South Swindon MP Robert Buckland was the special guest at the Sounds Like Women fundraiser.
The event at the All Saints Church and village hall in Liddington was in support of women and girls, through Sounds Like Women's activities and music workshops.
The music, stalls and refreshments were up and running from 12pm - 6pm, with all funds going towards supporting SLW.
All those who took part were volunteers, helping to raise money and awareness. Sounds Like Women write songs inspired by women’s real stories, help victims of domestic violence to build their confidence, and also organise events and music workshops in a therapy capacity.
Mr Buckland opened the event officially with a speech, at 12pm.
He said: “I’m delighted to be here to open the Sounds Like Women Community Day. This day is about highlighting and celebrating the community spirit here, but also bringing people together. Some of whom attending or involved, may have been victim of domestic abuse and other types of crime that in the past perhaps has not been spoken about enough.
“This is all about the women themselves rather than the perpetrators and I think it’s very important that we show our support for victims. Very often it is an isolating experience for people, and they do not get the support they need. As a local MP and former minister, I have worked hard to improve this and that’s why I wanted to attend today and support all those involved.”
Agnieszka Arabska from Imagine Nation Online Experience provided an art for wellbeing corner for children and adults alike. She is also one half of the musical duo Ananda with her partner Artur Kwiatkowski, who performed as part of the fundraiser's musical line-up.
Sam the Herbalist set up a stall to sell handmade herbal products and gave a talk about what benefits different herbs have on the body.
Tracy Graham, Chief Ambassador for Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service, was also there. She volunteers with Sounds Like Women and Wiltshire Police and has become a singer-songwriter through SLW.
Tracy was a victim of domestic abuse and went public with her story, filming a documentary that was released last year, entitled 'Tracy: A Survivor's Story.' This can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_jXzMxBIlg
She said: "I met Luiza through Sounds Like Women when I was still a bit of a broken woman. I was referred to her to take part in the free music workshops that she offers. I was the first lady that she helped. This was around two years ago. She helped me find my voice and my inner confidence. I was half the size I am now; I had no spirit; I had no soul, and I had no voice.
“SWA saved my life but Sounds Like Women changed my life. They gave me my confidence back and over time I have been singing and song writing and now I volunteer for SLW. Today I am here in a dual capacity.
"I chose to go public and I waved my anonymity. I didn’t change my name or voice and showed my whole face when telling my story. It was very hard to do but also very liberating. I did it to remove the stigma attached to domestic abuse and to encourage others. I felt that if I could show others that I have gotten through it, they can too. I'm not just a survivor, I'm thriving!”
Tracy said she hopes to work with Robert Buckland in the future regarding his recent updates to the domestic abuse bill, and the new victim's bill that the pair are aiming to get through Parliament.
She added: "If you were to compare me now to how I used to be, it’s an amazing change and I don’t recognise myself. I now love the person I am, and I love the work that I do."
Every month SLW host a community cafe at the Lydiard Village Hall between 1-4pm, where members of the public can come along and listen to live music, enjoy homemade food and browse handmade wares from locals. All funds from the community cafe afternoons also go towards helping SLW and its work with women and girls.
The Joe Band and Harmony-Asia also featured on the musical bill for this year's community day.
Harmony-Asia said: “This is the first Sounds Like Women event I have performed at. I work for KanduArts and we did an unlock reset gig a little while ago. The Sounds Like Women team came down to join us for and I got a spot on the bill for today after taking part in that event alongside their performers. They were really good!
“Everything Sounds Like Women do is amazing and we need a lot more like them. I love singing regardless but when I’m doing it for a cause like this, it just means so much more and it’s so rewarding.
“Personally whatever I’m feeling at the time, I will write a song about it. Everyone can relate to music one way or another and it’s just a universal thing that everyone can take part in. It’s just a way of putting words and action into something that everyone can listen to and try and relate to.”
Harmony-Asia can be found on instagram at https://www.instagram.com/harmonyasiamusic/.
SLW founder Luiza Staniec-Moir shares Harmony-Asia's viewpoint on the relatability and therapeutic aspect of music.
She said: "I set Sounds Like Women up three years ago, and my own personal experiences helped me to do so. Twenty five years ago, I was a victim of domestic abuse and had no support from anyone - not even my family. I started writing songs having no idea what I wanted to do with them.
"It was a form of therapy. I then was lucky enough to sell my songs and work to record them. When I could earn money from song writing and performing, I was able to get back on my feet and leave the abusive relationship."
Luiza went on to become a successful singer-songwriter in Poland and achieved a number one hit with one of her tracks. She said that although this was great and got her to where she needed to be, she still felt there was more to pursue regarding the therapeutic qualities of music and songwriting.
She added: "Years later I thought about how much music helped me and continued to help – how I could put my thoughts and my story into a song and then it’s done, and I could feel a release. I thought about how this is such a big thing and how I wanted to share this experience with others.
The SLW founder is studying for a master's degree in Music Therapy at a university in Bristol. She says this will help her further with the running of the SLW workshops.
Luiza said: "Through musical workshops and music therapy, I believe Sounds Like Women can provide aftercare for people and help them to gain confidence and strength – that is what music definitely can do. Music, kindness, and a loving atmosphere.
"I truly believe that if we are strong within ourselves and can recognise abuse, we work towards leaving abusive partners or finding other solutions. Sounds Like Women are trying to raise awareness and provide our solution through music related services for people. Hopefully if we get some more funds, we can help more women and grow our services."
Sounds Like Women are due to release a second non-profit EP near the end of the year. It will feature songs from Luiza, Tracy and other women who have attended SLW workshops and been through similar experiences with domestic abuse.
The first EP ‘Without Violence & of all Colours’ was released worldwide in 2019 and Luiza put together a tour with international artists the same year. ‘Without Violence & of all Colours’ EP 1 can be found at https://music.apple.com/gb/album/without-violence-of-all-colours-ep/1558716467
Luiza said the aim of the SLW EPs are to not only raise awareness around domestic abuse, but to raise awareness of racial bias, and inequality too, as she and other women involved in the project have experienced all three.
More information about Sounds Like Women can be found at facebook.com/soundslikewomen or www.soundslikewomen.com or on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6befOCalkIjkN_CxPvBhpw
Members of the public can also follow the #soundslikewomen on social media.
More information about Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service can be found at https://swadomesticabuse.org/
Tracy Graham's Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tracygrahamofficial/