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How Ladies of Leisure is building an inclusive community IRL

Images by Amelia Stanwix
Words by Christina Karras

Anything but leisurely.

Everyone’s always worried that we are losing touch with intimacy. Internet-native Melbourne collective, Ladies of Leisure, will not stand for that stigma. And to prove it, they have embarked on a mission to bring its online community to life in an IRL space on the physical plane.

Run by friends Savannah Anand-Sobti and Sally Tabart, the pair began their partnership publishing a zine, Ladies of Leisure, in 2016. After a hiatus last year where the two pursued their respective professions, LOL returned with the same values and vision, but a new approach. The two decided to offer their growing digital readership a physical space.

And so, LOL Space was born. Opening earlier this year, a beautifully designed, millennial-pink wonderland hovering just above Brunswick Street serves as their headquarters, where they began programming and hosting workshops.

Despite the dominance of digital spaces over brick-and-mortar, Founder and Creative Director Savannah says making the jump from zines to workshops felt like the next logical step. It would be somewhere to connect in person.

“We wanted to provide those same insights and takeaways but in a physical, safe space,” she says.

The Internet has changed the way we socialise and organise and, for better or worse, has become an overwhelming force in our lives. But Savannah champions LOL’s ability to help fleeting digital acquaintances blossom into tangible friendships.

“I think the Internet needs to be counterbalanced with real-life experiences,” she explains.

“Think about how when you follow someone on Insta but you haven’t really met them. When I do, I usually mention it like, ‘Oh hey! We follow each other on insta.’ There’s pretty much only two ways it can go – one is they’re all cold and confused, or they’re like ‘Oh yeah we do! Hey nice to meet you IRL.’”

Savannah outlines her vision for the space to be somewhere people can leave feeling less alone. Maybe you’ve moved to a new city, started a new job and want advice from like-minded people. That’s what LOL wants to be, a place where people can come together and learn from someone just like you who are doing it already, with workshops geared towards helping you live your best life.

“Personally I would have loved to have known even half the things I know now when I was a teen, to help navigate life as a woman,” Savannah says.

Imagine a community of big sister-types who can share their experiences openly and learn from one another. This ethos is why their rapid-fire personal networking sessions, “Friendship Speed Dating”, has become a regular fixture in their workshop lineup. Getting together a bunch of like-minded people was a way to encourage the LOL collective to exist outside its physical and online space.

In setting out to start a community, Savannah and Sally had inclusivity “front of mind”. The collective always sought to offer a range of femme-identifying voices through its zines and now the workshops have provided another avenue where people can learn, connect and ask each other questions.

“We actively seek out people who aren’t in our immediate sphere, and I think that effort translates to the people who come to our workshops,” says Savannah.

LOL has already held workshops with a range of different leaders, each in different fields and stages of their career with an aim to keeping a well- rounded and diverse roster of hosts.

“Coming up we’ve got ‘Be A Boss’ with Erika of Fluff which is about entrepreneurship and ‘Better Sex and How To Have It’ with Vanessa Meridian which is pretty self-explanatory!” Savannah says.

Be it taking a dance class with Aisha Kuryana, doing life drawing on a Sunday with Lani Mitchell or listening to lawyer/activist Fadak Alfayadh share her experiences on seeking asylum in Australia, the events offer a space for learning and reflection.

Savannah explains her proudest moment since opening the LOL Space has been seeing this vision of a community that is warm and inviting, come together.

“After all the hard work that went into setting up the space and creating the program, it was a moment when we sat back while a workshop was happening and thought, ‘This is the whole darn point!’”

You can learn more about Ladies Of Leisure here, and you can buy tickets for their upcoming workshops here.

ladiesofleisurezine.com.au

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