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Sheroes Zine

A multi-media creative arts project co-created with women from Pause Islington

About the Project

Sheroes is a co-created multi-media creative arts project developed with women from Pause Islington. Funded by Arts Council England, its first iteration took place in late Summer 2022 at The Ecology Centre Islington. The project was a co-production with Islington People's Theatre (IPT) and Response Ability Theatre (R.A.T) and ran for ten weeks, for two hours a week, ending with a 'sharing' at the centre for Pause staff and other supporters as a final culmination and celebration of the women's work created during that time.

The women took part in applied theatre, art, music, movement and writing exercises, all towards the aim of untapping their authentic voices.

Niki Hollinshead at IPT & Nell Hardy  at R.A.T co-produced and co-facilitated the project, with individual guest faciliators delivering additional sessions in visual arts, drumming and movement and creative writing & poetry. The project was supported by two Welfare Leads, Caroline Graham & Kim Marsh, who were present at all sessions to provide support to the women involved if needed. Pause staff also attended and participated in all ten sessions.


Pause work with women who have had their children placed in the care system and who have often experienced multiple disadvantages in their lives. Sheroes was created for them as individual women, not as mothers, although their children were never far from their thoughts, to provide a space for them as women in their own right, to explore their creativity and reclaim their authentic voice and inner power woman.

Women Who Run With the Wolves

The stories from Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes were a major source of inspiration for the project design and influenced many of the project themes.

Writer Alice Walker said of the book. ''Women Who Run With the Wolves'' isn't just another book. It is a gift of profound wisdom, insight and love. An oracle from one who knows''.

The women who participated in the project incorporated tropes from folk tales, mythology and allegory from the book and from other sources such as archetypes in fairy tales, to express their own stories.

There are so many rich stories in the book, we obviously couldn't use them all, but we focused instead on some of the main themes of the project and on the stories that reflected those themes; reclaiming instincts, intuition and protective boundaries, as well as rediscovering your inner or authentic self - your 'power woman' - your own inner 'Shero'.

Stories we drew on included, ''La Loba, The Wolf Woman'', ''The Doll in Her Pocket: Vasalisa the Wise", "The Red Shoes", "Manawee", "Little Match Girl", "The Crescent Moon Bear", and ''Sealskin, Soulskin''.

At the heart of the book is the call to creativity, as our life-force, our guide and our heart-blood. 

Creativity, says Estes, is what fuels the life-force of women, it is our natural state, our birthright. Reclaiming that creativity can often have positive effects on other areas of our lives and can be part of the process of coming back home to our true selves, after a period where life has thrown every challenge at us and more. She says in the book; 

'Creating one thing at a certain point in the river feeds those who come to the river, feeds creatures far downstream, yet others in the deep. Creativity is not a solitary movement. That is its power. Whatever is touched by it, whoever hears it, sees it, senses it, knows it, is fed. That is why beholding someone else's creative word, image, idea, fills us up, inspires us to our own creative work. A single creative act has the potential to feed a continent. One creative act can cause a torrent to break through stone. For this reason, a women's creative ability is her most valuable asset, for it gives outwardly and it feeds her inwardly at every level: psychic, spiritual, mental, emotive, and economic.' (Pinkola - Estes, 1997, p. 299)

Improvisation & Devising

Improvisation is a great way of letting loose sides of you that you normally don't get to show. That means different things for different people at different times. It can be a chance to release frustration, to say and hear difficult things, or to display how hilarious you are! All through the safety of other characters, other worlds, that can't be translated directly back to you. You get to know everything that's amazing about someone in impro without having to know any of the surface stuff that's nobody else's business, and through it we saw the women just fly.

Additionally, devising was at the centre of the work and we used a variety of methods including using the 'devising prop box', a tiny suitcase full of interesting and random props to stimulate ideas for characters and for storytelling. For the final sharing, the use of costume, makeup and personal props became a large part of the 'storytelling characters' the women created to tell their stories.



