A different kind of picnic

By Amy Gray

For many of us, International Women’s Day can be a marathon of us rushing to different events to hear women speak. What if things changed and we actually talked with each other?

Jamie Lewis wants you to do just that at the BYO Picnic at Queen Victoria Women’s Centre. Bring a plate and a point of view on what’s happening in your world, and “meet people outside of your normal circles” as conversations are helmed by community leaders in sports, art, public service and more.

According to the seasoned performer and facilitator, the picnic offers an opportunity to break out of our modern-day cocoons, “potentially becoming friends with” new people and “hearing from some amazing people who are real leaders in their field” as everyone shares their ideas.

Lewis knows the power of conversation, creating work that is “centered around stories, conversation, and food”. She uses the combination of food and conversation in her work hosting cooking and dinner parties to open people up to share their stories, often with the same hallowed intimacy one would find in the family home.

While the food is important (though is anything more important than your favourite family recipe?), it’s getting people talking that is the real goal, as they begin to share more than just what’s on their plates. “Conversation allows for us to be heard, understood and seen, just as we afford others to be heard, understood and seen”, she says. Together over a meal, people share what is “at the heart of our human co-existence: conversation”, introducing greater balance and trust where people “share, listen and exchange”

Part of the BYO Picnic conversation will encourage people to have their say in the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre’s future and what they want from the historic building. It’s an attempt to bring the public back to a building they fought to save, one that was created “for women by women”.

The picnic is also an invitation for women to claim space and voice in a society that often seeks to disempower them. As Jamie says “I don’t think people are aware of the power that they hold – there’s a sense of powerlessness. I think we think we have less power than we hold.”

“But ironically, we sometimes behave like we have more power”, Jamie says, “we are careless with other people’s feelings, we take advantage of other people for our own goals… I think we also have contrasting, sometimes confusing ideas and expectations of what it means to hold power”.

It’s a thought that ties into the theme for International Women’s Day, #balanceforbetter: “I think balance comes in dismantling those ideas and expectations of what holding power looks like”, Jamie says. “I think our role towards creating balance is to celebrate and prop up all the ways in which they look like, especially if they are non-dominant”.

“Conversations can be real tricky, reveal frictions, and be uncomfortable too – but”, Jamie hastens to add, this can bring “new friendships, deepen intimacy, ideas and actions, perspective shifts, clarity…”

BYO Picnic For International Women’s Day
March 7, 6pm – 8:30pm
210 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Free admission, bookings essential.
Bookings: https://www.trybooking.com/468608
Inquiries: events@qvwc.org.au‬


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Amy Gray is a Melbourne writer whose work focuses on feminism, culture and parenting. She tweets via @_amygray_

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