I ‘m from Barrow Upon Soar in Leicestershire, it’s famous plesiosaur on the roundabout ‘Jerusalem Island’ just down the street from my house. The village was busy with lime working in the 19th century, and those mines yielded a number of marine fossils, including many complete plesiosaur and icthyosaurs. The whole Charnwood area was covered by ocean in the time when animal life was just beginning, so many fossil discoveries have been made locally. I’ve already posted about Tina Negus and her discovery of the Charnia fossil in the 1950s.
My mum Ann grew up in 1950s Barrow and remembers her Dad, a grocer, taking deliveries around the Charnwood Forest. Sometimes he took his daughter with him. I imagine Mum and Tina, being separated by only a few years and a few miles on that day in Charnwood. Mum has been an evangelical christian all her life, and sometimes struggled with the idea of fossils, dinsoaurs and evolution. But she’s cool with it now. (Good job really, or she isn’t going to like this project!)
In October 2019, I visited the Natural History Museum and checked out some of the fossils found in Barrow. I also saw plenty of other sea creatures, ancient and modern.
The story of Tina Negus back in the 50’s got me thinking about women and girls whose experiences are still not given credence today. The case of Harvey Weinstein, jailed for sexual offences in 2020, broke in late 2017 and when I began my MA journey was still in the media. Initially women who came forward to speak of their experience at the hands of Weinstein and others were not believed. On 15th October, 2017, American actress Alyssa Milano posted on Twitter,
“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,”
the hashtag went on to become a phenomenon, with women from all walks of life (including this one) posting ‘#MeToo’ tweets. It became clear just how many women suffer everyday sexism and harassment, and yet only 1.7% of reported rapes were prosecuted in 2018 (The Independent 25 April 2019). The extent of everyday harassment prompted a number of questions from men I have known all my life, and the question ‘why didn’t you say anything?’ For many it was about taking on power, and putting one’s neck on the line to say something. If you weren’t believed then you put yourself in a precarious position at work, at school at uni, for no reason. Silence was safer.
So the story of a girl whose words were given no importance, whose discovery would have changed her future, seemed to fit this time. We have to start more sentences with ‘I believe her’