Visual Arts & Creative Writing

Drawings, Poems and Stories

It may surprise you looking at these artworks that the women behind each only spent 10 minutes putting pen to paper. They were in response to a process of discussion, storytelling, and embodiment through physical still images, all exploring movement from a place where our instinctive selves are inaccessible, to one where we can allow them to guide us completely. How many of us will ever actually reach that place? But as these creations show, it's a journey worth starting. Thanks to Lydia Newman for creating a space that was as creative and joyful as it was cathartic and held.





Goddess Spirals

No eyes to see her beauty




As well as engaging the women with some of the stories from the book, we used quotes and poems as catalysts for creative inspiration:

' night

There's a heartbeat at the door.

Outside, a woman in the fog, 

With hairs of twigs and a dress of weed,

Dripping green lake water.

She says 'I am you, 

and I have travelled a long distance.

Come with me, there is something I must show you...

She turns to go, her cloak falls open,

Suddenly, golden light...everywhere, golden light'.

(Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run with the Wolves,1997, p.278).

Poet and creative writing facilitator Laura Rae led a fabulous creative writing session. This was a starting point for the stories created later in the project. She also led the group in the creation of the group poem My Hands Have...

We then developed the work further in a later session to produce the I AM poems, in addition to fleshing out the stories for the final sharing.



My Hands Have...

My hands have held my baby niece

My hands have waved goodbye

My hands have held my children for the first time

My hands have held my son today

My hands have held my baby

My hands have pulled hair out of the sink

My hands can pull and push and punch

My hands have given people peace more than they’ve given me

My hands have channelled healing energy

My hands have applauded performances

My hands have splashed the sea

My hands have wiped my tears

My hands have done hair

My hands have prayed

My hands have given my brother the finger

My hands can poke and pinch

My hands have saved life

My hands have worked hundreds of jobs

My hands have been stitched back together

My hands have pointed to a place

My hands have smoked

My hands have tickled my niece

My hands have fed my mum

My hands can prepare food and peel potatoes

My hands have prayed for my children

My hands have held my face when I cried


I am fierce and full of fire

I am fierce and full of fire.

I am curious about meeting the world.

I am the sound of a thunderstorm.

I am the rainforest.

I am a heart.

I am fierce and full of fire.

I am a bad listener.

I am the feeling of the twinkling stars.

I am raindrops.

I am social worker.

I am justice system.

I am fierce and full of fire.

I am emotions.

I am universe.

I am paradise.

I am life.

I am me.

I am fierce and full of fire.



I am a lovely person

I am a lovely person.

I am very nosy.

I am a shout.

I am an admirer.

I am powerful.

I am a lovely person.

I am a shape shifter.

I am someone who can feel the emotions of other people.

I am the warm earth.

I am people getting on my nerves.

I am lonely without parents.

I am a lovely person.

I am in touch with myself.

I am a believer in the Creator.

I am living in a castle.

I am dazzling in my appearance.

I am a peaceful place.

I am a lovely person.



I am strong and I am a survivor

I am strong and I am a survivor.

I am a finder, not a thinker.

I am a roar.

I am a family.

I am the return of my cub.

I am strong and I am a survivor.

I am a clown.

I am anxious at another cub going.

I am the heartbeat of my mum.

I am intruders.

I am pain.

I am strong and I am a survivor.

I am a protector.

I am love.

I am security.

I am elegance.

I am peace.

I am strong and I am a survivor.

I am strong and I am a survivor

I am half in and half out

I am half in half out.

Is it safe to go deeper?

I hear siren singing mermaids

I see land, flowers, grass

I long to go deep, without fear to explore

Find out what is down deep on the ocean floor


But I’m half in half out.

I see the land ahead, looks safe with flowers and grass

Looks like I’d be in my element there

But how to reach it?

I’d have to expose myself to the air - and I’m not ready to go there


I’m half in half out.

