Wednesday, 11 February 2015

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Louise Ramsden and Heather Hamer

BRIDPORT residents Louise Ramsden and Heather Hamer are the driving force behind the upcoming Bridport Wildcats strike project. Louise has lived in Bridport for 12 years and works part-time as an administrator/book keeper for an educational and technical software business with her husband Neil. She has also done voluntary work for the Bridport Oxfam shop, Bridport Citizens Advice Bureau and South West Dorset LETS scheme. Heather moved to Bridport 18 months ago. She previously worked as a medical secretary and teaching basic reading and writing in a Young Offenders institution. She reinvented herself as a songwriter some six years ago and plans to continue writing in Bridport.

COULD you tell me a bit more about the 1912 Bridport Wildcats project? What will it involve?
On Saturday, February 14th at about 10.15am we will gather in Bucky Doo Square, Bridport, in our 1912 costumes and then sing songs, led by our excellent town crier Jane Silver-Corren, just as the original women did, including the Suffragette anthem "Shoulder to Shoulder ". We will then march through the streets to Amsafe (the old Gundry’s factory) where we will have our photo taken by local female photographer Rachel Dunford in the same place they did in 1912. Our aim is to highlight this little known aspect of Bridport's social/industrial/women's history, contemporary issues of equality and to have a bit of fun singing and dressing up! In addition we have been really pleased with the many spin-offs inspired by the project - singing, song-writing, a marvellous exhibition of women artists called Cre8 at the Chapel in the Garden and a play written about the women by Maya Peris of Story traders. You can find out more on our Facebook page Bridport Wildcats 1912 or email it is not too late if you want to join us.

WHAT inspired you both to get involved and organise the 1912 Bridport Wildcats project?
Louise: I went to a fascinating talk by Carlos Guarita about a local photographer, Clarence Austin. There were some wonderful photographs of women net workers who in February 1912, staged a wildcat (not organised by a union) strike and protested on the streets of Bridport about unfairness at their workplace. The dignity and camaraderie of the women really struck a chord and I thought we could celebrate this spirit by re-staging the photos with modern women in costume.
Heather: Louise told me about the recreating the photograph and I loved her enthusiasm. I felt I wanted to celebrate the feisty women net-workers of Bridport who stood up to the bosses, and the way the town supported them.

ARE you both working on projects apart from the Wildcat strike?
No, Wildcats is taking up pretty much all of our time at the moment.

WHAT do you both like doing in your spare time?
Louise: I like walking, dancing, swimming and Tai Chi. I also love reading, cryptic crosswords and doing a bit of calligraphy. I am a member of the Bridport Film Society and support Bridport Arts Centre.
Heather: I like reading, walking, writing, visiting the town's coffee shops, researching my own family tree, also researching local history. I also support Bridport Arts Centre. After this project I'm going to take it easy and just enjoy the area for a while - though I'm always open to discovering new projects. I was involved (with my ex-partner) in two recording projects last year for Bridport FM - the "Love to Sing" project for local amateur singers, and a collaboration of songs/stories written by the local creative writing group, The Story Traders.  

WHAT drew you both to the area?
Louise: We have family in Hampshire and Cornwall and Dorset was a good point in between both. But really it was the sheer beauty of the landscape that drew us to Bridport. We also loved the local shops like Leakers & Fruits of the Earth, we thought it would be a really good place to bring up our children and indeed it has been.
Heather: I have lived in Bridport for 18 months, drawn here by the creative spirit I found here, and the sense of community. I'm now officially a pensioner, though am outgoing and love meeting new people and getting involved in new projects. There's so much to do in Bridport, sometimes the difficulty is choosing which activity to go with! This is my first time living in a small community, and I love living here. I enjoy living near the coast; I love walking on my own at Burton Bradstock.

DO you have any more projects lined up for the future? What would you like to do?
We will be doing something about the Wildcats at the Rope Walk Fair in May, with the Museum. I hope this event will continue to inspire people to stand up for their rights, there is still a lot to be done with a 19 per cent pay gap and women being disproportionately effected by the growth of zero hours contracts and the low pay offered for vital jobs like caring, in our community. But I think I also need to get on with all the things I've been neglecting whilst organising this event!

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