During the course of 2014 the ‘Women’s Work’ project team gave a number of research papers at conferences and symposia to both promote the project and participate in the wider debates in the academy and beyond about questions of work, gender, creativity, digital archives, feminist methodologies and historiography.

In February 2014 Vicky Ball attendedThe History of Forgotten Television Drama research symposium at the University of Ulster at Belfast where she spoken to the subject ‘Gender and The Lost and Forgotten Television Drama’.
In March 2014 the team went to Bristol University to participate in the first workshop event of the Women, Work and Value in Europe, 1945-2015 Network, funded by the AHRC.This interdisciplinary network puts scholars from the humanities and social sciences in dialogue with members of the public, interest groups and policy makers to discuss the relevance of past experiences of work for the challenges facing today's society. At this event we discussed how work is measured, defined and conceptualised. From a film and television perspective we discussed the limits of ‘the auteur’ approach for an understanding of women’s work in the media industries and the need for closer collaboration between academics and media practitioners to address gendered pathways and structural inequalities in the professions.

You can find out more about the Women, Work and Value Network under ‘Useful Links’.

April 2014 was the second international conference of the Women’s Film and Television History Network, UK-Ireland. The Network was started in 2010 by Professors’ Christine Gledhill and Julia Knight and exists to encourage, support and disseminate research into women’s participation in screen media. The conference, held at the University of East Anglia, brought together academics, archivists, curators and creative practitioners to explore and celebrate women’s contribution to film and television.

There was a strong turnout for the ‘Women’s Work’ panel where Melanie and Vicky talked about forms of work which have low cultural value and issues of selection and representation in oral history interviewing. Our discussion focused on oral history testimony and the paper archive as alternative forms of knowledge and the different spaces they occupy in terms of the weight they carry in scholarship.

You can find out more about the Women’s Film and Television History Network under ‘Useful Links’.

In May 2014 Vicky Ball co-convened a symposium at Birkbeck, University of London entitled Shoulder to Shoulder: Female Suffrage, Second-Wave Feminism and Feminist TV Drama in the 1970s. This event marked marked the fortieth anniversary of the BBC miniseries, Shoulder to Shoulder, which told the story of the early women's suffrage movement in Britain (1890s-1919). This event focused on women's television history and the history of feminism on television, as it celebrated this key text for, and made by, women. It included a screening plus Q&A with cast and crew, followed by a symposium exploring questions of representing women's history and how it has been remembered. It was interdisciplinary in scope, featuring academics from various disciplines (television, gender and cultural studies, history and politics) in dialogue with archivists and media practitioners.

You can find out more about Shoulder to Shoulder and the symposium under ‘Useful Links’.

Later that month Vicky Ball spoke at an Associate Research Fellow Day at De Montfort University on the topic of ‘Researching Women’s Work in the Film and TV Industries’ and addressed the Television for Women international conference held at the University of Warwick on the subject ‘Sex, Class and Consumerism: British Sitcom’s Negotiation of the Independent Woman 1968-1972’.

In June 2014 Melanie Bell presented the project to the second annual conference of the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies (BAFTSS) in London. The focus here was on the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the project. Why do we need a history of women in film and television production? What is the value to the historical record of women’s work? And how do we connect the past and the present of women’s work in these industries?
Vicky Ball addressed the Mediated Pasts: Visual Cultures and Collective Memory postgraduate conference organised in association with BAFTSS and The Cinema and Television History Research Centre, De Montfort University, on the topic of ‘Researching Visual Cultures and Collective Memory: Methodologies and Approaches’.

In June 2014 Melanie Bell and Vicky Ball spoke at the workshop ‘Television and Women: History and Practice in Dialogue’ at the Frontline Club in London. This was a wrap-up event for the ‘A History of Television for Women in Britain, 1947-1989’, a research project funded by the AHRC (2010-2013, University of Warwick and De Montfort University). The event was well-attended by academics and researchers from Film and Television Studies, the Director of BBC Archiving and representatives from the media industries.

You can find out more about the Women and Television project under ‘Useful Links’.

June was a busy time for the team and later that month Melanie Bell presented a research paper at the 8th Biennial International Interdisciplinary Conference of the journal Gender, Work and Organisation. The conference brought together scholars from arts and humanities, social sciences and psychology. One of this year’s streams - ‘Gendering the Creative: creative work, creative industries, creative identities’ – included papers which opened up the experiences of women working across a number of creative industries and national contexts including film and television in Ireland, architectural practice in Australia and classical musicianship in the UK. Melanie’s paper offered a case study of the Anglo-American star Julie Christie within the wider contexts of debates about gender, agency and the ‘auteur’ director in mainstream film production.