Not drowning, not floating

I’m just treading water

The land is very slippery under my bare feet

Will I soon make a choice to swim out or go deep?


Cos I’m half in half out.

I feel FEAR ALL THE TIME, anxiety

Is everyone else OK?

I check on them when they’re asleep, to make

Sure, I stand by the bedroom door, half in half out


Hail stones raining on my head

If that happens I’ll take a deep dive

There’s no stepping stones

It’s just treading water


I believe the land may be safer

But I have to go there to find out

I dream of the company of other human beings

Without anger or fear


I hope I will make it to shore.

When I get to the land

I’m not gonna come back.

I am half in half out.

I am loving and playful

I am loving and playful.

I am curious about pigeons.

I am the sound of thunder.

I am the soaring eagle.

I am love.

I am loving and playful.

I am sleep.

I am the joy of catching insects.

I am the feeling of healing.

I am a sudden bang.

I am no safe place.

I am loving and playful.

I am loyalty.

I am food.

I am affection.

I am a comfortable life.

I am loving and playful.

I am beautiful, stealthy fruit

I am beautiful, stealthy fruit.

The enchanting of the apple.

Ethereal forest.

Nighttime voices.

Two fairies eating slices of golden apple.

I am curious, desire, slice of golden apple.

I am an angel, guardian of the golden apple.

I am flying through the forest, looking for hope.

I am guardian of the golden apple, defender of the silver leaves.

I am the Midas touch: everything I touch turns to gold and fortune.

I am a flitting fly waiting to be batted away from the delicious scent of the golden apple.

Golden delicious.


I am the ill, creepy wind, blowing frost off the golden apple trees.

I am the enchanting apple.

I am a crispy golden delicious apple.

I am faith, hope, trust.

A bite to eat.

I am the wind in the willows, blowing nourishment to a tasty orchard.

I am the shower and the seed, planting enough to grow the next orchard.

I am everlasting peace from the Garden of Eden.

I am the enchanting of the apple.

Audre Lorde

Text from feminist, activist and poet Audre Lorde's masterpiece ''Your Silence Will Not Protect You'' resonated throughout the project and encouraged the women to explore their creativity and express their stories:

'For each of us as women, there is a dark place within where hidden and growing our true spirit rises, ‘beautiful And tough as chestnut/stanchion against nightmares of weakness’ (‘Black Mother Woman’) and of impotence. These places of possibility within ourselves are dark because they are ancient and hidden; they have survived and grown strong through that darkness. Within these deep places, each one of us holds an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded emotion and feeling. The woman’s place of power within each of us is neither white nor surface; it is dark, it is ancient and it is deep’.

Audre Lorde (2017, p.7) Your Silence Will Not Protect You


Snake Boy

Once upon a time, there was a little boy who was really popular. He played with everybody, and was good at sports. Everyone called him Snake, because he could always get away with everything.


One day, his best friend Joe started making fun of him, and everyone else joined in. They started kicking him, poking him. He took it for a little while, but then one day he snapped. He lashed out. He didn’t know his own strength. He seriously injured his dear friend Joe.


He watched Joe lying on the floor in pain. He was so ashamed of himself. He immediately climbed the nearest tree and hid in the leaves, but everyone knew where he was and what he had done. People were shouting, calling him names. “You won’t get away with this one, Snake…”


The other kids ran off to find a teacher. Snake suddenly realised he knew what to do. He came down, he put his mouth to Joe’s ear, and he hissed gently, “Ssssssss…” Then he started circling him, brushing his hand against his hurting leg, and louder and louder hissing, “Ssssssss…” Eventually, Joe was so frustrated that he launched himself to his feet and shouted, “STOP IT!” At that point, he realised he wasn’t actually that hurt at all! Joe reached out an arm of apology to Snake, Snake put one out to Joe, and together they made a new vow of friendship.


