2014 Honoree

Saffron Burrows

Actor, writer, civil rights campaigner

“Young girls and women across the world are reinstating the notion of feminism as being a good thing…immensely encouraging.”

Who inspires you the most?

On a national and international level there were three people who inspired me enormously as a child and onwards, and in the past year those three have died…Maya Angelou, Tony Benn and Nelson Mandela. They shared many qualities that I value enormously: a great enthusiasm and joy for life, a lack of cynicism and a belief in the innate potential for good to prevail, and of course the quest for justice.

Tony Benn was a dear friend whose company I felt inspired, elevated and nourished by.

My mothers closest friend, Anna, was also a major force during my growth into womanhood. She has been a great campaigner all her life within the anti-racist movement in Britain. So much so that she was the subject of many attacks on her life when I was young by the far right in Britain. Now, at 75, she retains her humour, grace and great insightfulness about the world.

And artistically and politically my mum has inspired me a great deal. She made the theatre a huge part of my life when I was growing up and encouraged me to take a stand over injustices, large and small. She is a brave, unique woman. My love of acting grew from seeing theatre first, and then the films of auteurs such as Ken Loach, John Sayles, Fred Zinnerman.

What do you now know about yourself that you wish you knew ten/fifteen/twenty years ago?

That worrying is futile. That being tall is ok. That being oneself is crucial.

Fill in the blank: You can never have enough _______.


What City best describes your personality?

London. Undoubtedly.

What gets you through even the toughest days and what are you most grateful for?

The sight of my little boy at the end of the day when I come home from work. The thought of spending time with my family. 

What socio-political women’s issue do you care about the most? Do you feel that women are typically presented fairly in the media? Why or why not?

The representation of women remains for the most part fairly archaic it seems to me. Still, the pre-occupation of the headlines of most women’s magazines is the notion that we should seek to look younger, richer, better, thinner. There have been some powerful developments since I left the fashion industry aged twenty, but clearly there is still great progress to be made. Gladly, I note young girls and women across the world are reinstating the notion of feminism as being a good thing. This progressive shift I find immensely encouraging.

Despite separation between Church & State, religion still seems to govern decisions regarding women – abortions, birth control, etc. How do we shift power over women’s bodies to women?

I think we encourage government to accept and allow and empower their female citizens to make decisions about their bodies without interference from the religious or political arena. 

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