School of History, Classics & Archaeology

IWD: Women film-makers and histories of women's activism

To mark International Women’s Day 2023, the School of History, Classics and Archaeology and Gender Equalities at Work are delighted to co-host an event highlighting women film-makers and histories of women’s activism. The films shown will be: Hansa (2015), directed by Kajal Patel about Hansa Patel who was involved in the Mansfield Hosiery strike in the 1970s, and Nothing to Lose (1976), directed by Sarah Boston about a key women-led strike in 1910. Both directors will be in attendance and speaking at the event.

Please register (free) at the Eventbrite link.

Kajal Patel and Sarah Boston

Kajal Nisha Patel - 'Four Women Five Stories'

Kajal Patel

With her interests intersecting art, race, yoga and social practice, Kajal works with visual media. alongside the practice of yoga-asana within personal and participatory contexts. Shifting between representation and abstraction, a patchwork of archival memory is represented through personal ephemera and industrial materials. Spanning communities between the UK and India, much of Kajal’s practice focuses on the intersectional lives of South Asian women, their processes of emancipation/transformation while considering the politics of power.

In 2008 she founded 'Lightseekers', a collaborative social practice which uses art and social practice to encourage community action, care and listening. Kajal encourages the use of ayurvedic processes within social and participatory contexts. She holds a Masters in Social Practice, with distinction and a special award, for her thesis on yoga in museums and galleries.. Kajal is the recipient of numerous grants, international awards and residencies. In 2016 she was awarded the prestigious Leverhulme Artist Residency within the department of Sociology, Media and Communication at the University of Leicester. Following an artist residency in Wilson, North Carolina, USA, her project ‘White Mirror’, was published in ‘The Image of Whiteness’ an artist anthology edited by Daniel Campbell Blight for SPBH Editions. Kajal has exhibited in venues across the UK and internationally, including the 2017 Venice Biennale, as part of the Tunisia Pavillion.

She currently works as Research Associate at the Department of Clinical Psychology, at the University of Leicester.

 ‘ ...the past, the peasant past, the tribal past and the colonial past each with its own particular prescriptions for the woman’s role, constantly intruding on the present’ - Wilson, A. (1978) Finding a Voice: Asian Women in Britain.

'Four Women Five Stories' is a collection of experiences, narrated by four garment workers, whose working lives were connected through Mansfield Hosiery Mills in Loughborough, Leicestershire. The films emerged following a commission from the University of Loughborough’s Department of Politics, History and International Relations. The artist’s interest led her towards the industrial strike at Mansfield Hosiery Mills in November-December 1972, involving fifty South Asian female workers. These films reflect common experiences faced by South Asian women, their processes of emancipation and transformation while considering the politics of power. The stories subtly reveal some of the complexities which occur for those living between the intersection of race, class, caste and gender. The project’s title is an ode to Nina Simone’s description of African-American female archetypes in her song ‘Four Women’. The fifth film occupies a symbolic space for those women who are deliberately silenced.

Find out more about the work of Kajal Patel -

Sarah Boston – 'Nothing to Lose'

Sarah Boston

'Nothing to Lose' is a 1977 film depicting women who participated in the groundbreaking 1910 strike involving female workers in the chain-making industry In Cradley Heath. The strike was as a result of employers refusing to pay the increased minimum wage announced by the Chain Trade Board to women working in the industry. Directed by Sarah Boston, the film features oral history interviews with some of the women involved.

Sarah Boston is a  documentary director who has made films for the BBC, Channel 4, ITV and for non broadcast use by charities and educational institutions. Her documentaries have covered a wide range of subjects including 'Nothing To Lose – The Strike of Women Chainmakers Cradley Heath 1910',  BBC; a study of racism in football 'Great Britain United' C4; the work of BBC foreign correspondent John Simpson 'Behind The Reporting Line'  BBC;  the life and work of Joris Ivens 'Too Much Reality' BBC, and 'The Grapes of Wrath Revisited' C4 which retraced the journey of Steinbecks’s novel fifty years after its publication.  Her recent films include the award winning feature length, independent documentary 'Cruel Separation' about the lives of four women whose husbands all died in Pinochet’s military coup. Sarah is also an author and her works include 'Women Workers and The Trades Unions' (Lawrence & Wishart 2015 3rd edition) and the award winning 'Will,My Son' (Pluto Press 1981) .

Listen to a podcast with Sarah Boston -

Mar 08 2023 -

IWD: Women film-makers and histories of women's activism

The School's 2023 International Women's Day events will be on 'Women film-makers and histories of women's activism'.

Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh, 74 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh EH3 9DF