The F Word with Nicole Wilson, Alice Arnold & Polly Courtney

We have taken on Mission Impossible, we have had some Food for Thought, we’ve looked at London in Her Eyes… It was time to have a word, The F Word. The F Word stands for feminism, a subject I was keen to explore further ever since my rant about Caitlin Moran. The title The F Word was deliberate, since there are many women, who hesitate to call themselves feminists. For some ‘feminism’ may even feel like an insult. It is a shame because feminism isn’t about women vs. men, burning bras or refusing to shave, it’s about equal rights and opportunities. What’s there not to like?

On 4 October we gathered at the Skyloft bar of the Millbank Tower to admire breath-taking views of London by night, talk about feminism, support The What I See Project and, of course, to meet three very different, but equally inspiring Ladies Who Impress and hear their stories.

In my opening speech I said that Ladies Who Impress started with an idea to celebrate genuine female role models. These women are not just talented, successful and brilliant at what they do, but they also remain grounded and somehow ordinary, helping us to believe that we too can achieve tremendous heights and follow our dreams.

Here are some photographs and highlights from the evening:

Urvi and Jana Surprise guest

Ladies in the audience

Two guests






Nicole Wilson, Alice Arnold and Polly Courtney

Nicole Wilson, Alice Arnold and Polly Courtney

Nicole Wilson has been playing violin ever since her father decided  to become a music teacher and use her as a guinea pig. Nicole does not believe she was a ‘natural’, she worked hard to earn her place in such prestigious orchestras as the London Symphony Orchestra and the English National Opera. However, her tenacity and character always shone through. At some point Nicole was presenting her own show on Classic FM. How did she manage that? She just asked…

In addition to her ‘day job’ as a violinist, Nicole, her partner Colin and their friends recorded an album of popular nursery rhymes, performed for children by professional musicians. FunKey Rhymes won’t drive parents mad either. You can order a CD, download music from itunes or get an app following this link.

Alice Arnold writes for The Telegraph, addressing a wide range of issues such as representation of women in the media, women’s rights, gay rights, etc., effortlessly covering both public affairs and culture. Since leaving BBC Radio 4, her employer for the last 25 years, she has become a well-regarded and a much respected voice. Yet, she admits that leaving a stable job was not easy, not least because of the sense of identity it provides. She would not even call herself as a journalist, modestly saying ‘I just write…’, but I’ll insist on calling her a brilliant features journalist, taking on big issues in a calm, well considered way.

On the night Alice said this: “I don’t care whether women are confident or not. That’s not important. What’s important is that they appear confident and act accordingly. Do you think men are always confident? They are not. The difference is, they’re good at faking it.”

I may not have quoted her accurately, but I hope you get the message…

I’d like to compare Polly Courtney to a fish. Before she denounces me on Twitter, I don’t mean any ordinary fish, I mean salmon, swimming against the stream, guided by instinct. Back in 2003 she quit the City, started to write and discovered her passion. She is as fearless as she is talented, as opinionated as she is kind.  Her life is a masterclass in challenging norms and conventions and standing up for things she believes in.

Polly’s take on the City’s culture, her first self-published novel Golden Handcuffs became a best-seller. Her latest novel, Feral Youth, made me challenge my views on young people with unprivileged background, undeservedly frowned upon by  our society.

Me with Nicole, Alice and Polly

Jana Bakunina, Nicole Wilson, Alice Arnold and Polly Courtney

And here are a few testimonials I received. I cannot help but post them here. Shameless, I know!

“Fantastic! Great speakers, great guests, great night out!”

“Really interesting, fun and entertaining. I’m definitely coming back!”

“Fantastic. Inspiring, motivating, reassuring, stimulating…”

“Extremely well planned: the order of the speakers and flow were in my opinion perfect.”

“Inspiring – at least one quote from each speaker has been ringing in my head since.”

P.S. Have you spotted our surprise guest, Clare Balding, OBE? I felt like I was playing tennis in front of Steffi Graf or singing in front of P!nk. I can’t do either but it was an honour and a privilege to have Clare in the audience. She told me she had a fun night. How about that?!

Jana with Clare

Jana Bakunina with Clare Balding, OBE



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