In partnership with the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival and NHS Lothian, new magazine She is Fierce held the most spectacular launch night in Edinburgh Castle’s Great Hall on Thursday 20 October. The theme of the evening was Wonderland – also the theme of the launch issue, which is currently with the printers – and, fittingly, a white rabbit holding an oversized pocket watch was outside the entrance to greet us all as we arrived.

With suits of armour, lavish paintings, and rich furnishings, the surroundings were certainly magnificent, but the real excitement was all to do with the people. There was an incredible mood of enthusiasm and anticipation.

We were welcomed by an incredible squad of girls from Simon Says Dance, a company that teaches dance to 450 dancers across Edinburgh and the Lothians each week, to get the evening underway.

This is the third year that SMHAFF has been welcomed into the castle and its Governor, Major General M L Riddell-Webster, welcomed everyone and spoke briefly about how important mental health and wellbeing are to the armed forces.

Next up was Hannah Taylor, proud founder of She is Fierce, which she described “a magazine collective for girls, by girls”. She spoke with anger and frustration about the mainstream media and the messages that it sends to young women. She urged us all to think about whether or not this was what we really want to teach our girls.

Herself a mother of a 10-year-old girl, Hannah discussed the way that her daughter always feels good about expressing herself however she wants to, and she doesn’t want her to lose this. Hannah herself used to be bolshy like her wee girl, but, at some point along the way, she lost that bolshiness in trying to assimilate with everyone else, for example, in pretending to like Backstreet Boys, rather than old-school hip hop. This assimilation is only encouraged by the media and, as Hannah says, the bottom line is that “the media are not doing a good enough job when it comes to our girls”.

Hannah’s Kickstarter campaign for the magazine was fully funded within just three weeks. Organisations such as TEDx and the NHS have lent their support to She is Fierce and the limited edition zine, Minus One, which came out in earlier in the year was extremely well received. Hannah acknowledges that “finding your tribe is not always easy” and that She is Fierce is all about letting girls create their own media.

MC for the evening was Emily Millichip, an Edinburgh-based independent fashion designer. As well as doing a fabulous job of introducing everybody, she spoke very eloquently about how the media currently specialises in the “commercialisation of insecurity”. However, Emily also drew attention to the opportunities that the internet affords for people to put power in their own hands and deconstruct some of the old hierarchies. Emily shared an important lesson that she has learned, that you are at your absolute strongest when you’re being who you are.

The next treat was a selection of songs from Amy Louise Rogers, a young singer-songwriter from Fife. She shared a “couple of happy songs” with us, including a brilliant mash up of Tom Jones’ She’s a Lady and Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun that she’d put together especially for the evening.

Natalya and Fiona from Pyrus were next to speak and they are delighted to be featured in the first issue of She is Fierce. They are botanical stylists and flower growers and spoke about the path they had taken from art college, to meeting each other when working in a flower shop, to setting up on their own. Natalya and Fiona both became disillusioned with the floral industry and, in particular, the exploitation of poorer countries where flowers were grown and the mass-produced nature of so much of what was deemed beautiful.

Pyrus is now five years old and they’ve just expanded, taking on a three acre walled garden, a move that Fiona explained essentially takes them from gardening to farming. There are lots of arms to the business, from weddings and events, to set-design and installation pieces. The overwhelming – and inspirational – message the girls shared was that you never have to be pigeon-holed, you can always forge your own path.

The multitalented Rebecca Monks spoke next, a playwright, writer, journalist and spoken word performer. She shared a short spoken piece from her Edinburgh Fringe show Tyke, which tells the story of an elephant who – after 20 years of abuse – killed her trainer on stage. Rebecca spoke a little about the process of putting the play on and she shared some really important points about creativity with the audience, in particular some reasons why you should spend time writing:

1. It’s rewarding.
2. It’s important to share stories.
3. It’s an excellent way to express yourself, and a way to help with mental health.
4. Because girls who write are fierce.

We were treated to more dancing next, performed by the Mini Jackers from Ashley Jack’s dance company Jackin’ The Box, before talented young poet Aischa Daughtery performed the poem she wrote for the magazine, ‘Pretty girls don’t cry’. It was a beautifully dark poem about identity and self-esteem and it is well worth getting hold of a copy of She is Fierce to read it.

Ailsa Stratton, teacher and director of Thrive Wellbeing addressed the crowd next, speaking about purpose and how to work out who you want to be. A few years ago, she started to become concerned about what was happening to our young women and about the ways in which schools were not helping young people to flourish. This led her to start her business Thrive Wellbeing and explore the Japanese idea of Ikigai: the concept that where your passion, mission, vocation and profession meet is your purpose. I loved what she said in closing, that you will be happier and healthier if you find your passion and do what motivates you.

Edinburgh Dance Academy rounded off the evening with some fabulously choreographed routines, before the final speaker of the night, Linda Irvine from NHS Lothian, beautifully summed what we had seen. She stressed how important it is that we all look after ourselves and each other. Her final message to the assembled crowd was: “Keep your hair messy and your heart curious!”

by Rachel Alexander


Click here to order a copy of She is Fierce – The Wonderland Issue.