Your festival is unique in that all you do is centred around three core values – mental wellbeing, accessibility and sustainability. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Hetty: Our values came about very early on. We took a lot of time identifying what we cared about the most and what was fundamental to the running festival. We all naturally prioritised the same top three – accessibility, sustainability and mental wellbeing. They factor into every single thing we do – whether it’s how we run the festival site or sell tickets, they’re always considered.
Gilly: These three are really close to our heart. The outdoors is amazing for alleviating and soothing a whole host of maladies around mental wellbeing, and we want to provide a safe space for this. We want to acknowledge everyone has a right to take up space, so we try to make the event as friendly as possible. Some folks prefer a more female-focused environment as their entry point to climbing, and we provide this space.
Hetty: In a similar way we want to make the event as accessible as possible – this takes form in lots of different ways. From running workshops to help leaders teach disabled climbers, to making sure everyone has an equal chance of getting a place at the festival by moving to a ballot ticket system – we’re constantly trying to think of how we can bring our values to the forefront of what we are doing.
We’re sure you’ve been asked this many times before… why do we need a trad climbing festival for women? And can men join?
Ellie: With instant sell-out rates and huge oversubscription, the message from the community couldn’t be clearer: this kind of space for women in trad climbing is absolutely needed.
There are many reasons why. Among them, rock climbing and trad climbing, in particular, has traditionally been a very male-dominated world. Some folk prefer to learn in a more female-focused environment with majority female instructors, as for them, it provides a space that they feel more comfortable in.
Another reason is role-modelling. Many women don’t have a community of role models and mentors to be inspired by. So at the festival, being around other women can be (sometimes surprisingly!) powerful. Seeing someone you identify with being strong, confident and trying hard, can be an incredibly empowering experience, opening up possibilities: ‘Oh maybe I could do that/be that too..?’ Of course this applies to all gender as well as all other aspects of identity which one reason why diversity is so important!
Also, in the UK only 10% of instructors are women. Our brilliant instructors show other women that it can be a career option for them, so that hopefully in the future there can be a greater diversity of instructors and role-models to empower new climbers of all genders.
In terms of men, we have about 10% male instructors to invert the typical ratios at a trad crag. We’ve written more about why men attend here. We are also passionate about inclusivity and diversity, and that extends to including men. The feedback has been extremely positive from all genders that there is absolutely a place for this type of event in the climbing world. In the bigger picture, we believe that working towards equity in the climbing world and beyond must necessarily involve everyone.
Charlie: All genders are very welcome to attend, and we have had really positive feedback from men who have attended. They felt they had a real insight into a female-dominated environment and got to experience how it feels to be in a gender minority. The male instructors often said they felt it improved their practice and they felt more able to empower the women and girls they taught.