The kids came running back with a teacher in tow. But Snake and Joe shrugged their shoulders and said, “Who’s hurt? Nobody’s hurt here.” The teacher was frustrated with the children for making up nonsense and gave them all detentions - except Snake and Joe, who got away with it once again.


So this is a story about treating others how you wish to be treated, about knowing how to help your friends… and, of course, about getting away with it!


This story is about a young woman who kept getting in trouble. She couldn't help it. And she had never known anyone to give her a second chance.

She moved away, to where nobody knew her, so she could start again. But the first day, when she went home, she stole from a shop on a street she passed and was chased away. So the next day, she had to change her route to avoid that street.

But this time, she got into a fight, and was chased away again. And so again, she had to change her route home the next day to avoid that street.

And on and on it went, until the route she had to take was so windy and complicated that one day she found she didn't even know where she was anymore. Eventually she found herself at the edge of a forest, and realised her only hope was to enter it and hope when she came out, she would be closer to home.

She climbed over brambles, ducked under branches, avoided the stinging nettles as best as she could, not knowing where she was going but just aiming towards something that looked clearer. When she reached a large, open field, she was relieved to be able to walk more freely, but still she didn't know where next to turn.

She continued forwards, into the emptiness, until finally she saw in the distance a figure sitting in the grass. She moved closer and closer, hoping this person would be kinder to her than most people were, until eventually she could see it was an old woman with her eyes closed. She stood in front of her and opened her mouth to speak, but before she could, the old woman opened her eyes, smiled the warmest smile the young woman had ever seen and said, "I knew you would find me.

Once, you see, many, many years ago, I was just like you. Always in trouble. Always hiding. I too reached the edge of the forest, and didn't know where else to go. So on my way through I broke sticks off the trees and plants and laid them down so I could remember my path back." The young woman looked behind the old, and saw indeed that the old was surrounded by a circle of sticks, and that out of this circle came a path of sticks leading to a different part of the forest.

"By the time I got here, I was exhausted, so I sat, and I thought long and hard about what I had done. And I knew that, despite the path I had made I couldn't return to where I came from, because I couldn't face the trouble I had caused on the streets I would have to pass. I had to wait until I had a different face that I could show them."

"You mean, your face now?" said the young woman. "Your older face?"

The older woman shook her head. "Not my face. Yours."

The old woman took a stick from her pile and gave it to the young. "Follow the path back and go home. When you feel you are about to get in trouble, touch this stick and think of me. When the path is gone, take whatever streets you know, and if you meet someone who doesn't want you there, touch this stick and think of me." The young woman took the stick, and noticed as her hand touched it and the old woman's hand at the same time, the old woman's hand was so bony and gnarled she could barely tell it apart from the stick.

So she made the long way back out of the forest, helped this time by the path of sticks, making sure all the way the old woman's gift stick stayed in her pocket. And as she reached the edge of the forest, she found herself on the streets she had avoided. But every time she saw an unfriendly face, or a shopkeeper who had chased her away, she touched the stick in her pocket and felt like she was holding the old woman's hand. And something must have come over her face, because whenever she did so, the looks of anger or fear or distrust in others softened as they let her find her way home.

For now, things are going well for her. But if she ever needs more help, she knows exactly where to go.


Recording Studio day

Recording the poems & stories

A few of the group recorded their poems & stories at Pirate Studios in Camden. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to spend some time in the studios to create a professional recording of their work, supported by our fabulous sound recordist for the day Rad.

Listen to the recording:




Drumming & Percussion

Some of the sessions were supported by drumming & percussion, led by facilitator & musician Nadia Al faghih Hasan, who worked her magic with the women adding another dimension to their creative work. The drum was an integral part of the process, grounding the women's storytelling and operating as the 'heartbeat' to the project.  Both the drum and percussion held the promenade sharing performance together, providing a thread to link the scenes.

