Ellen Malos discusses organising the Bristol WLM conference



Ellen Malos talks about her experience of organising the Women's Liberation Movement conference in 1973. She comments on the difficulty of representing everyone's interests and including all the voices that wanted to be heard.

Have you ever organised an event? How do you ensure you represent the views of everyone who wants to be involved?



I was also involved in organising the national conference in Bristol and that was a real stress because it was, [sighs] it was enormous, and because of dissatisfactions with other conferences where people had felt they hadn’t been able to get what they wanted, we invited people to just send us suggestions for what we should provide, and what we should provide space for, and, oh, my God! did we get them. And we, you know, and you couldn’t tell, a piece of paper comes and it’s not necessarily, it’s got someone’s name on the bottom, but it’s not necessarily ‘the’ Hemel Hempstead Women’s Liberation Group, it might be just ‘a’ woman. And you think, God! Well you know, and if it was a bit far out would there be enough call to make a room available? So we went through lots and lots and lots of agonisings about what we did provide for. And we had it in the Students’ Union which had lots of rooms, so that was the only place in Bristol we could hold it really. And then, the problem with that was that, members of the union could not be excluded from the building, so what do you do about the no men thing and how do you stop blokes wandering into your room? By and large we had the first floor entirely, so the porters were stationed at the bottom of the stairs to stop the students coming up, because we’d booked the whole thing. We were allowed to use the swimming pool, I was dragged out to the swimming pool because some woman was swimming in her underwear and the pool attendants very strongly objected to that, so that had to be sorted out. I mean just so many hassles, the whole weekend.

Which year was this, which month?

Oh. 1973 I think. Kind of some kind of row going on about Wages for Housework and, something else, and a very very very fractious kind of general meeting, and, you know, trying to keep the peace and stop things bubbling. Oh yeah, the social. Women took their clothes off in the social, in the dance at night, and if the porters had seen that, that would have been the end. I mean we had to try and prevent the naked women from dancing out into the open, because the, you know, the university union has this huge open area in the middle, and so we had to kind of try and confine them to the actual place and not come out with no clothes on. I can’t remember what positively was discussed. I just remember doing all this kind of containment stuff the whole weekend. I don’t know whether that was a high or a low really, you know, it was certainly an extreme of some kind.

Ellen Malos discusses organising the Bristol WLM conference
24 - 26 October 2010
Sound recording
Sisterhood and After: The Women's Liberation Oral History Project
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