Not All Princesses Wear Pink!

Not All Princesses Wear Pink!I have a very vivid memory of one of my first days in primary school. We were told to choose and colour in the picture that represented what we wanted to be when we grew up. These pictures were divided right down the middle into ‘boys’ and ‘girls’. Boys could choose to be Policemen, Doctors and Astronauts. Girls could choose to be Hairdressers, Nurses and Shopkeepers. I remember studying these pictures for ages, desperately wanting to choose astronaut (it looked exciting) but knowing I wasn’t allowed because it was in the ‘boys’ box. I know that in the end I chose a ‘girls’ role because I didn’t want to get told off, but I can’t remember what I chose, only that I couldn’t choose what I wanted.

IMG_1767To coincide with The Real Princesses of Yorkshire exhibition at Heart in Headingley, Leeds, I organised a songs and stories workshop for families. Continuing one of the themes of this project, to challenge gender binaries and stereotypes, I wanted to create a safe, playful space where parents and children could enjoy stories and songs that encourage them to have fun without the judgements we (often unwittingly) impose around gender and who is ‘allowed’ to do what. Although Princess themed, we made it clear that this was an activity that welcomed everyone, and alongside introducing families to some ‘alternative’ bad-ass, girl princesses, would also welcome and celebrate princess boys.

IMG_1654Hooray for the enormous talents and passion of Rachel McMahon, Pariss Elektra and Lizzie Wharton. Rachel has a fantastic resource of diverse books – a tool for reflecting real world, real people in stories and a non-threatening way to represent, discuss and ‘normalise’ people, subjects and themes that are often excluded from mainstream culture and education. We laughed and loved hearing stories of strong princess girls and boys who didn’t need rescuing, and the spoon who ran away with the spoon! Having Lizzie there to provide British Sign Language Support meant a young deaf boy who joined us was able to feel fully included. And Pariss brought joy and positivity through  music, even gaining  a little shadow in one young girl who stuck by her side and mimicked every movement.

IMG_1698Of the 13 children that came along, 6 of them were boys. This warms my heart – to see parents and children engaging with a theme that is commonly loaded with ‘girlyness’ and negative associations around weakness, but turning it on its head into something, strong, positive and truly playful. I would love to see more of this in formal and informal learning, but what an uphill battle (progress is never linear, right?).

Pariss set the tone when she asked the children at the start ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ By the end of the session the answer came down to one, simple but powerful word – HAPPY.

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There is a wealth of resources out there for parents, carers and educators. Here are just a handful of examples:

Let Toys Be Toys
Pop n’ Olly
A Mighty Girl
No Time for Flash Cards
Pink Stinks
We Are Family

My thanks to Leeds Inspired and ACE Grants for the Arts for funding this project.


We’re Back and Serving IWD Realness!

Main Flyer 1 websized
A selection of The Real Princesses of Yorkshire photographs will be exhibited in the Assembly Bar and Kitchen at HEART in Headingley from Feb 17th to March 29th 2018. If you’ve not been to Heart before, it’s a great community venue with a variety of art and activities on offer. The cafe is open Monday–Saturdays 8am–9pm, with food served until 7.45pm. The food (especially the cake) is great!

FREE FAMILY FUN – Saturday 3rd March 10:30am

And we have family-fun planned to celebrate International Women’s Day on Saturday 3rd March. Not All Princesses Wear Pink! is a fun, gender-positive story and song workshop, free for families. Are all princesses pink and ‘girly’? NO! Are princesses sometimes boys? YES! We’ll be laughing and singing with expert storyteller Rachel McMahon and musician Pariss Elektra, with British Sign Language support from Lizzie Wharton. Children (and parents!) of all ages and genders are welcome to join us for this free workshop, but advance booking is advised.



Nailed it

Photo by Jon Eland

In September 2017 the first (but not last) exhibition of The Real Princess of Yorkshire took place in the gorgeous surrounds of Arts at Trinity, in Leeds. Over the 11 day exhibition we had 694 people through the door! The launch party was bonkers in the best way, with around 150 punters and 12 princesses sashaying and lip-syncing. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with the word ’empowering’ cropping up a lot, which felt very rewarding. Here’s some feedback!