Nadia can be seen performing regularly with the band Kan Beng on London's gig circuit. Kan Beng (






Trauma Based Work

It isn't always helpful to think of the traumatic events in our lives as things that have "gone wrong" - because this invalidates where we are now. Our traumas don't define us, but they are as much a part of what makes us whole as the positives in our lives. We imaginatively immersed ourselves in abstract settings to explore how we experience the world around us, and designed characters that feel the world with our bodies, see it with our eyes. In that way we can celebrate who we are and share a glimpse of it safely with our audiences.



Psychological Welfare with Women Who Run with the Wolves

Two of us psychotherapists worked on the project, the other lady had more experience as a therapist and I knew more about drama. We were there to make sure the participants were held, safe and well throughout the ten weeks of the project. Using the book containing fairy tales and legends about “everywoman” meant the storytelling was not strictly autobiographical but rather viewed through a lens of myth and folklore. This makes it possible to tell a personal story while sheltered under the cloak of “it could be a fairytale”. People get triggered by storytelling, all the time, and when it “kicks off” in the room it is a good idea to have someone to remain behind in the room and another person to follow whomever may have stormed off and sit with them till they feel better, give them a listening ear. This happened nearly every week! I found it delightful to help other women tell their stories in this way. I started my own personal therapy journey as a participant in groups like this and I know it relieved my own burden of shame to be able to talk about it. I helped several participants compose their pieces, which were performed to each other and a small audience. There was much joy and laughter in the room each week and this to me is an essential element of collaboration.

Since this project I have assisted on others in the same way, with Forum Theatre, Clean Break and Cardboard Citizens. What happens in the room stays in the room unless the participant wants to share, so it goes at their own pace, and nobody is ever left out in the cold feeling upset or exposed because the therapist/s is able to spend some time with them one-on-one and make sure they are OK.

Kim Marsh, Welfare Lead, Sheroes, 2022.

Final Sharing

The final sharing took place after the ten-week project ended and was held in the main space at The Ecology Centre. After the original idea of having an outdoor promenade performance using the many outdoor spaces at the venue was rained off, we came up with a 'Plan B', creating the different areas inside the workshop space. These areas were dressed with appropriately coloured materials, work the women had created, and objects and instruments that related to the elements of Earth, Air, Fire & Water. The centre of the room represented the Soul/Spirit of the 'Wild Woman', the authentic self. This was where the women gathered to begin the sharing and where they came back together at the end. It was a triumphant moment, and symbolic of the solidarity, strength and creativity they had showed in the sharing and the work they had created throughout the project.



The group together in the Centre at the end of the sharing

Planting ritual

The project took place at The Ecology Centre in Gillepsie Park, a beautiful nature reserve, with many features including a wooden seated circle, a stone circle, a meadow and a pond. It is Islington's largest nature reserve and the venue has a workshop space that looks out onto the woodland, which can be hired out for group work and projects.

Gillespie Park and Ecology Centre | Islington Council

The sharing ended with a planting ritual held in an area of the park  specifically designated to the group and the project. After the sharing in the main indoor space had ended, we led the group and the audience through the woodland, accompanied by drumming and percussion, to the designated planting area. The holes for the plants had been pre-dug, and a wheelbarrow contained all the plants & shrubs the project had donated to the centre for the women to plant. To the sound of drums, each woman wrote on a slip of paper something they wanted to 'grow' from the project - 'confidence', 'more trust in oneself and others', 'self-love' and then planted the paper with their plant of choice to represent their feminine strength, creativity and hopes going forward from the project.

Project Partners and Funders

A heartfelt thank you to all the staff at Pause: Jennifer, Kathy, Tia, Lillian, Audrey, Daisy & Bianca, Jo Corrall & the staff @ The Ecology Centre, Caroline & Kim, our facilitators, Nadia, Laura, Lydia & Rad and to the amazing women from Pause who joined us on this journey and without whom none of this wonderful work would have happened. With grateful thanks again to Arts Council England for funding the project.