Who are 'Mr Bim’ and 'Mr Bam’? All that festival goers were told was that they were really shy and wouldn’t come out if the crowd didn’t bust out. Curiosity quickly turned into jovial laughter when Natalie Benhayon, Director of the Girl to Woman festival, revealed that Bim and Bam were actually big dance movements that encouraged participants to not hold back during the epic True Movement finale song.
This was just one of the many highlights that marked a day that will undoubtedly remain in the memory of many young girls and parents who attended the Girl to Woman festival on Sunday 29th April at Functions on Chapel in Prahran, Melbourne. An iconic event that sees people from around Australia travel to Lennox Head in Northern NSW for their annual Summer festival, Girl To Woman has now marked its footprint in the city of Melbourne for the first time.
'The Girl to Woman festival is all about bringing community together and reminds us all of core values we do all know. Values such as celebrating our young girls and confirming them in who they are,' says Sara Harris founder of the Girl to Woman Project and a health and well-being practitioner specialising in women’s health based in Caulfield Melbourne.
'This festival offers what is in effect a dedicated space for parents and children to connect with themselves and with each other.'
When community comes together in connection, magic seems to happen. It was inescapable to witness in both parents and children the joy of being celebrated by themselves and each other.
The overarching theme for this year’s festival was 'Whose Role Model are You?' 'All of us are role-models for the young women in our lives,' says Natalie Benhayon, MC and Director of the Girl to Woman Festival. 'When we realise the impact we naturally have on everyone, it can be a very empowering moment when you decide what you’re going to do with that responsibility. We realise that change can take place simply by offering connection to those immediately around us.'
The sense of community and connection was very palpable throughout the entire festival. There were a myriad of activities and workshops on offer with every corner of the venue inside and outside adorned to welcome the young girls who walked in the door. Gift bags, exquisitely wrapped, greeted them upon entry. The delicious aromas of home cooked wholesome food and treats, and the chill-out and nurture space offered for the adults, along with the workshops and conversations on offer for the adults to partake in, created a space for everyone, young and old to simply be.
'There was not an adult or child playing on their mobile phone in sight,' commented Tina, a mother and business owner based in Melbourne’s western suburbs. 'Everywhere you would turn, people were in conversation, smiling, enjoying the activities and beaming more and more as the day went on.'
Throughout the day, the space was provided for like-minded parents and adults to have access to multiple professionals working in the fields of youth and psychology in group forums and workshops. All of this for a day pass ticket fee. Add to that the community engagement and shared wisdom from other festival goers that everyone benefits from, and you could see why so many parents present commented that 'there’s nothing else like this.'
'Offering that space and service to parents is a key component to the Festival’s planning every year,' says Natalie. 'Support for parents in a fast-changing climate of social media, mental health and rapidly intensifying behaviours is so important to us.'
Antonietta Bua, a clinical social worker and qualified teacher based in Melbourne’s Northern suburbs led the community forum on ‘Changing Behaviours’. This was a chance to discuss these challenges and raise the additional challenges now faced with the digital age. A common theme was parents grappling with when and how much to let their children use devices with sleeplessness, gaming addictions and bullying a shared concern.
An empowering forum was provided for women and their daughters in the Mother Daughter Dynamics session, to unpack the at times emotionally challenging relationships that we can have with our family members and how it is possible for each of us to become agents of positive change. At the same time that this forum was taking place, the Dad’s Discussion group held the many men who participated in immense understanding as they considered what it means to be a dad. Is having children to care for a burden for the archetypal bread-winner? Or can the responsibility of children bring a much greater freedom and all-encompassing joy when this responsibility is embraced?
These were inspiring conversations that left everyone feeling invigorated and reconnected to what really felt like the joy of being a parent and quite simply a member of the community.
And with plenty of areas to chill-out, but no one wanting to check-out, the first of many to come Girl to Woman Festivals in Melbourne was unequivocally embraced. The day completed with everyone singing along to the Girl to Woman Anthem, a heartfelt song that brought tears to the eyes of many of the adults in the room, as the words were clearly being claimed by the young girls singing in celebration to what they had connected to within themselves. See here to access the lyrics and download the song.
The Girl to Woman has most certainly marked its debut in Melbourne. And it seems it’s just the beginning.
I am powerful
With my beautiful eyes
I show my inner-fire
I am divine
And I am graceful
Every part every curl
Proud to be a girl