#IWD2024: Creative Women - Zara Saghir

04 March 2024 by Michelle

To celebrate International Women's Day on Friday 8th March 2024, we're featuring interviews with dynamic, trailblazing, and courageous women working in creative fields, who have a connection to Lancashire. Meet Zara Saghir, an artist and cultural programme producer from Accrington.

#IWD2024: Creative Women - Zara Saghir

International Women's Day (IWD) is an annual global event celebrating women and their achievements.  

First initiated in 1911, IWD has since grown into a global movement encouraging us to stand up for a more diverse, equitable and inclusive world, free of discrimination and stereotypes.

This year's campaign theme is #InspireInclusion to collectively forge a more inclusive world for women.

When we inspire others to understand and value women's inclusion, we forge a better world.

And when women themselves are inspired to be included, there's a sense of belonging, relevance and empowerment.

As part of our #IWD2024 "Creative Women" Series, meet Zara Saghir, an artist and cultural programme producer.

Zara Saghir at Blackburn Cathedral, image by Christina Davies, Fish2Photography

Zara, tell us more about you and what you do?

I am Assistant Producer for The British Textile Biennial (BTB) and The Super Slow Way (SSW), that are place-based cultural programmes working with people across East Lancashire.

BTB explores the politics of cloth in the post-industrial Lancashire landscapes left behind by the cotton industry with the communities that have textiles in their DNA.

SSW delivers an ambitious programme of artist commissions and residencies working with people, partners, and heritage assets to re-imagine a 20 mile stretch of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal as a new Linear Park for Pennine Lancashire.

As an Assistant Producer, I have worked flexibly across a wide variety of cultural projects, supporting artists and the wider team with administration, planning, installation, workshops, and community engagement. 

As a socially engaged artist myself, I understand the importance of creating impactful collaborative relationships between artists, community, and artwork. 

Through my own personal art practice, I investigate taboo societal problems within my British South Asian culture, interrogating values, power, and hierarchies. I tend to use my personal experience through my own creative practice, to make space for people who have been overlooked and silenced, to find their voice and become advocates of social change

Zara Saghir, What is Mine, MA Show Photo
Zara Saghir, MA Show - What is MINE
Zara Saghir, What is Ours, MA Show Pic
Zara Saghir, MA Show - What is OURS

What is your connection to Lancashire?

My connection to Lancashire stems from my granddad travelling from Azad Kashmir, Pakistan to Lancashire, Accrington to work in the Cotton Mills. My grandad aimed to give his children a good life and supported us all in our dreams and ambitions.

I have lived in Accrington all my life and currently still do. My education was in Lancashire, from Primary School, High School, College and studying my BA & MA at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Lancashire is my home, and my comfort.

What inspires or motivates your creative practice?

Being a South Asian Women, a lot of my personal experiences motivate my practice and work ethic. 

Growing up in my area and experiencing certain events has motivated my work. 

My culture is beautiful, but to be a strong independent woman and to speak out takes a lot of courage. 

I have always wanted to be the vessel of voice in my creative practice, to try and investigate the taboo aspects of my culture and challenge them. 

I have always wanted to give women, or inspire women to, have the confidence to speak up, achieve what they believe in.

When someone says you can’t do that, I have to prove them wrong

Any advice for women starting out or making their mark in the creative industries?

The advice I would give is to try, give it a shot, if you don’t succeed try again. 

As women we naturally feel like we must work harder to be taken seriously, be heard. But if you are passionate about what you want to do, you automatically start working hard as your passion drives you.

It’s always easier to make your mark when you surround yourself with like-minded people, who believe in you when you don’t. 

I had this experience in university, where I finally found individuals who understood me, who I claim as my second family.

Any advice for women starting out or making their mark in the creative industries?

Once you find yourself and those who understand, you get the confidence to believe in your work and what you want to achieve.

How do you think we can encourage inclusion, remove barriers, and offer the right types of support to increase opportunities in the creative sector?

I believe this is an ongoing process, but it all starts with conversations. 

If you speak to those who are interested and inform people of what is available, then this is always a good start. 

I think what Creative Lancashire is doing is great! Giving a platform for women with diverse backgrounds to speak can also encourage those who may not have thought they could get into the creative sphere.

When we stop looking at colour and background, but look at an individual’s work, and what they create, that should speak for itself.

Find out more about the projects Zara is involved in:

Zara was photographed at Blackburn Cathedral by Christina Davies.

Christina Davies (Fish 2 Photography) is based in Preston and specialises in branding, interior, and commercial photography. She started her business in 2008 and loves working with small Lancashire and North West based businesses. 

  • View Christina's profile on our Creative Directory here.

About IWD

International Women's Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.

The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality.

IWD white logo

IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people.

Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organisation specific.

We invite you to inspire inclusion in your own work and life.

Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women's equality. Collectively we can all #InspireInclusion.

Celebrate women's achievement. Raise awareness about discrimination. Take action to drive gender parity.

IWD Belongs to everyone, everywhere. 

Inclusion means all IWD actions is valid. 

#IWD2024 #InspireInclusion

Website: internationalwomensday.org

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