To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, we’ve put together a mini-festival of performances by women. We had a chat with Associate Artist Libby Liburd whose new work-in-progress show Fighter is a part of this celebration.
Hey Libby – good to have you back! What’s the idea behind Fighter?
It’s great to be back! I love Stratford Circus and the vibe here - everyone’s so friendly, it’s like my second home!
Right, enough of the love fest, on to Fighter: I came up with the idea a while ago. It was kind of based on the idea that I reckon most people can name several male boxers without even thinking but I’m not sure anyone can name any female boxers. I mean, without googling, how many can you name? Maybe one? And yet women have been boxing for years, with many women really battling - literally and figuratively - to be recognised in a male dominated sport.
Last time you were here with Muvvahood. Why is it important for you to make work inspired by issues affecting women?
I think for me it’s always to do with representation. I’m passionate about theatre, I love going to the theatre and I see an eclectic mix of work. But the theatre industry has, in the past, been guilty of telling the same stories about the same people again and again and being incredibly male dominated. I think it’s getting better but still women’s stories are often seen as being ‘niche’. I think we should challenge that.
I wrote Muvvahood because I’d never seen a decent, authentic representation of a single mother on stage. The problem is, when you continually see negative representations of yourself, whether in theatre or media generally, you start to feel negatively about yourself. The flip side of that is that when you do see a piece of theatre that reflects your own life, that resonates with you, that uplifts you, it can give you a real sense of being less alone. And of course, theatre can educate, so even if you’re not in that situation, you can learn about someone else’s story.
I’ve got a fab director, Julie Addy and we have exactly the same passion for telling these often unheard stories. We focus on women’s stories yes, but they’re often universal, exploring resilience and the strength of the human spirit so I think everyone can relate to that.
How did you get into boxing and what do you get out of it?
I think I started boxing about 10 years ago, and I ended up having a few fights at white collar level. I wanted to try something new and I found a fabulous female boxing coach who ran classes at a gym in Canning Town. From there, I trained at a few different gyms and fought on some white collar nights organised by a female boxing promoter.
I just fell in love with boxing. I was never an expert at it, but boxing is incredible on so many levels. It improves your confidence, your fitness, your appreciation of the strength of your own body. You learn skills and techniques that serve you in the gym and real life. I was incredibly lucky that I had some great female role models around me that encouraged me and I made friends for life with the handful of other women that boxed alongside me. I don’t box any more, I do a bit of training to keep my hand in but I miss it so much. I would recommend boxing to anyone who feels like they want a challenge. You won’t regret it!
This year International Women's Day challenges us to #PressforProgress. Are there any women in particular who have inspired you?
There are so many! In the acting and performance world I’ve met extraordinary women, in the boxing world I’ve met extraordinary women. I’ve met so many extraordinary single mothers, I’ve met lots of women pushing to move things forward who are so generous with their time and support of other women’s ventures.
But if I had to name one, it would be Kathy Burke - she inspired me to go into acting way back in the 1990s. I’d see her huge range of work - she writes, acts, directs, she’s FUNNY! - and she wasn’t a ‘typical’ actor, she felt different to everyone else and I related to her. I saw her recently sitting having a coffee and a fag in Islington, I was so star struck I couldn’t even speak to her (embarrassing) but it made my day just seeing her in real life! Kathy, if you read this, I think you’re amazing!
Finally, do you have any advice for young girls looking to get into the creative industries?
Embrace who you are - you are you, no one else is and therein lies your power. Stay passionate, authentic and be patient. Be prepared for the marathon, not the sprint. Sometimes it will feel like you’re getting nowhere but just keep plugging away. Talk to people, use social media to reach out to artists and organisations you admire or want to work with, grab opportunities, think of new ways to do things, make your own work, challenge the system.
You will get knock backs but, to use a famous Rocky quote, "it ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward."
Fighter: Work in Progress
Fighter invites audiences into the world of female boxers, introducing the pioneering women who fought tooth and nail to pave the way for today’s stars. As with her previous work, expect something bold, clever and funny that packs a punch!
Thu 8 Mar
Book now >>
Celebrating International Women's Day
To mark International Women’s Day and celebrate 100 years since women won the right to vote, we’re presenting our second annual mini-festival of performances by inspiring women, crossing music, theatre, spoken word and comedy.