“The Real Princess project is BRILLIANT! The photos – this exhibition – wow. And the show tonight. I haven’t laughed so much in a long time. Go princesses! Go!”

“Marvellous and inspiring. Calmness and humour in the middle of Leeds.”

“Fab celebration of wonderful women! Loved the captions as well as the beautiful photos!”

“This feels so empowering, seeing real women so well represented.”

“Nailed it.”

From 19th February to 30th March 2018, some of the photos will be making another appearance in Leeds, this time in the Assembly Bar at Heart in Headingley. This ties in nicely with International Women’s Day on 8th March, so watch this space.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all 32 Princesses once again for taking part in this project, as well as all the venues and other supporters who helped make it happen. Hope you all have a fantastic 2018!

All event photos by Jon Eland.

Wendy performs Michael Jackson’s ‘Dirty Diana’ as Princess Diana…
Emma and Elizabeth perform the White Christmas classic ‘Sisters’.
Me – Patsy Gallant’s ‘From New York To LA’ in which I pay tribute to Sasha Velour, decapitate Action Man and almost do the splits.
Maria Millionaire also paid homage to Sasha Velour by lip-synching Whitney’s ‘I Get So Emotional.’ Plus she flies…
We were all singing along with ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ and Sue entertained with fabulous face
Mrs No Overall brought the house down
Jenny sang a unique version of ‘Let It Go’ that celebrates growing older disgracefully







Bloomin’ Buds

So here are some ace young women making stuff happen – for themselves and for others.  Katie and Molly got in touch to say they’d taken some photos inspired by the Real Princess project. They run Bloomin’ Buds, a theatre company with a focus on creating opportunities for young people from working class backgrounds. They and I share the same passion for increasing access and representation of working class people (as well as other under-represented people) in the arts. They rock!

“We are two women from West Yorkshire, from estates, and the first in our family to go to university and study theatre. We want to improve confidence, self esteem and mental health and well being of working class young people with the power of drama. 

The biggest barrier we face is that we’re two young women and some people don’t realise what we are capable of. We will keep on fighting for working class rights.”


Photos by Molly Rumford ad Katie Mahon
The Photos · Uncategorized

Princess Wielding an Axe

Maria Spadafora (14)
Princess: Pariss Elektra
Location: The Old Red Bus Station, Leeds

Women – by Pariss 

A woman is always told to be bright, to shine a smile so the world can see her beauty for those that desire.

A woman is always told to be delicate, like fine China, until she falls and realises she doesn’t break, she bounces back quicker than her opposite.

A woman is strong, always centred within the eye of the hurricane.

A woman is wild, always ready to wield her axe to protect her kin, from birth.

A woman is the depth of darkness, the black hole that draws in the stars and, from that, births entire universes.

A woman is beauty in motion she cannot be kept still, do not try to keep her.

She is nature personified.


The Photos · Uncategorized

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Waist

Maria Spadafora (13)
Princesses: Lorraine Brown, Anna Gray and Charlotte Jones
Location: Mind The Gap, Lister Mills, Bradford

Lorraine: “I am very good at most stuff. I like playing in a band and love dancing. I’m very talented at different arts things.” 

Anna: “I love the costumes, definitely. First I love Cinderella, because I’ve played Cinderella here at Mind the Gap. But my ultimate favourite, is Elsa from Frozen. I love the costume, I love the make-up, the finale dress on the steps and the song”.

Charlotte: “I quite like dressing up as a princess, I also like the encouragement of being part of it (this project) – empowering women to be strong together, not necessarily as princesses, but as women. Love yourself and be yourself. Because we are women and we are in it all together, it doesn’t matter who you are. You don’t need to change yourself, it’s about loving yourself and accepting who you are in yourself”.




The Photos · Uncategorized

Some Queens Are Wickedly Gorgeous

Maria Spadafora (3)

Princess: Maria Millionaire (Martin Carter)
Location: The Corn Exchange, Leeds

Martin: “As a drag queen I’m aware of always doing things ‘dressed as a girl’ which aren’t derogatory or insulting to women.  I want to celebrate womanhood. I’m not sure the ideal archetype of a princess does that. It often presents women in the way of needing saving, needing a man or that the only worthwhile pursuit is singing to birds and collecting fruit.”