In September 2014 Vicky Ball gave a plenary address at the symposium Agents of Change: Creative Women, Television and New Spatial Praxis, Edge Hill University in association with the University of Liverpool.

In October 2014 the much-anticipated workshop ‘Oral History: Narrative Interviewing and the Self’ took place at Newcastle University. Organised by Melanie Bell the event attracted a strong audience of scholars and community activists from a diverse range of backgrounds across the arts, humanities, social and health sciences. Our speakers included sociologist Dr Penny Tinkler from the University of Manchester and historian Professor Lynn Abrams from the University of Glasgow. Penny gave a fascinating talk about how she uses photographs and specifically photo albums to explore questions about the past and present in the oral history interview. Lynn gave a compelling account of women’s narratives in post-war Britain and the ‘liberation’ of the female self. Sue Bradley from the project team led an audience discussion in response to extracts from oral history interviews taken from the ‘Women’s Work’ project and other recordings.


The event was supported by Newcastle University’s Research Centre for Film & Digital Media and the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics where Melanie Bell and Sue Bradley are based.
In October 2014 Melanie Bell travelled to Sweden to participate in a roundtable discussion about ‘Women and Film’ co-organised by Stockholm University and the Swedish Film Institute. Part of a two-day event, which brought together academics, librarians, curators and film practitioners from across the Nordic countries and beyond, under the banner Making the Invisible Visible in the Digital Age: New Approaches to Reclaiming Women’s Film History. Speakers included two of the founding ‘Women’s Film Pioneers’ Professor Jane Gaines from Columbia and Professor Christine Gledhill, Visiting Professor at New York University. Jane’s research builds from her long-standing Women’s Film Pioneers project and her fascinating paper ranged across a number of methodological questions relating to the media archaeology of women’s labour.

The roundtable panel comprised Eirik Frisvold Hanssen (National Library, Norway), Lois Banner (University of Southern California), Ebba Witt-Brattström (Nordic Women’s Literature, University of Helsinki) and Kajsa Hedström (Swedish Film Institute) and we responded to the topic: ‘The past, the present and the future: how to present and preserve women’s film history in the digital age’. Amongst other things the panel discussed the possibilities and challenges of using oral history material in digital outputs which address diverse audience groups including business and media users alongside academic researchers. The value of longer interviews to open up questions of intersectionality was much debated by the panel and audience members.

Underpinning much of the discussion in the room was the question posed by the film historian Vicki Callahan: which feminist strategies should shape our approach to research, digitisation and access?

You will find out more about the Nordic Women and Film project under ‘Useful Links’.

The final event of 2014 took place in November when Melanie Bell gave a paper at the ‘History and Film’ Visiting Speakers Series, Warwick University. After a brief introduction to the project Melanie’s paper focused on the project team’s experience of working with the BECTU materials (paper copies of union membership application forms) and the process of creating a digital archive from paper records. The challenges the team face are technical - how do we create consistent categories when the data fields change across time – and epistemological - how do our decisions and choices shape and frame the data? The paper addressed data protection issues and the restrictions the digital medium places on scholarship, for all its advantages around ‘Access’. Scholarship which engages in acts of recovery is, as the feminist historian Jennifer Bean notes, ‘inexorably bound to a series of questions concerning the production of historical and disciplinary knowledge’ (2002: 2), and these epistemological questions are at the centre of our research on the ‘Women’s Work’ project.

Looking Ahead

In April 2015 Melanie Bell will give a paper on ‘Oral History Interviewing: Materials, Methods, Practices’ at the New Directions in Film and Television Production Studies conference, University of Bristol.
Project Conference.

The third international conference of the Women’s Film and Television History Network, UK-Ireland will take place in Leicester in May 16-18 2016. A CFP will shortly be released and registration for the event will open in Autumn 2015.

Blogs and other press releases

News about the ‘Women’s Work’ project has appeared in a number of publications including Stage, Screen and Radio, the journal of BECTU (the media and entertainment union, Jan-Feb. 2014), the Journal of the Oral History Society (Spring 2014), on the Women’s Film and Television History Network UK/Ireland resource (Aug. 2014), the newsletter of BAFTSS (Sept. 2014) and in Viewfinder, the publication of the British Universities Film and Video Council (BUFVC, October 2014).

You will find links to these on our Useful Links tab.