Bright sparks in women’s group

Girls allowed in new series of DIY tutorials

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An arts organisation that focuses on empowering women in some of the most deprived areas of the North West is launching a series of DIY tutorials online.

Power Tools consists of 14 videos made by women, with the aim of encouraging others to give basic home repairs and improvements a go.

“Women are given a short deal on their involvement with machinery. It’s kind of terrifying, but if you have the fundamental safety it’s a doddle,” said Diane Mills, an electrician who, in her video, demonstrates how to wire a plug. “Once you’ve been taught it’s easy but women don’t get taught.

“I was lucky my stepdad was quite progressive and he let me do whatever I wanted. He taught me how to fix engines when I was about 12.”

There are tutorials on how to change a light bulb and use a drill, as well as longer more in-depth guidance on jobs like putting up a shelf and bricklaying. In one, seven-year-old Arooj Butt and her mum Parveen show viewers how to paint a unicorn mural. Other presenters include playwright Natasha Gordon and her daughter, domestic violence campaigner Geraldine Wolstenholme, writer-artist Sheree Angela Matthews and Hattie Hasan, founder of Stopcocks, the all-female plumbing franchise. The soundtrack is by Manchester’s WAST Choir (Women Asylum Seekers Together).

“What we want to communicate above all else is that women can have a go,” said Idle Women’s Cis O’Boyle. “We don’t have to be professionals to put up a curtain rail and if we make a mess of it, there is always Polyfilla.”

Power Tools is part of Helen, a three-year programme of DIY-led art projects based in St Helens. In the videos presenters introduce themselves as Helen, reiterating that this is a project for everywoman.

“Survival skills”

Idle Women has hosted free sessions in St Helens, teaching skills participants have then applied to helping renovate the Idle Woman Institute – a centre set up in response to cuts to services and the loss of space for women.

Idle Women also has a narrow boat turned arts centre named after Lancashire suffragist Selina Cooper, and a medicinal herb garden in Nelson, Lancashire.

Mills, from Southport, became involved with the arts group around two years ago when they put a call out for skilled women to help them deliver Helen. As a female working in a male-dominated profession she saw it as another way of letting women know that trades are an option for them.

“I used to drive a little van with pink writing saying I was an electrician and there were a lot of girls around where I lived who loved it. The more women are seen to be doing things the more girls will take them on a possibility,” she said. “I’ve spoken in high schools and I have a female apprentice who works with me when she can – she’s got three kids so she’s not in very often. She’s only learning, I’m just teaching her some survival skills for making money.”

Power Tools launches on 24 July and will be available here.

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