On Thursday 21st November, as part of our week-long celebrations for Reading Week, Oxford High School Library was thrilled to welcome award-winning author, Sophia Bennett. During her visit, Sophia introduced us to her latest book, The Bigger Picture, led the girls in a series of workshops and provided us with a fascinating glimpse into her other books, her inspirations and her life as a professional creative.
Sophia used stories from her very varied career in business and publishing as well as the lives of pioneering female artists and other role models to speak to the students about perseverance, resilience, confidence and finding how to find your own voice. She also spoke very honestly to the girls about how hard it is to be a confident woman when you are challenged about who you are, before giving out some hints and tips for being weird, being proud of it and, above all, owning your identity. This advice perhaps boiled down to the maxim, ‘Adopt a Wonder Woman pose before tackling something difficult, because our bodies really do change our outcomes.’
Speaking to a rapt audience of Year 8s, she explained how her latest book The Bigger Picture is about female artists in history, women like Frida Kahlo, Yayoi Kusama and Louise Bourgeois: women who were non-conformist and who unfailingly saw the world in a different way, and yet whose stories were almost lost to history until other women helped restore them to their rightful place.
At the end of her lunchtime talk, girls were given the opportunity to ask Sophia questions, in the course of which Sophia revealed that her heroes when growing up were Olga Korbut the gymnast and, later, Katherine Hepburn. Role models who are smashing it today, meanwhile, are Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai and Simone Biles. Following her talk, girls took part in Sophia’s “manifesto” workshop. Focusing on issues of empowerment, these workshops tasked students with creating their own manifestos to encourage a girl they knew to be confident in herself and be proud of herself, aiming to inspire her friend with a sense of change or defiance.
Our students rose to the challenge and presented Sophia with a range poetry, performance and creativity, as well as a fantastic ability to get stuck in, which reflected their fearless OHS spirit of getting stuck-in giving things a try.