestic and sexual violence are happening more frequently, over one million women still experience some form of domestic or sexual violence per year – and these are only the figures we know about. 

Open Clasp is a charitable organisation placing theatre at the heart of transforming lives of disadvantaged women and girls through acts of collaboration. They campaign for change on an international, national, and personal level. They’ve won awards for their work, but most importantly they’ve reached out to and impacted the lives of 107,764 people to date.  

They’re incredible.  

From 25th November – 10th December 2019, Open Clasp made their live recording of Rattle Snake available online to demonstrate the signs, effects, and emotional upheaval caused by coercive control in personal relationships.  

Open Clasp performance of Rattle Snake

They bring to the stage the reality of women experiencing the often-hidden nature of domestic abuse through the emotive and powerful performance of two actors. In fact, I couldn’t believe there were only two women on stage – the emotion they put into showing the multifaceted reality of the women they represented was breath-taking. And when I say reality, I mean these are performances based on collaboration with women who have experienced the trauma of coercive control. Trauma that won’t  end unless we, as a society, are willing to look for the signs of such abuse and have a system that puts an immediate stop to it.  

The need to recognise these signs was further emphasised by Catrina McHugh, the Artistic Director of Open Clasp and playwright of Rattle Snake, as she discussed why she made the performance available for all – because there’s a need for further empathy about such situations as a society and within the judicial system. What really impressed me about the evening was the supportive and welcoming environment it invited in discussing the issues raised in the performance – it was inspiring to hear everyone’s response and engage with the production directly. 

Numerous letters and feedback by those who have been impacted by the performance are posted on Open Clasp’s website, showing just how important a role this performance plays in initiating discussion about coercive control. Not only that, but the play has been used in police training to make officers aware of, and recognise, the signs of domestic abuse, as well as to understand that you need to know the full story before judgement can be passed.  

Before we expect the situation around domestic abuse to change, we need to be willing to talk about it, and Open Clasp runs ahead of the crowd in working within communities to represent real experience and put it out there to campaign for change.