In the wake of the kidnap and subsequent death of Sarah Everard last March, a group of women came together to say enough is enough and formed Reclaim These Streets. The action group, which includes Jamie Klingler as a co-founder, set out to organise a vigil for Sarah Everard and all women who had died at the hands of gendered violence, but hit the headlines when the Metropolitan Police effectively banned their vigil. Since March 2021, Klingler and Reclaim These Streets have been fighting and advocating for the rights and safety of women and girls, so that we can finally put an end to gendered violence.
Bustle's "Without This Woman" is a series of essays honouring the women who change — and challenge — us every day. Below, 43-year-old writer and founder of Reclaim These Streets Jamie Klingler shares the importance of female friendship across generations with her friend and food writer, Xanthe Clay.
I first met Xanthe, 54, around five or six years ago, and I remember it as if it was yesterday. We first met at the opening of Dishoom in Edinburgh, and after most people left for the night, Xanthe and I ended up staying up all night just talking, as if we were chasing the hours getting to know each other. We clicked instantly.
On this night, she was telling me how she needed to figure out what she wanted to do for her 50th birthday that was coming up soon, and I mentioned that I teach poker. And so, one thing led to another and I ended up hosting a poker night for her and her friends on her 50th birthday. And it turned out to be this incredible night of all of these brilliant and vibrant women that were around 10 years older than me, and it really changed how I look at the friendships in my life, especially friendships between younger and older women. They were so dynamic. So different. So interesting. It honestly changed my life.
I think we need those kinds of friendships more than ever to balance us out, show us a path, and tell us we'll still be here. We'll reinvent ourselves, we'll change, and we'll grow. There have been so many times where I’ve felt really alone in my individual experiences, especially as I lost my mum three years ago, so having that bond with Xanthe is a hugely important part of my life. It puts things into perspective and also made me realise that we all go through three or four lifetimes in our lives, reincarnations if you will, so seeing women who have already been through it is such a nice reality check for me. And that's the thing, it opens us up to so many more experiences and options, and I think that's really special.
I'm one of the founders of Reclaim These Streets and to say it’s been a traumatic year for women doesn’t even begin to describe the experience that I and so many women have had over the last 12 months. And with the recent passing anniversary of Sarah Everard’s death, it can become quite heavy and damaging.
Xanthe is the one person that when I do a tonne of press or when there's events to host or attend, she doesn't check in on me about the work but checks in on how I’m doing. She’ll invite me to her house in Bristol and put me up in a bedroom with my dog and just let me switch off and read for a few days, or she’ll come down to London and just let me cry and hold my hand during lunch. She’s the one I always turn to.
Xanthe will come down to London and just let me cry and hold my hand during lunch. She’s always the one I always turn to.
I don’t necessarily think of her as my mum but because of the age gap between us, there’s a comfort and tenderness there that you don’t always find with friends who are of a similar age to you. I don't have to explain to her the ins and outs of what’s happening in my life and what’s getting me down, her care of me is very focused on am I taking care of myself? Am I putting enough distance between me and the work? Am I sleeping enough? It's very different from any of my other relationships. It fills a hole in a big way and really helps to fuel me to do the work and to get through it all.
I tend to see Xanthe every few months but when we do see each other it’s as if no time has passed at all. We pick right back up where we left off and it’s just easy. I may not always take the advice she gives me, but to have that sense check with someone when considering an option or decision is so important to me, especially as I’m the type of person who’s in real danger of switching to autopilot. I know that when she sends me a text, I can’t just reply “I’m fine” because I know that to her that’s not a good enough answer and she’ll pull me up on it.
She came to London to see me a couple of weeks ago and took me to an art session and I just unwound completely and cried the whole way through our lunch. Xanthe didn’t say anything, she just held my hand and let me cry, and that’s just the kind of person she is. She dropped everything to come and see me in person because she knew I was struggling, and to have someone make you a priority like that, it’s really special and she means the world to me.
As told to Shahed Ezaydi. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.