To celebrate International Women’s Day, Apples and Snakes hosted an event with Older Women Rock.

‘On Our Own Terms’ was an in-person workshop of poetry-writing and portrait photography for women in our 60s and 70s, with spoken word poet Leah Thorn and photographer Anita McKenzie.

About the Workshop

Older Women Rock! creates pop-up art spaces in which to raise awareness and explore issues facing women in our 60s and 70s. The project challenges our invisibility by placing us centre stage on our own terms; unites us across differences of class, race and sexual identity; strengthens our resilience and our networks as we age; and challenges society’s assumptions and prejudices about us.

Through discussion and the creation of individual and group poems we explored issues like:

  • the lack of older women in the media and the misrepresentation of us as a stereotype or joke
  • the huge profits made from ‘anti-ageing’ products
  • poverty and the fact that many women have small State pensions because of low-paid work and/or breaks in employment to raise children or to care for ageing parents

In collaboration with older women textile artists, poetry and messages have been embroidered, burned, printed, beaded, engraved and spray-painted onto charity-sourced clothing.

What was created on the day

Through a combination of writing sessions, textile creation and a photoshoot – pieces were blended together to create imagery and poetry that reflected the voices of the participants – Jamila, Loan, Mary and Mia.

Image credit: Anita J McKenzie | Healing Image Photography and Leah Thorn

‘Up, up, up’, said the bird.

‘Fly away, fly
through the leaves
towards the clouds and sky,
up above and beyond

– Loan Tran

Freed from fears,
freed from fitting in
and staying silent,
I claim voice, truth.
Connected in the
web of life,
I dare to go beyond,
stand, clear
and strong

– Jamila Signora

I remember red,
red walking shoes
from Clarks,
red lipstick to boot
and red hair, vibrant,
powerful, enlightening.
When I feel my spirits
ebb away, I rock my red
Red Rules.
And hope
springs eternal

– Mia Morris

so I shouted
I liked the sound of it
I stepped into the limelight
I liked the feel of it
they saw my gnarled hands
so I waved to them
put two fingers up to the doubters

– Mary Dickens

The Group Poem:

Ages of a woman
4 tasted of honey, fresh from the comb
4 was knowing the primroses belonged where they grew
4 was the wash of the ocean, taking me home
Birthing my daughter at 17 was emerald delight
30 was a ripe juicy peach
30 was standing on a mountain, looking out to blue sky and green hills
54 was threads of grief wrapping themselves around my being,
like a silk sari across the body
54 was swathes caressing my skin
63 is daylight. The sun has risen
63 is a truly inspiring, spellbinding, life-affirming voyage to the unknown
74 is a cliff edge, the sea rolling in the distance
74 is the gesture of two fingers up to the doubters
74 is a waiting room, waiting for the last train

A group poem by Anita, Jamila, Loan, Mary and Mia.

About the facilitators

Leah Thorn

With warmth and passion, Leah uses spoken word poetry, autobiography and film to expose and challenge harsh realities of climate crisis, genocide, sexism and racism.

In collaboration with filmmakers and musicians, she has made award-winning poetry films that have been screened at feminist, eco, Jewish and poetry film festivals internationally.

As a facilitator, Leah has extensive experience of leading poetry and expressive writing workshops nationally in arts venues, mental health facilities, women’s groups, community settings, schools and prisons. Her facilitation style is rooted in her writing and performance practice, a background in psychology and 49 years of using and teaching peer-counselling.

Leah has an MA in ‘Creative Writing & Personal Development’ from Sussex University and is an International Fellow of the ImpACT research group, University of East Anglia School of Health Sciences.


Anita McKenzie

Anita McKenzie’s professional and life passions evolve around family, food, faith and photography. She is an award-winning arts and heritage practitioner, and works with visual arts, across intersectionality, to amplify unheard voices through creative projects and collaborations.

Anita is an Interfaith Minister, Spiritual Counsellor and plant-based culinary practitioner; her integrated approach to community building, personal growth, self-care and wellbeing, transcends the Western normality of fragmented mindsets to delve deeply into the undergrowth of our lived reality and personal consciousness.

Instagram: @sistahintheraw @anitascreative