Heart-shaped paper ‘love tokens’ doodled with enlightening quotes, led guests up the speckled staircase of the South-East London community centre into the large room where the first ever ‘Lunar Ladies’ Night‘ event was being held.
On the night of Valentine’s Day, a group of talented strangers supported each other through social activities and performances, all with the same philosophy in mind; female empowerment.
Around 15 young women (all in their twenties) gathered in a large room decorated with heavy fuchsia curtains on an evening consisting of monologues, spoken word, networking and quizzes.
Performers later came forward with well-prepared spoken-word pieces, but it was also encouraged that whoever wanted to share something could spontaneously read aloud from one of the monologues provided by Lunar.
It can feel quite daunting to exist in a room filled with a circle of confident young women, but each individual was welcomed with open arms and reassured by Sophie. Her gentle Yorkshire accent and effortlessly empowering nature has the ability to put anyone’s social anxiety as ease.
[pullquote align=”right”]“It felt like I was coming up for air after holding my breath for a long time. I could fully let my guard down and be who I am”
Ioana Goga [/pullquote]Around the performance space, the all-female audience gathered in a semi-circle and individuals clicked their fingers when areas of a performance particularly resonated with them.
Ioana Goga, 24, a freelance creative from Romania was the first act to take to the stage, having written a series love poems prior to the event. One poem which expressed how romantic love can transcend into unconditional, love stood out as receiving the most audience clicks. Even when conveying heartache, Ioana manages to radiate love with her well-performed, honest poetry.
“It felt like I was coming up for air after holding my breath for a long time. I could fully let my guard down and be who I am, no prickliness, no need to be defensive or vigilant.” she said taking her mind back to her moment on stage.She emphasised the importance of having spaces exclusively for those identifying as female to express themselves, adding, “’Lunar Ladies’ Night’ was the safest and most supported I’ve ever felt at a networking event.”
Attending the Lunar event with “no expectations”, Tiffany Hale, a 22-year-old International Relations student from south-east London, felt the whole experience was uplifting, wholesome and inclusive.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen but it was an array of talent and was lovely to be around successful women, who were ambitious and people who have your back.”
She came out of the three-hour event on a high after thanking Sophie and Lunar’s co-founders Naomi Emmanuel and Joyce Omotola for their huge effort.
“Being part of something that supports women at a time we already experience enough backlash and challenges thrown in our way, feels incredibly special,” said Tiffany.
Lunar Entertainment was founded last year after Sophie wrote their first play Omish. However, it was only this Valentine’s (or as some social media fanatics may call it: #Galentine’s) that they decided to hold their first official event.
[pullquote align=”right”]“Stop doubting yourself because fear will literally kill all of your dreams.”
Sophie Soanes[/pullquote] Galentine’s Day was invented in 2010, initially encouraging women (or ‘gals’) to celebrate their female friendships on February 13th. However, social media platforms have seen the increasingly popular hashtag #Galentines trending on Valentine’s Day itself, as a way for single women to celebrate the occasion with their girlfriends, instead of sitting at home alone.
“Our focus is on women. Lunar began because we wanted to create a safe place for women who are in the creative industry to visit and meet likeminded people,” explained Sophie.
Regrettably, she personally experienced sexism at a creative job when her boss suggested that she clean his table as through his eyes, her appearance matched that job expectation. As well as that, she has noticeably witnessed inappropriate comments being “passed around the table” at numerous jobs.
Luckily, her infectious positive attitude meant she was able turn these negative experiences into a positive by supporting other women through her own platform.
Inspired by the #MeToo movement that virally exposed the prevalence of sexual harassment against women in the workplace, Sophie felt motivated to put her creative talents into practise, in her attempt to make a real difference in tackling gender inequality.
Despite recognising the scale of sexual abuse targeted at women, Sophie admits that she is “so glad” that the #MeToo movement happened. “Now the younger girls going into the industry might feel that they have a bit more of a voice because they could look up to these women that have paved the way for them to not be afraid,” she said hopefully.
Since her early teens, Sophie immersed herself into the world of creative arts, securing a place at the only free performing arts school in England (The BRIT School) at 16.
ITV also took her on as an apprentice after she graduated and she gained skills that allowed her to be a “well-rounded creative” and work on national television shows including The Voice UK. ITV offered to let her stay on but she “took a risk” and turned it down to dedicate all of her time to focus on her venture of growing her own all-female theatre company Lunar.
“It was an amazing job [at ITV] and I had all of these incredible opportunities but six months into it, I knew my heart weren’t completely in it so I took a decision to give that up,” she told me.
It was “tough” when she took a loss to her salary at ITV and spent months in limbo whilst working at supermarkets around London. But after a few months of hardship, she came to realise the projects that she really wanted to do and believes that it worked out for the best.
“It has changed my life, there is nothing more liberating than every acting job you do is a story you really care about or relate to.”
Sophie believes the Lunar #Galentines event highlighted a true representation of what they stand for as a theatre company and was a reminder of why she chose to lead her own path as a full-time creative.
“We really felt the love and there was a really female, empowering atmosphere which exceeded our expectations,” she said bursting with pride.
It might seem hard to believe but Sophie hates the term ‘networking’, she believes Lunar is about “taking the pain out of networking. If you get a group of creatives in a room together, people will genuinely be interested and before you know it, you’ll be collaborating over coffee,” she said optimistically.
Undoubtedly, Sophie’s natural creative flare has paid off along her journey in striving for success in the performing arts industry so far. However, this did not come without extremely hard work, dedication and a lot of rejection.“I do try and word super hard. But like they say, if you do a job that you love, you will never work a day in your life.” It goes without question that an entrepreneur like Sophie is likely to inspire younger generations to take a similar attitude with their approach to excel in the arts.
“Stop doubting yourself because fear will literally kill all of your dreams. One thing I wish I did earlier was make my own work.”
Sophie eventually found the courage to produce her own play in her early twenties, but urges other girls to start younger if it is only fear that is holding them back.
“Auditioning is a very gruelling, soul destroying thing to have to deal with, but if you can withstand all of that process then I command you.” Ultimately, she feels that you will always do well if you work hard and believe in yourself.
Although Lunar decided to do put on their first event on Valentine’s Day, Sophie is a true believer in women sharing the love and supporting each other every day:
“When you find people on your wavelength, everything is so much easier. Having the same ambition and a similar vision in sync produces excellent art work.”
Featured image by Sophie Soanes