I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to have a conversation with the director and editor of The Hysteria Collective, Imy Brighty-Potts, who shared her own journey as a writer and what inspired her to create a virtual space for women, trans, and non-binary writers. The platform is soon to reach its first birthday on the 1st of September, so in celebration, I had the pleasure of asking her where the idea came from, its success, and how it has evolved over time.
Imy has written from a young age, and while studying Philosophy and Politics with a minor in Creative Writing at the University of Southampton, she threw herself into creative and performing arts societies:
“I did stand-up, acted with the Theatre Society and Showstoppers. I’ve had blogs since I was 14 but they all failed because I was trying to write what everyone else was writing, like Zoella lifestyle pieces. I started writing short stories as part of my minor, based partially off my own experience. I mixed short stories with stand-up and realised that I have a lot to say.”
Imy’s inspiration rose out of a dark experience when she was involved in a car accident in January and found herself with more free time. She wrote a list of films to watch and reviewed them on a blog, along with posts about travel and short stories, this was when she realised that she didn’t want to stop writing, especially as she found herself in a community of likeminded people. As well as this, Imy noticed from surrounding media that women’s voices were not upheld to the same extent, or in the same way as men. This is what led to the creation of The Hysteria Collective:
“I found I was just constantly writing and had nowhere to put it, and I realised that there must be so many other people with the same problem […] I wasn’t seeing much political conversation from women. I was also reading magazines like Galdem and it felt inaccessible. I wanted to provide a platform where anyone can contribute.”
Imy observed that women’s voices in mainstream media were polished so that they would not come off as “bossy” or “feisty”. By July, Imy was setting up The Hysteria Collective. As the website grew more traction and more people were contributing, a team of artists, sub-editors, and ambassadors came together to accommodate the website’s success. Imy makes it clear how essential the team has been in upkeeping the website and keeping up with the increased engagement with the website:
“I was falling out of love with it because of the stress. We went from 3k views a month to 6k, and we went from 26 pieces to edit a month to 21 a week, alongside my work for my 3rd year of uni, committees, dissertation. If I didn’t have them, I would go completely insane. Having the team that let me do what I needed to do allowed me to fall back in love with The Hysteria Collective.”
Imy has emphasised the vibrancy of The Hysteria Collective through collaborative creative work such as ‘Titbits: Nuances of my Body’ which explores the female body and its treatment, ‘Ballads of Heartbreak’, and ‘Letters from Lockdown’. Much of the content, a large proportion of which is poetry, is emotionally raw and lets the reader into a very intimate space where the writer is brutally honest about their experience as a female, trans, or nonbinary person. The Hysteria Collective has therefore not just been about formal portfolio-building, but also a space for emotional outpour and healing.
Many of the subjects include issues that predominantly affect women, trans people, nonbinary people, or LGBTQ+ people such as mental health issues, conflicts with family and religion, and sexual assault. When asking Imy about the importance of an online space for this sort of content, she expresses her enthusiasm to bolster underrepresented voices in the creative and performing arts:
“I hate the word ‘safe space’ because it’s been tokenised by Union Jack gammon twitter and made it look like fragile millennials. I considered opening The Hysteria Collective up to men because I felt like a bad feminist, but I stuck with my guns because the media has belonged to the male, pale, and stale for so long. I don’t regret it because it serves a purpose of creating a community.”
As the Covid-19 pandemic has brought performing arts to a halt, Imy stresses the importance to not only support performing arts, but the creative artists behind the scenes as they “aren’t that far apart and have such a good dialogue, without them we wouldn’t be able to pay the rent.” The Hysteria Collective works to uphold the values of diversity, inclusivity, and sustainability and always encourages people to contribute, even if it is to criticise the platform.
Anyone who would like to contribute to The Hysteria Collective can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to have a writer’s login made. There are also Facebook groups where prompts are shared regularly to inspire contributors in creative writing, art, and photography.