International Women's Day


As many have mentioned, after the positive intentions of International Women’s Day on Monday, matters seemed to go quickly downhill, culminating in the controversial police response to a vigil commemorating Sarah Everard on the Friday night. It’s great that major public posts such as Met Commissioner and Home Secretary are now filled by women, but there was not much encouragement to be had from their actions this week.


I found myself increasingly turning to BBC Radio 3’s IWD-inspired week of women composers for consolation, with its always thoughtful and supportive tone towards admirable musicians who haven’t up to now been given the respect they deserve. And realising that sometimes it has been me myself not according that respect in the first place.


For example, I was delighted to learn about the music of Ruth Gipps (1921-1999). Whilst also being rather surprised, because I had encountered her a few times in my teens and twenties, when playing in amateur orchestras she was conducting in furthest North London. She seemed totally competent at this – I can’t remember what we played – but I had no idea, until last week, about her work as a composer. Thanks as ever to Composer of the Week, that wonderful and august BBC Radio institution, I enjoyed an hour or two of satisfying listening to her strong, convincing music – spending International Women’s Day as it should be spent.


Pictured – returning from a Saturday walk in St James’ Park, I crossed Parliament Square. Moments away from Winston Churchill’s statue, inconceivably being guarded by five police officers, I was extra happy to encounter Mrs Pankhurst (unattended) in Victoria Tower Gardens.

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JUDITH WEIR

Composer