Saskia Roddick and Jo Duncombe are the founders of The Quarter Club, a network focused on providing a space for creative women to come together to share stories, collaborate and learn from one another.
Jo and Saskia met at Warwick University and 4 years after graduating both found they were becoming suffocated by being relentlessly force-fed negative dialogue surrounding their age, career choices and gender. In response to this they decided to create a space to tackle this negativity and transform it into something positive and empowering.
Focused on women in creative and freelance industries, they run a collection of both large-scale and more intimate events that place emphasis on getting women in a room together to share knowledge and pool skills.Alongside the Quarter Club both Saskia and Jo work in the creative industries- Jo is a curator of independent cinema and Saskia works as an actor.
S&J: We have both worked in the arts since leaving University. Sas works as an actor and Jo as a curator of independent cinema. We find aspects of the freelance lifestyle tricky: no fixed roots, trying to spin multiple plates at once, and no HR department. About two years ago, we were struck that there wasn’t an obvious place to turn to for support and advice. So we turned to each other, and then to the women around us who were working in similar environments and who we discovered were experiencing the same anxieties as us. Our eyes were suddenly open to how we were surrounded by so many brilliant women doing brilliant things and we decided that was a really empowering thing. So we set up the Quarter Club as a space to enable women to get together to share stories, inspire and collaborate and have a bloody good time whilst doing it.We had grown tired of the negative dialogue surrounding the notion of ‘the quarter life crisis’. Numerous articles and reports focused heavily on the shortcomings of our generation: distracted from reality by social media, paralysed by choice, and backward in our post-financial-crisis dependence on our parents. In an age where Twitter and Instagram make it easier than ever to compare our lives and decisions to a million others, The Quarter Club is a space that promotes sisterhood and solidarity over rivalry. Skill sharing and knowledge pooling is the aim of our game. We want to carve out a positive space to facilitate confidence and action.
Every Quarter we announce a new theme. So far we’ve had Courage, Balance, Satisfaction and Decision. Each new quarter is marked by a Salon event, where we invite inspiring women to come and chat for 5 minutes. The idea is that they may spark ideas or pose questions that are then carried on in the room as opposed to lengthy talks. There is also great emphasis on equality: when you enter a Quarter Club space you’re all on the same level. We do away with Q&A’s as, unless done perfectly, we find them a bit stuffy. The speakers then stay for the evening so you can ask them a question in person rather than an intimidating microphone in hand on a stage kinda set up. We also have ‘Speak Easy’s’ where you can sign up for a slot on the night to chat about whatever you want (last event ranged from start-ups to Buddhism) as well as copious amounts of food, drink and a DJ.
Alongside our Salons, we host Pitching Parlours – a space for women within the network to share new projects and receive feedback from others, and Quarter Labs – where Quarter Clubbers with a valuable skillset can share their knowledge, making otherwise inaccessible skills more readily available.
RB: What major challenges did you face when setting up your business and how did you overcome them?
S&J: Our main difficulty in establishing and running The Quarter Club has been time! We both work in the arts, and are passionate about what we do. But we also know that we work in crowded, ‘competitive’ sectors. Balancing our careers with running the Quarter Club is not always easy – but we have found ways to manage our time effectively. We have Skype meetings over breakfast, and share the responsibility of taking meetings, sourcing speakers, planning our events and managing day to day admin. Ultimately it’s a balancing act, and the beauty of having a business partner (and one who is a great friend!) means that if one of us is rushed off our feet, the other is always waiting in the wings ready to pick up the slack. And visa versa.
Running The Quarter Club has also grown our network of friends – and we’ve been fortunate to work with some wonderful women we’ve met along the way, who’ve helped us with filming events, Djing, Photography and web design. This is ultimately what it’s all about: women coming together to unite and help each other out.
RB: Who has been the greatest influence on you since starting your venture and why?
S&J: Our friends have played a tremendous role in helping us to shape The Quarter Club into what it is today. The Quarter Club began as a series of supper clubs, where we invited groups of friends who didn’t know each other to sit round a table in our tiny flat (over a glass of wine and home-cooked food) and discuss what The Quarter Club might be. Through these evenings, we not only learnt about what would be valuable to others, but also gained the support, advice and skills of women who could help us get The Quarter Club off the ground. The Quarter Club puts emphasis on reaching sideways as well as up for inspiration, ideas and confidence. When you look at your friends, it’s quite remarkable to see how much talent, creativity and wisdom is available to you.
RB: What is the vision for your business and where do you see yourself 5 years from now.
S&J: There’s a real appetite for accessible and intelligent networking for creative people. However ‘networking’ as a concept still carries a pretty bad rep- one imagines corporate rooms, warm white wine and stilted conversation. The truth of it is- and this is what we have experienced- that when women get in a room together and start sharing ideas, brilliant things can happen. Real action! We want to expand The Quarter Club beyond London and the UK. Five years from now, we’d love for there to be regular Quarter Club events across the UK, and the world.