A new longterm volunteer at RWC reflects on her day with the hilarious Deborah Frances- White of the The Guilty Feminist. Together, the RWC team discuss the situation in and around Dunkirk for a new Guilty Feminist podcast that will be released soon - keep an eye on our Facebook page to see where to find it! Here is Nora's account of the day:
Work with the Women’s Centre often feels like it takes place inside a bubble. We bounce between warehouses, the gymnasium, the jungle and our caravan; even trips to the supermarket can feel like re-entering a parallel universe. When we heard that podcast-host, comedian and author Deborah Frances-White was interested in working with us, the Women’s Centre team were at dinner in a friend’s caravan: ratatouille, vegan chocolate and lots of jokes about cats. Familiar rhythms in a world I’d quickly come to see as my own over the past month. Then: ‘The Guilty Feminist retweeted our fundraiser!’. Several members of the team are fans of the podcast (one of the two hosted by Deborah Frances-White). We listen to it on longer drives, on days off in the caravan, whilst cleaning or cooking or doing admin. I personally think the podcast (and Deborah) offer a refreshing view on mainstream feminism, a place for eloquent, funny women to talk about sexism in a productive and meaningful way. I enjoy listening to it, but it’s generally about as immediately relevant to me as the Mona Lisa.
We talked about having Deborah record a podcast with us in our caravan, with the cats and the fairy-lights and the beloved clutter. The idea seemed ridiculous. I thought what would we say on a podcast, and a comedy one at that? But a few weeks later it was happening. Not in our tiny, cosy caravan, but in the freezing meeting room at the Help Refugees Calais warehouse, tucked away amongst the as-yet unsorted donations.
We were all curious to meet the person behind the voice, and Deborah merged into the world of the warehouse with grace and humour. She was amazed that so many of the volunteers listened to her podcast, and that her work was able to reach across into our world. But, as it turned out, her world is not really that separate to ours. She hosts an asylum seeker, and has friends on the Mobile Refugee Support team. She discusses with several different people how it is easier to get to Calais from her house than it is for her to cross London. Far more than just a voice from the great beyond, she had arrived keen to help in any way she could. She had brought a huge, empty suitcase with her that she took to a supermarket to fill with baby wipes, nappies and other necessary hygiene items! She arrived with big plans about how to help, such as coming back to Calais with other comedians to host and record a comedy show fundraiser. The only thing she hadn’t brought was a sticky toffee pudding to share with the Women’s Centre team, which she was extremely apologetic about! She believes her listeners are engaged, and was passionate about finding ways for them to contribute without requiring big time commitments.
I, luckily, had to say very little for the podcast: the speaking was done by my far more eloquent colleagues, both from the Women’s Centre and other organisations. Word had been spread around the Help Refugees warehouse that the recording would be taking place, and that anyone in the warehouse was welcome to attend. There were people from several of the different Help Refugees organisations, including the School Bus Project, the Refugee Info Bus, the Refugee Community Kitchen and Help Refugees. This meant that when Deborah asked questions about volunteering and the different work that went on, she was able to get a variety of viewpoints. The show broke with its normal structure, which includes monologues or stand-up comedy segments from the guest. Since no-one in the warehouse volunteered to do a dramatic monologue, we stuck to an interview format. However, we did manage to work in a few ‘I’m a feminist but' moments, which everyone really enjoyed!
Deborah kept her focus on what could be done by her listeners to help, and so a lot of her questions focused on the logistics of volunteering - how to sign up, where volunteers could stay, what the work was like. She had insightful questions about how people coped with the emotional aspect of volunteering and how volunteers managed their finances to be able to stay for long periods, as well as more light-hearted questions about the Calais nightlife.
It was interesting to see how she added humour into the recording, steering people towards jokes and drawing humour out of anecdotes. She maintained a light-hearted atmosphere, where everyone felt able to contribute to the recording, and make jokes of their own. It was wonderful to realise that I was sitting in a room where everyone identified as a feminist, and was committed to acting in a way that upheld that belief. It was the first time any of the volunteers had been involved in recording a podcast, and most of us found the format a little hard to get used to - having to make sure we were close to the microphone when we spoke and having to introduce yourself before you speak into the microphone. Deborah was endlessly patient with us, and kept us in line throughout the recording, but the end result will be entirely down to the Guilty Feminist’s amazing editing team! We had a whale of a time recording the episode and we can’t wait to share it with you!
For inspiration and solidarity listen to the guilty feminist podcast here guiltyfeminist.com
If you'd like to help RWC:
- Donate financially to help us to cover the costs of our work - material support, temporary shelter for families, car costs to keep us mobile, to name only a few. Donate Here
- Donate goods: see our updated needs list here.
- For more information on volunteering long-term with us, please click here.