The Queenager : Eleanor's Letter (August 22nd 2022)

I've been going to the same festival with the same tribe for 17 years... it feels like home.

Dear Queenagers,

To those of you who are new to this newsletter – welcome! To those of you lovely midlifers who are regulars I am sorry this is coming to you on a Monday rather than the normal Sunday, but I’ve been completely off grid at a festival in Devon. (Yup that’s me in the middle above).

I kind of intended to write this on my phone and send it out, but the total lack of any wifi or 4G meant that any phone-age  of any kind was impossible – and I am really happy about that. It is rare that any of us get a total break from the tyranny of the pinging email. And even if it isn’t work missives, then the temptation to scroll or read the headlines is often too much even when we are supposed to be off duty. So this time I really was in a non-networked bubble and it was good!

It’s a festival I have been to so many times it is like going back to a familiar spot or a much loved house. Of course it’s a place which only exists for a few days a year, but in my mind it is always there;  the waving flags, the saturated green of the hills, the way the clouds build and hasten up the valley (it always rains) and most of all camping for four days with a tribe of friends. Walking through the gate, getting that familiar wristband, putting up the tent – that first sip of fizzy cider. It makes me feel like I have come home.

I first went when my younger daughter was one. My husband had been before. He came back raving about it and insisted we all went the next year. My eldest was three; that first year it was extremely muddy. One of our favourite family memories is skidding across a steep slope there up from the Bimble Inn with the baby in the buggy and the three year old screeching with glee. She is 20 now but  still remembers the exhilaration of that night, the twinkling lights, the neon-dressed ravers by the dance tent, illuminated sculptures of flowers, the buzz and throb of 15,000 people all having fun. A world where misrule is the norm; where teeth don’t have to be brushed and adults do silly things. It’s an important bit of the plait of their childhood.

This was our 14th year at the festival – and our tribe has expanded.

It used to consist of a bunch of my husband’s old uni mates plus partners and hangers on, about 15 of us. But now we all have kids who are all adults themselves. We thought that when they got older they wouldn’t want to come to a festival with us, their dreary old wrinkly parents. Turns out we were wrong. These days the kids all come too, with their boyfriends and girlfriends, and we are a multi-generational  crowd of camping revellers. This year there were nearly forty of us: teens, students, twentysomethings, old punks, queenagers, new friends (a lovely lady from San Francisco one of my therapist mates met on a course) and old ones galore. My husband has old pals from Devon who turn up there and cousins – it’s quite the scene.

In our posse I’ve known all the kids since they were bumps or babies. The chat flows. Nothing is off limits from ecocide to Derrida, the state of the loos (dire) to who looks the worse for wear. We joke about the year one of the mums peaked too early and spent the whole Saturday sleeping it off in the tent. There is folk-lore galore and terrible in jokes. It feels like four days of hanging out with the family I choose. We laugh, and dance and trek about and drink cider and giggle and put the world to rights and take the piss out of each other. All of us together. I love it.

My student daughter slept in a tent for four nights with me and her dad (she wasn’t keen on the snoring). Surely maternal heaven is being able to stroke the cheek of a much-loved often absent daughter as she sleeps!  Her younger sister and her best mate had a separate tent (good job as they were up till 4.30am!). The real joy is in the downtime. No acts are on till 2pm so the mornings were spent languorously cooking omelettes and making coffee (we always take an espresso pot and a jug for frothing the milk). It was first order family time, aimlessly chatting, hugs, applying glitter to each other, shooting the breeze. Time together, hanging out; nowhere else to be, no phones to check. I am sure humans were supposed to live like this with an extended tribe, where there’s always someone whose got the washing up liquid you’ve forgotten, or a packet of extra biscuits. I bought a blow-up sofa with a puncture, and everyone laughed uncontrollably as it slowly deflated and I was left lying on the floor. I love the way the hilarity rolls through the group, great guffaws of kind and bonding laughter mixed with conversations so profound they make you feel a bit teary, and then moments later all whirled up in the dance together, transported to another dimension by the power of the music.

In terms of music my highlight this year was a DJ set by Dreadzone, a rather loungy outing from The Specials and a young firebrand called Bob Villain. I wasn’t a slave to the programme but chanced upon a crazy group called the Snapped Ankles who thought they were space men (amazing funky vibes) and loved The Dandy Warhols – they build up a wall of sound a bit like the Grateful Dead or Brian Jones Town Massacre. Low expectations means it’s always a bonus when you find something you love. I managed to stay off the SuiCider (8% proof, it tastes murky and after a pint or two the knees go wobbly and the tongue stops working) and stayed happy on the fizzy apple stuff at about 3%.  The sun shone (more evidence of climate change in all the times we’ve been there it’s never not been wet). Spending three days walking 20k steps, dancing like a maniac and eating only occasionally (Masala Dosas were the best) is a different kind of health holiday. I’ll take it over a spa any day!

