Photo by Steve Lilly Photography

I first met these lovely ladies last year at a Southend Passionate Women meetup. During a discussion with Adriana, the founder of the group, it seems that the group has since changed their name from “Southend Passionate Women” to “Inspiring Ladies of Southend” after a group vote. Apparently the inclusion of “passionate” in the group’s name was controversial amongst members, due to the sexual connotations of the word and perceived stigma attached to publicly declaring yourself online a “Passionate Woman”. Regardless of the name change, these Inspiring Ladies will always be Passionate Women to me. Passionate is not a dirty word, and these women should be proud to be passionate! But, of course, they are also inspiring – so their current name is still an appropriate fit.

Following my initial meetup last year with Southend Passionate Women (A.K.A. Inspiring Women of Southend), I attended their inaugural conference in March 2014, where I met and got to know some fantastic women – each with their own inspiring story to tell. Last year’s EDEN theme was “Grow Your Passion”, and I’m sure the event certainly did play a part in nourishing the passions of the women who attended.

EDEN Conference 2015 Transformation

This year’s theme was…


With an aim to help women transform themselves and their lives, the day consisted of inspiring talks from EDEN’s guest speakers, sharing their unique wisdom on what it takes exactly to transform your life for the better.

Crowstone Christian Centre

Though the EDEN conference this year was held at Crowstone Christian Centre, the event was not religious at all and openly welcomed women of all cultural and religious backgrounds. Having said that, the church environment did make an exceptional backdrop for the speakers to talk, as light flooded in from the magnificent stained glass windows. After the initial hellos and complimentary cups of tea and coffee in the cafeteria area, we were all invited inside to find a seat. Each seat had a slip of paper asking us of our inspirations to be put forward for a competition, along with a small blue stone.

Susan Giles at EDEN conference 2015

The wonderfully eccentric Susan Giles was first to come on stage, after the “housekeeping” rules and introduction to the EDEN conference courtesy of the lovely Adriana. She she shared with us two poems which she had written. The first served as a beautiful introduction to the day. The second, a rather saucy poem regarding one of Susan’s past “passions”… A great way to break the ice, and had the whole audience giggling.

Kym Cifti Eden Conference 2015

Kym Cifti was the second speaker on stage with her talk, “Resistance to Change”. Kym has a wonderful gift for words and her talk seemed to evoke unexpected emotions as she told of her recent divorce and how her extraordinary marriage allowed her to feel unconditional love unlike anything she has ever experienced before. But sometimes you need to be strong enough and fearless enough to make life-changing decisions that you know will help you to grow as a person. You need to grab opportunities while they’re there, and sometimes you need to make changes to your life if you want to be in a position to grab those opportunities. At one point, she read out those all too familiar phrases that demonstrate our resistance to change like “I’m not good enough” and “I’ll do it tomorrow”, and had us stand up if we’ve ever used that excuse before. Of course, by the end, everybody in the audience was standing. We women are human after all.

Jill Poet at EDEN Conference 2015

Jill Poet was next on the EDEN stage with her talk, “Your Purpose”, which was all about realising your purpose and following your purpose in your journey to self-discovery. Jill Poet is the managing director of ORB (Organisation for Responsible Businesses) and is an “ethical entrepreneur”.

Brnie Bentley at EDEN Conference 2015

Bernie Bentley‘s talk, called “Just You, Just Me”, seemed to tug a bit on the ladies’ heart strings. Bernie runs a mental health group (Just Listening To You), and helps women who feel that they don’t have anyone to talk to. The blue stone that we each found on our seat, she said, is for us to take home so that we remember if we ever feel that we need to talk to someone we are free to reach out to her for help. The little blue stone represents a piece of her that we are all taking home with us, as a reminder that she is there for us should we need it. She shared the inspiring stories of some of the women that she has helped and who came to the EDEN conference that day. She also went around the room with a microphone, asking every single last one of us for the first word to come to mind that describes ourselves. That really was as embarrassing as it sounds if you’re not used to hearing your voice amplified through a microphone. I think someone rightly chose “embarrassed” as their word to describe themselves!

Anna Heim at EDEN Conference 2015

Anna Heim was back again this year with her talk called “Life of Transitions”. Anna has had an extremely challenging life, but her inspiring story shows how sometimes life’s challenges guide you to your true self and passions and, as Anna put it herself, “your passion is your power”.

Kim Bailey at EDEN conference 2015

Like a lot of women, Kim Bailey hasn’t had the easiest of lives either. After years of being told who she was or who she wanted to be without really knowing herself, she finally knew that her mission in life was to help people who had the same problems with personal insecurity and lack of clarity in their lives. She had to take some risks in order to become a qualified life coach, but now she coaches people through overcoming their insecurities to help them find “The Genie Within”.

Rosemary Cunningham Massage at EDENPhoto by Steve Lilly Photography

After a long snack break of networking, tea and coffee, and delicious home made cakes and biscuits, we were back inside just in time for massages with Rosemary Cunningham! Rosemary introduced us to “Story Massages” – telling a story using massage. We each took it in turns to massage the person sitting next to us, following the story that Rosemary was telling at the front. Rosemary teaches story massages to children as young as 3 or 4 in schools, encouraging both creative and social development skills such as asking for permission before touching someone early on, and showing children that they can say no if they feel uncomfortable with being touched. It was, needless to say, a very relaxing workshop.

EDEN 2015 Drum CirclePhoto by Steve Lilly Photography

After the massage workshop, Susan Giles was back with a loud and incredibly enjoyable workshop, “Express Yourself”. We were told to get up and grab a percussion instrument from the front and just play it however we wanted. First we followed certain rhythms as we got used to our instruments, before finally we just made as much noise as we wanted, as we danced and sang and shouted in the drum circle.

EDEN 2015 Fashion Show

The last activity of the day was the fashion show. The women who chose to participate wore outfits from different cultures that they probably have never experienced wearing before, and strutted up the catwalk posing for the cameras showing off their new look in a brilliant confidence-building exercise.

Well done to everyone at Inspiring Women of Southend, especially Adriana for creating such a unique community of women in Southend. It’s amazing see how the group has grown over the past year.