Ever Forward: 9 Women Making Change in Greater Manchester

We pay homage to a diverse selection of women pushing new ideas and standards in culture, food, literature, the media and more, from bases in and around our home city.

By Martin Guttridge Hewitt | March 8th '22

St Peter’s Square’s Emmeline Pankhurst statue is a tribute to one of Manchester’s most famous suffragettes.

Tuesday 8th March marks International Women’s Day 2022. To celebrate this year’s event Manchester’s Finest has decided to honour females in the city region who have been breaking boundaries over the past 12 months, with pioneering initiatives and ideas, in turn inspiring others to make the world better, fairer, and a more vibrant and exciting place.

Anyone who knows our neck of the woods will understand this wasn’t easy. Manchester lays claim to an enviable feminist legacy, with so many examples of women who changed the course of history.

From University of Manchester greats like Eleanor Sykes and Marie Stopes, and suffragettes like Emmeline and Mary Jane Pankhurst, through to contemporary icons such as Maxine Peake, local alumni are nothing short of impressive. And, as the names below prove, the list continues to grow.

Anna Søgaard and Kimberly McBride

Anna Søgaard and Kimberly McBride

No strangers to the pages of Manchester’s Finest, Anna Søgaard is the mastermind in the kitchen at Erst, while Kimberly McBride was in charge of wines at Chorlton’s The Creameries for some time. Together, they also run suppHER, an inclusive supper club “powered by women”, which donates proceeds to organisations like Trafford Rape Crisis, MASH, Women for Women Refugees, Host Nation UK and Manchester Women’s Aid.

“We both wanted to use our skills to support women. With suppHer we have been able to collaborate with some of the most talented women in Manchester’s hospitality scene whilst raising money for incredible charities,” Anna says. “Our aim is to create a safe space for women in hospitality, a space where they are recognised for the incredible work that they do. We also do not shy away from raising awareness about issues affecting the most vulnerable women in society. ”

Caroline Martins

Prior to becoming a culinary giant, Brazilian chef Caroline laid claim to an international career in theoretical physics, with an appearance on ‘Masterchef’ in her homeland catalysing the switch in focus. Since then, she has undergone Le Cordon Bleu training and garnered experience working in prized European Michelin starred restaurants.

Her latest endeavour, the Sao Paulo Project, is a spectacular addition to the Manchester food and drink landscape. The pop-up has already graced a number of key spots in the city and currently holds a residency at Blossom Street Social, offering South American and Portuguese flavours on a playfully surreal taster menu that explains why some dub her the “new Heston”.

 

Christine Cort 

Up until last year, Christine was Managing Director of Manchester International Festival (MIF), having co-founded the biennial in 2004 alongside Alex Poots. She left the institution in rude health despite Covid-19’s cultural chaos, with MIF’s reputation on the global arts map long-since cemented and its landmark new cultural centre The Factory starting to take physical shape.

Now she’s about to launch CC&Friends. Although we’re not at liberty to share too much on that, the boutique consultancy will build on her experience in marketing, place making, event planning, management, and brand development, and represents a bold step-change for someone who already held one of the city’s most impressive and influential roles.

 

Christina Rehana Taylor

Christina has been a top-tier dancer for many years, choreographing for the likes of BBC, Emeli Sande, and Giggs. She’s also the founder of ASH — Aim Sky High Academy. A dance school, the institution was built “with the vision of giving every child who wants it, the opportunity to take their dreams of dance and the performing arts to new levels.”

So far, students have been hand-picked to perform with the likes of Justin Bieber and Stormzy. Stage presence aside, a key aim of the school is arming young people with transferable skills like leadership, goal setting and teamwork, through taught creative performance, boosting their career prospects far beyond the world of dance.

 

Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson (Credit: Creative Commons)

Jeanette won a slew of awards for her semi-autobiographical 1985 novel, ‘Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit’, and since that landmark story of lesbian sexual awakenings she has continued to break new ground with her writing. Not least through 2019’s ‘Frankissstein: A Love Story’, which reimagines Mary Shelley’s classic with Brexit, a transgender-transhumanist doctor, AI, and cryonics; and ongoing columns for The Guardian.

One recent example of the latter was last year’s typically on-the-nose piece: ‘The male push is to discard the planet: all the boys are going off into space’. 2021 also saw her torch republished copies of her own books, setting them on fire because “the cosy little domestic blurbs” chosen by the publisher reduced her work to “wimmins fiction of the worst kind.”

 

Jennifer Williams 

Credit: Gary Calton/The Observer

The MEN’s Social Affairs Editor more than rose to the unfortunate occasion of reporting everything from the housing crisis to education and healthcare in Greater Manchester during the pandemic. At a time when the city was, in the eyes of many, unfairly treated by central government, Jennifer re-enforced the importance of high quality journalism at a regional level.

Diving into social issues, she regularly offers voices to marginalised people and challenges party lines, and her work resonated as a result. So much so the Financial Times just appointed her its Northern Correspondent, a role we believe offers compelling evidence her by-line is primed to make a major impact across the country.

 

Kya Buller

Kya Buller

Kya set up Aurelia Magazine in 2019, while completing her degree. The publication has already been nominated for awards thanks to first person stories and opinion-based editorial made to uplift marginalised genders. The Editor-in-Chief can also be found penning copy for the likes of Time Out, Stylist, and gal-dem, among other titles, and co-hosts the podcast ‘Close-Up With Aurelia Magazine’ alongside Amelia Ellis.

“Aurelia has established itself not only as a publication but a community — one that welcomes readers to slow down, engage with thought-provoking work and listen to each other.  One particular highlight is their collaboration with Manchester International Festival, ‘Future Hope‘, a series of love letters to the city,” Kya says. “The existence and growing success of Aurelia is proof that the talent coming from women in Manchester is a force to be reckoned with.

 

Qaisra Shahraz 

Qaisra Shahraz

If you read our recent piece on Manchester’s all-new Muslim Women’s Arts Festival founder Qaisra Shahraz will be familiar. But this only scratches the surface of the British-Pakistani author and MACFEST founder’s endeavours. A Royal Society of Arts Fellow, the National Diversity Awards Lifetime Achiever Award and the MBE she has been given speak volumes about her work, which focuses on racial, gender, and cultural divides, with the aim of bringing people closer through greater understandings of cultural differences and similarities.

MACFESTUK — Muslim Arts and Culture festival — was set up in 2017 to celebrate arts, diversity, connect communities, break down barriers, as well as challenge islamophobia,” Qaisra explains.
“The International Women’s Muslim Arts Foundation and Festival set up recently is to celebrate and place a spotlight on Muslim women creatives locally, nationally and globally. It’s a sister company and initiative of MACFESTUK.”