Influential Croydon women feature in exhibition

*This article was originally featured on EastLondonLines.co.uk

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Offering a unique glimpse into the lives of some of Croydon’s most empowering women, Ladies First – which features photographs of a range of women living in the borough – opened in the town centre yesterday (March 8) on International Women’s Day.

Photographer Jackie King said the women she featured – who range from community activists to Olympians – really inspired her. She told Eastlondonlines: “All of their stories were incredible. After things I’ve previously done for International Women’s Day, the fact that this is happening again is amazing.”

Pictures of Olympian Donna Fraser and one of the boroughs first female firefighters, sit those of alongside Lara Richardson and the Deputy Mayor of London for transport, Val Shawcross (CBE).

Local resident Leona Hunte, 42, moved to Croydon with her daughter after a divorce, and got involved with community groups after seeing the exhibition organisers painting outside the library. Since then, she’s been involved with many projects, including Ladies First, and has a photograph of herself featured at the exhibition.

She told Eastlondonlines: “It’s important women are seen as significant individuals. Women are as much in union with man in helping the world go round, so it’s important we are seen as big contributors.”

At the opening of the exhibition, a welcome speech was given by deputy councillor, Alison Butler. She spoke of empowering women throughout history who fought for women’s rights, and ended with: “No matter where you are in life, inspire and empower the women around you.”

King, who is based in Croydon, has won awards and has had her work exhibited all over the world. She rose through the ranks of the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP) and sat on the board of directors whilst studying for her MA- the first female and youngest photographer to hold this position- whilst also running her own photography business.

In celebration of a previous International Women’s Day, King photographed 100 women in science and technology for Imperial College, London, which was also exhibited at City Hall.

Some of her main inspirations are the women she met whilst working on the exhibition.

She told Eastlondonlines: “I was most inspired by the women we photographed- all of their stories were incredible. I think this is important because it inspires younger generations- they get to see what’s achievable.”

“It’s important for men and women to celebrate International Women’s Day – it’s not men bashing, it’s just celebrating women’s achievements.”

The exhibition’s images will also be broadcast on a big screen at Boxpark Croydon, which is working alongside groups in the local community to help celebrate the achievements of women both internationally and close to home.

Throughout the week, they’ll be showcasing a selection of events aimed at inspiring the women of Croydon, including Badass Women’s Hour x Girls Talk and panel conversations with women from the music industry.

Alongside this unique glimpse into the lives of some of Croydon’s most empowering women is another pin-up exhibition run entirely by the public. People are invited to bring and display a photograph of the most important and influential women in their lives.

The Ladies First exhibition runs from March 8 to March 15 at Bernard Weatherill House in Croydon.

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