Here’s What Went Down at Our First Birthday Party…

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On the 26th of September Haggerston’s hub of disco and drag, The Glory, played host to a trailblazing squad of girls and guys, gathered in their best party gear in celebration of one amazing year of Polyester in print.

Kicking off at midday, we saw some of Polyester’s most loved contributors – including our agony aunt Celia Edell, environmentalist columnist Glacier Girl, and junior fashion editor Jilian Banjoko – take to the stage to chat about topics close to their hearts. We sat around and got thinking about how we can make a difference as activists, listened into the realities about being female in the music industry, learned the importance of self care, got involved in an open debate around micro-aggression, and tuned in to hear about the future of publishing.

The basement was transformed into a pink never-land that threw us back to our 13th birthdays, with shoots from previous issues plastered across the walls, and the sounds of Britney and the Spice girls on repeat. It was a dreamy, nostalgic setting for an afternoon of workshops and fun: we got crafty creating a psychedelic set with Dora Miller (which Dream Wife later performed in), we made our own iconic tapestry patches with Sara Sboul, and kawaii DIY tiara’s with Siobhan Hogan aka ShopFloorWhore. A lucky few of us left with porcelain white mani’s with our initials on courtesy of Nail Transphobia (Charlie Craggs), new found business tips thanks to Clio Peppiatt, Lerryn Whitfield and others, plus our photo taken by Maisie Cousins in Amy Exton’s set. Reel Good Film Club’s Maria and Grace, alongside Jilian and artist Vanessa Omoregie, led an amazingly inclusive open debate on micro-aggressions in the creative industries and how to deal with them. We then danced the night away to a DJ set by Eleanor Hardwick of Moonbow and Ayesha Tan-Jones of YaYa Bones, all rounded off with a live performance by our favourite English-Icelandic babes, Dream Wife.

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For those of you who missed the event, here’s the low-down on a few things we learned during day:

Self-care is integral to happiness

It means taking time for yourself, and it’s a skill for life. We heard it from the best, (self care queen Hanecdote), that it’s all about patience and perseverance, you gotta fake it ’til you make it – you have to practice and pretend to love yourself even if you’re not 100% there. Feminist blogger and Polyester agony aunt Celia Edell, (aka Ceedling), told us her self-care technique is all about getting the mind away from reality, and that the trashier TV the better – think indulging in a marathon of Teen Mom. Joanna Kiely got us to think about the power of selfies, and to look at a bad picture of ourselves as more of a reflection of our true selves; as more of a self-portrait in terms of art. Charlie Craggs also added that it’s essential we make time to feel in touch with ourselves and our own femininity: taking time to paint our nails, moisturising, buying underwear and soft bras.

Sexism in the music industry is real.

Beth White, founder of Who Run The World promotions, Dream Wife guitarist Alice Go, icon Princess Julia, and Isis O Regan, assistant to the CEO of Universal; all took to the stage to reveal and discuss the true extents of sexism and stereotyping they’ve encountered in the music industry. We heard that the assumption that as a woman you don’t know what you’re doing is still as prevalent as ever; particularly coming from the sound guys who find it hard to accept you are in fact the DJ, and not the DJ’s girlfriend. Princess Julia told us that those in club culture are far less narrow minded, she also suggested that we need to re-educate and infiltrate those as much as possible who are unwilling to accept gender equality, or set up our own companies like Beth and simply get on with it. She told us: “If you put the energy out there, they’re going to realise there’s a revolution going on. All creative people have to deal with a hierarchy going on.” Discussion also turned to the fact that women are still segregated and need their own outlets because the mainstream isn’t there to support us.

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It’s time to get involved in activism.

As part of the discussion on 21st century activism, we were educated across the board with issues we can’t afford to waste time not thinking about. Abortion Rights explained their pro-choice campaign and we heard the extent of their protests, Glacier girl discussed her work, encounters with Greenpeace, and we heard her chat about utilising her stance on social media to reach the iGeneration. Niamh Mcintyre, (freelance journalist, co-editor of Cuntry Living zine), explained her involvement with the English Collective of Prostitutes, and renowned LGBT activist Nicola Field continued to inspire us updating us on her latest venture: writing a book on Pride, Pinkwashing and the Politics of Class. Boy With Wings member Leo Francisco, who chaired the panel, further summarised the discussion as successfully teaching us about, “the intersection between the effects of the austerity political ideology on our particular areas of activism, and how we can build solidarity between our different causes in order to tackle the issues faced by our communities.”

Zine culture is growing so fast causing bigger brands to catch on to the culture, but is it for the best?

The future of publishing panel chaired Polyester founding editor in chief Ione Gamble featured Born n Bread zine, Sister Zine and The Chapess, who all echoed what we knew: that there’s no competition when it comes to zines and it’s not about the money. Zines are about harnessing and building communities, representing or communicating marginalised voices, but not in a preachy manor. The girls shared their thoughts that it’s great zines are getting exposure, but they questioned whether anything will actually be achieved when the feminist girl power wave dies down. We heard that the agendas of the big brands who are jumping in on the hype of zines are so far removed from what is at the core of self-publishing: for huge brands it’s about cashing in on what they see as a trend or fad. Born n Bread gave the example of how they felt pressured to change for a commercial project – they explained that they were restricted on being themselves and felt moulded into a box of who the brand wanted them to be. We learned that everyone agrees of course they want to be known, but for zines it’s not about popularity, instead for their voices to be heard.

Thanks to everyone who came, The Glory for being the best hosts ever, and heres to another year of keeping it trashy!

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Words by Josephine Platt

Article images by Josephine Platt & Natalie Chyi

Portraits by Maisie Cousins