This week we’re so excited to share our interview with the inspirational Lauren Burlinson founder of NIPS.
Despite only having met Lauren recently we’ve been super impressed with her enthusiasm, dedication & seemingly endless energy! Let’s find out all about NIPS and what feminism means to Lauren:
What is Be NIPS?
NIPS is a very small, grassroots organisation based in Brighton. We travel around the UK offering seminars to better knowledge on certain subjects to support communities. I run NIPS in between working 2 other jobs and keeping my 2 under 5s entertained. My husband is my designer, he's top notch, and I have a loyal team of women crusaders who work with me at each seminar - looking after the audience, compering the event, making sure our tech is working and creating playlists to ease everyone into a happy place before we start learning! I used to run the seminars alone, and adore being part of a group now. We all strive to make NIPS as useful as possible, and support each other in the process.
How did it all begin? What is your role and what motivated you to start this project?
This ties into the above quite a bit... I started NIPS when I had two very small babies and felt quite ostracised from local events - I was desperate to go to a local council event but it was 5 hours and offered no childcare and was to be very formal. It wasn't filmed either, so I wasn't able to even watch from the side lines. This made me realise that such a huge part of our community doesn't get to take part because of work, childcare, financial reasons - and therefore their suggestions and needs aren't heard. I also felt at a loss as a parent - we no longer have an abundance of child centres, or midwives coming to our door for several weeks after birth, most of our generation don't go to church and feel a support network there... and most of us live away from our family! It is so isolating becoming a parent and all the above points must mean more and more parents are left feeling lost and alone. You can leave a hospital with a baby, have one or two check ups health care team and then go on your way. No! Looking after children should be much more monitored and supported - give us answers, explain what babies need, finance our child centres and offer schools much more funding so parents can attend workshops and teachers are given training - no wonder there are so many parenting groups on Facebook where mums and dads plead for answers regarding sleep, general childcare and mental health support.
I realised our first seminars should prioritise mental health, in relation to children. Once I'd started planning these, I realised just how many more subjects there were which communities would benefit from discussing - it's not just children or mental health that our current government doesn't support enough! Gosh, it's mind-boggling. We need a completely new approach to social support - free workshops, classes, free education, better education, more funding for our health care... Our government needs to do much more.
So that's what started me, an intense desire to offer things that our government should be running. We also work hard to involve all the amazing organisations and charities who are doing the same - starting their own initiatives, getting funds and working hard to support the public. Our seminars prioritise the public and underline what's available in their cities so that when we move onto the next city, the public know what local support is available and where to look for it.
What has been your personal favourite Be Nips event so far?
I loved Bristol. My first seminar was in Bath, and I ran it alone. It was petrifying! You know it feels nice to go to the movies alone, but so much better to go with someone so you can talk about it afterwards? It's like that. I love working with the NIPS team and it feels so good to all be in a room, everyone doing their thing and making the seminar come together like clockwork. Bristol was our first seminar all working together, and they've felt brilliant ever since. There was also a call for a riot at Bristol! Ha! The audience all felt incredibly empowered and everyone was talking - they wanted to make change happen NOW and react immediately to what we were discussing. That felt good.
The NIPS team is organic and involves a variety of people, however we have have small but loyal bunch who keep NIPS firmly moving in the right direction - Lucy Hetherington, Sophia Clifford-Sanghad, Maya Milani, Hannah-Jayne Smith, Beth Dawson, Alison Hughes, Clare Burlinson, DVA Films and my partner, James Burlinson. They are all wizards in their own right.
Can you tell us more about the speakers and organisations you have collaborated with?
Oh gosh, so many. Each seminar involves roughly 12 speakers, then 10-15 articles in a booklet (personal stories, tools from local organisations, interviews with charities etc) so at the end of this year we'll have involved 60 speakers and printed roughly 75 articles. We sometimes involve the same people again as their words are powerful and people react well to them. We like to highlight as many people and charities as possible, because then our seminars and booklets are more useful and varied in terms of topic and need. Our mental health advocates like Hannah Jayne Smith and Josh Connolly got fab reactions - I think the more personal a talk, the more the audience react to it. We also worked with the head of mental health for B&NES, Paul Wilson, who was a great talker. All lecturers do a top notch job, as talking is their bread and butter so Robin Banerjee (Sussex Uni), Paul Stallard (Bath Uni) and Fred Ehresmann (UWE) were all so impressive to listen to. There's also those who are working hard to create their own business to help support mental health, and they feel like a vital part of each seminar - Mindful Kin, The Positive Planners, Words of Wonder, Mee Two, The Happyself Journal - and I'm amazed at the amount of brilliant organisations who want to take part even though they're rushed off their feet offering the most brilliant support to our cities - Grassroots Suicide Prevention, Safety Net Brighton, Bluebell Care, Make a Move - everyone has been fab.
What events do you have in store for the coming months?
We have two more Mental Health and Children seminars - one in Leeds on the 23rd October at Leeds City Museum, to an audience of 200! Then one in London this December. Planning has just started so no official date yet, but it all gets sorted pretty quickly so keep your eyes peeled on Facebook for news! In 2019 we are changing subject to Being a Woman. We want to involve speakers, articles, interviews discussing the subject of WOMAN - which gives us a plethora of topics and approaches to consider.
Our ideas list is enormous - Porn - sex positive - - transgender - masturbation and helpful tools - HRT and menopause - ambivalence about having children - periods - hormones - contraception - endometriosis - feminism, intersectional feminism - gender pay gap - diet culture... The seminars will be open to anyone who wants to learn more about what it's like being a woman and the various issues involved in being a woman.
What made you want to collaborate with Sister Society?
I love finding new organisations and small initiatives in the cities we work in, ones that are raising awareness for brilliant things and involving others in workshops, discussions and events - I think Sister Society is such a positive experience, from your gorgeous branding to your messages of support online - you celebrate what it is to be a woman and you make sure others feel uplifted and a part of something important.
What does the word feminism mean to you?
Realising that women are powerful, creative, clever and passionate. Supporting the women around you and bringing confidence, equality and a sense of pride to being a woman. To not let anyone think being a woman means you are a lesser being, and to spread this feeling over everyone you know and around the world. Women should be celebrated for whatever they want to be and whoever they are - and we need to squash the ignorance surrounding our sex - stand side by side and not allow the abuse, the lack of knowledge, the shame or the inequality to continue. This is what it means to me to be a feminist.
Which women’s issues are you particularly passionate about?
All of them - I adore any chance to learn and listen, and luckily there are so many fantastic instagrammers, organisations, bloggers, charities and writers all focusing on highlighting women's issues. I particularly love The Women's Atlas, by Myriad Editions, written by Joni Seager - it's a book crammed with facts, figures and data on women from all around the world. To me, being a woman is fascinating and to be able to have this sort of literature available where I can sit and learn what women around the world are going through and how they are treated - it's an invaluable thing and should be in the hands of every girl, boy, woman and man right now.
Thanks for sharing Lauren! We can’t wait to collaborate with NIPS over the next few months. Find out more about NIPS by checking out their booklets & social channels.