Let’s all go to Dollywood

Firstly, ‘Happy Mothers Day’ to all the mothers reading this! If you’re not a mother, then Happy Mother’s Day to your mother/granny/guardian or any female mentors in your life. 

Last Monday was International Women’s Day and what a week it has been!  The tragic death of Sarah Everard sparked women across the U.K to speak out publicly about their experiences of being harassed and feeling unsafe in public spaces. However, this week also saw images of police forcefully arresting women near to where Sarah was last seen. Four people were arrested in total during a vigil to “protect people’s safety”.


In the department this week we’ve been political (with a small ‘p’) by increasing the visibility of our current and ex-female students, along with highlighting the female guest speakers we’ve had over the past academic year and the female filmmakers we cover within our film curriculum. 

Thanks to students Jasmin Ewing and Shannon Findlay for letting us post your videos, along with alumni Chloe Cummins and Maja Engnell, for sharing their past experiences of the course at our Instagram.

Alumni Maja Engnell and Chloe Cummins

Sara Harkins, Executive Producer at BBC Children’s and Training Manager at Outlander Season 6 was one of our first guest speakers last year. She subsequently organised, in her own time, four other guest speakers to join us for a chat, including Outlander Ex Trainee and now Assistant to Showrunner/Executive Producers on Outlander Season 6 – Lauren Lambie.

Guest speakers Lauren Lambie, Virginia Heath and Maureen Hascoet

Virginia Heath inspired us by talking about her hypnotically beautiful film ‘From Scotland With Love” where she dug deep into archive footage and collaborated with Scottish singer-songwriter King Creosote to create stunning music for the film.

Maureen Hascoet, Producer at Firewallker Films and founder of TEDX Cumbernauld Women, shared her time and contacts with us to set the full department up with their London Screenwriter’s Festival passes and explained her own journey as a filmmaker.

I’m not a meme lord by any sense and rarely forward them on but this  Dolly Parton  meme has stayed with me for about a month or so now.  

Recently I  downloaded  her new audiobook,  ‘Songteller’  that plays more as a long form interview with Dolly, interjected with some narration and Dolly’s songs as she describes her process and inspiration for writing each of them.

I’ve always admired Dolly’s approach to life, art and business. She wears her heart on her sleeve and funnels her life experience and emotions through her music. She keeps her personal life private, delivering the character of ‘Dolly’ on stage and in front of the cameras.  She’s a mentor to younger women in the business, a philanthropist and runs multiply charities while still staying true to herself, speaking in her own vernacular and hitting out with witty banter like ‘it takes a-lot of money to look this cheap’. 

I stopped being self-deprecating about 15 years ago. Unlike Dolly, who’s successful and an there for able to make fun of herself, I realised for me it was a waste of time and potentially damaging.

If  you’re a young woman working in an a predominantly male industry, the last thing you should utter is anything that puts yourself down, even if you are feeling insecure in the moment.  Ask for help, but don’t let your ‘inner saboteur’ (#RuPaul #dragrace) leak out via negative mutterings to yourself about your own ability. 

So, I found it interesting why I was so taken with this meme that could be read as ‘I’m so unproductive I think I’m great if I can get it together to send one email’, but that’s not what connected with me. Working from home during Covid has been difficult for everyone for many reasons.  Too many to list here and we’re all experiencing the stress in different ways.  This Dolly meme made me think of what it’s like trying to collaborate creatively with practitioners and students via email and zoom.

It’s always taken me longer just to do the simplest of tasks as opposed to working face to face, where tasks/issues would be relatively easy and fast to resolve. Working face to face allows you to bypass all the misunderstandings that comes with written/ video call communication.  The lack of body language and not being able to see a student’s facial expression to gauge if they do understand the assessment task you’re explaining or just being polite to get off the call.

Emails have always been anxiety inducing for me due to the struggles I’ve had with literacy and spelling. It always takes me longer to draft an email that communicates my thoughts, plans and ideas. Even when I’ve finished, inevitably, there will be the obligatory typo, usually in the form of a rogue vowel or a wrongly chosen word from the dropdown in haste, that knocks the full sentences out of context.  

So, yes, sometimes I do stand back from the computer feeling like a ‘boss lady’ for pressing send on one email that’s taken me hours to write, but I bet I’m not the only person feeling this way these days!! 

In Dolly’s book ‘Songteller’, she tells a very tender and moving story of how her mum made her a coat to wear to school and told wee Dolly her coat was more valuable than a store bought one because it was made from different pieces of fabric taken from clothes belonging to members of her family and sewn together with motherly love. Inevitably the kids at school took the total mick out of wee Dolly and even locked her in the cupboard to really ‘stick the boot in’. #kidscanbecruel.

Dolly was angry, not only at the kids, but at her mum, for lying to her about the coat. She felt betrayed. When she confronted her about this, and her mum explained she was not poor.  They were rich with music, culture, laughter, love and spent time together as a family telling stories to entertain each other on the front porch. Dolly was richer than them all, even back then with her wee patchwork coat of many hand-me-downs. It’s these moments of resilience that shape us for the rest of our lives, fueling the type of tenacity it takes to be a super star like Dolly Parton.

Dolly founded the charity ‘The Imagination Library’ in her father’s honour.  
Robert Lee Parton died in 2000 having struggled with access to a formal education all his life and this was her gift to him. Moreover, Dolly Parton is considered one of the best blue grass guitar players alive who can out-strum the rest, even with a full set of false nails on!  All of the above is what makes her a ‘Boss Woman’! Dolly Parton is just one example of the many inspirational women who work in music, art, film and culture, that continue to inspire and push for change.

Ideally, I’d liked to have rounded up this week of IWD in the department by taking all my female friends, family, ex teachers, colleagues, mentors, students to Dollywood for a fun filled feminist day instead of this Dolly Parton rant! 

This imaginary International Woman’s day trip would be epic.  Riding on the rollercoasters and dodgems, taking about our ideas for a better future and finding strength in being together for the first time, in some cases, in over a year.

The next day everyone else would arrive, sons, fathers, grandads’, husbands and parners who support these amazing women, who are mothers, by being co-parents and childcare providers, making possible for them to be a mother and have a career if they choose to do so.

Finally, my two-day Dollywood trip would culminate with the woman herself joining us on stage to perform for everyone, much like in this footage below from Glastonbury 2014:  

My vision couldn’t happen this year due to Covid travel restriction or the fact it’s a completely ludicrous and ridiculous idea. Well, we can dream can we?  😉 

When Dolly sees disparity or injustice, she puts her money, power and influence where her mouth is to effect real change.  

Rather than point at it, tweet about it or even just write a successful pop song about it, Dolly donates $1 millions of her own money to develop a vaccine and goes on TV and sings ‘Vaccine, Vaccine, Vaccine’ while being vaccinated.  

Whether you’re an anti-vaxxer or not or even a Dolly Parton fan or not, there’s no doubt about it, Dolly gets it done! 

Unlike Dolly, we don’t have anywhere near the cash, resources, connections or the musical abilities that Dolly has but we can take inspiration from the way she turns her ideas into actions and directly effects change within her own society and culture. This is the type of woman and feminist I’m aspiring to be.

Thanks to everyone in the department this week who helped by creating content, posting on social media and on the department blog, or for just being a general cheerleader from the side!  

-Kim Beveridge, Film & Television Lecturer

Footnote: Dollywood was voted one of the top ten theme parks in the world on trip advisor and is high on my bucket list! 

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