It is not for the faint-hearted, granted. I did have a shower (a first)  but it makes me appreciate still being able bodied enough to sleep on a roll mat on the ground and dance till my ankles ache. Older mates joke about getting a camper van when the bones get too weary for the tent malarkey. I do have to confess that two of our party got so excited in an old punk medley mosh pit ( I wanna be… Anarchy)  that one broke a rib and the other sprained an ankle. Sometimes the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak… but there are 51 weeks to recover till next year!

So I share my weekend revels because being a Queenager is all about making the most of the time we have – living it to the full. I’ve been to festivals for the last 25 years and I think I enjoy them now more than, and certainly as much, as ever. I don’t stay up as late as I did. But nothing is as sweet to me as jumping up and down with my two girls and my husband in a shared spot of musical passion surrounded by beloved mates. It may not be a conventional family holiday, but to us it is sacred family time and I am so proud and grateful that my girls still choose to come.

Lots of love to you all and welcome to the Noon/ Queenager community. my platform for women in midlife, full of stories about us becoming the women we are supposed to be at this point. I was sick of the mainstream media not representing us as we are (some of the stuff I have written about this), the old narrative about the later stages of women’s lives is so not fit for purpose I wanted to run articles about all the amazing Queenagers I knew and heard about doing incredible things. Midlife is when we come into our prime. This newsletter and community is all about that!

I attach some answers to questions a journalist asked me last week to give those of you who are new to this some context. Or do check out the website for the broader mission. And if you become a

Paid Subscriber you can get a free book sent to you every month and become part of our book club (and receive other goodies and come to some of my speaking events and the Noon Circle where we share midlife wisdom).

All the best – yours rather wearily!


Ps. Some context – an email interview I did with Marketing Week last week for those of you who are new to the Queenager concept. I think it is a new and optimistic way of talking about the huge possibilities for women at this stage…

  1. Would you agree there is currently a missed opportunity when it comes to marketing to women 45+?

Eleanor: There is a huge opportunity for brands to speak to the over 45s – our Queenagers according to research conducted this year by Noon and Accenture found that half of women in this bracket feel invisible to brands and 61 per cent said they would be more likely to buy from a brand that represented them authentically. Forbes magazine brands women 45-60 as ‘super consumers’ they outspend millennials by 250 per cent and are behind 90 per cent of all household spending decisions. But currently no brands speak to them directly

2.      How central to getting brand marketing to women right, is it to have C-Suite gender equality at a brand? Eleanor: Part of the reason for the lack of advertising to women is the lack of older women in the C suite – in the creative industries only around 6 per cent of staff are over 50 – and only 2 per cent of them are female. Too much of the advertising output is dominated by ‘male lens’ thinking; only valuing women for their fecundity and fanciability. But women have intrinsic value and the wisdom of older females is marginalised in all cultures. Age – and particularly gendered ageism – where ageism meets sexism – is the part of the diversity agenda which is always neglected

3.      How can brands better reflect and represent the different life stages and needs of women over 50?

Eleanor: It would be a start if they started reflecting women over 50 at all! When they do they use women eg Carla Bruni or Helen Mirren who look nothing like their audience. More authentic representation and reflection of the incredible things this cohort of women are doing would lead to better outcomes for brands – and women.

4.      In our survey, we found that it’s young people, 18-24 years old (both male and female) who most want see women breaking age stereotypes in advertising. Does that surprise you? I am not surprised young people want to see more older women in marketing. It matters to All women that Queenagers are represented. I want all women to look forward to their fifties as when they come into their prime and can do what they want with their lives – rather than seeing culture treat women like peaches – one wrinkle and you are done (while men are seen like wine getting better with age)

  1. And finally, would you like personally to see more age-positive advertising for women, or more age-neutral advertising? I think that tackling ageism is our next big challenge – older women are 25 per cent of the population. In my lifetime I have seen huge shifts in attitudes to sexuality and race – we need a similar revolution when it comes to age!

pps – if you are interested in any of this from a commercial perspective ie you want your company to speak to this amazing Queenager market then email or me

By Eleanor Mills

More on Eleanor’s Letter

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The Queenager : Eleanor’s Letter (August 14th 2022)

When the personal becomes political: the NHS crisis and other tales.

The Queenager: Eleanor’s Letter (July 31st 2022)

Should menopause, like pregnancy, be a protected characteristic at work? And why we need to change the story about the lives of older women.


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