Monday, 28 October 2019

March Against the Sex Trade, Filia Conference 2019, Bradford.

The March Against the Sex Trade took place on the Saturday evening, October 19th, at the end of day one of Filia conference. We assembled at twilight and processed to the Centenary Square, the main square in Bradford. There we gathered in a circle and, after an introduction by Fiona Broadfoot, we read out the names of all the women who had been murdered while exploited in prostitution. What was shocking was how long it took. As the daylight was faded, and the street lights brightened, and the night sky shifted from grey to deep blue, we held up white roses and cards, each with the name of one murdered woman, and called out the names again, all together this time, like a Greek Chorus. Once all the names had been sounded at least three times, we had a minute’s silence to reflect on the harms of prostitution and sex trade, and to remember the lives and deaths of the women whose names were called. ‘The Invisible Man,’ the pot set up in the centre of the circle, ‘broke the silence,’ as it smashed on to the paved stone ground, releasing the images of women painted inside.

The memorial concluded with a song and a dance by an Argentinian woman, one of the conference speakers, whose daughter had been abducted, prostituted, and murdered in Buenos Aires.

Perhaps the most significant part though was this: as I was about to collect and wrap up the shards, a young man and woman who were out for the evening and passing by, asked me if I knew Rebecca Hall, one of the women whose names were called out during the memorial. ‘I knew her,’ said the young man, ‘She was one of my best friends at school. This means so much to me.’ He then went and spoke to the woman who was holding the card with Rebecca’s name on it. You can read about Rebecca here.

The shards are now on their way back to the studio where they will be glazed and the pot reassembled but with pieces left out so you can see the images of the women painted inside. If all goes according to plan, the internal images – the women - will dominate. You will see them rather than the men depicted on the outside of the pot. The shattering and mending of a pot is a simple metaphor, reflected in the words, ‘I was shattered. Now I’m piecing myself slowly back together.’

Among my proudest moments, as a feminist and a potter, are when my pots are part of feminist activism, especially activism against the sex trade and the call for abolition. The March Against the Sex Trade was an action done as part of a feminist conference but in a public space. Reaching out to survivors, to family and friends of survivors, and to passers by  - the public in the most general sense, is surely the most important of any campaign. It was a huge honour to be part of it.

The names of the women murdered in prostitution in Bradford
May 21 2010, Suzanne Blamires, 36
April 26 2010 Shelley Armitage, 31
June 22 2009, Susan Rushworth, 43
April 26 2001: Rebecca Hall, 19
May 2000 Gemma Simpson, 23
October 1996: Caroline Creevy, 25
June 8 1995: Maureen Stepan, 18
1992 Yvonne Fitt, 32
1984: Deborah Kershaw,22
January 21 1978: Yvonne Pearson, 21
Wiki page – women UK-wide  - This is UK and Ireland - from 2010-today. 

Fiona Broadfoot is one of the women bringing the judicial review aiming to get convictions removed from the record of exited women and remove the need for disclosure which represents a major barrier for prostituted women who are trying to exit.

Friday, 11 October 2019

And The Door Opened, ceramic project with Women @the Well, (W@W)

(image above: The Inivisible Men, 2019. To be broken in Centenary Square, Bradford, October 19th 2019 at Filia international feminist conference.)

W@W is a women-only service located in Kings Cross dedicated to supporting women whose lives are affected - or at risk of being affected - by prostitution. They have asked me to make a collection of pots that would illustrate the stories of the women they work with and then to get both the pots, and the stories they tell, to as wide an audience as possible. 

And The Door Opened,’ is my response. In effect, it is a travelling ‘Work in Progress’ show – think ‘Open Studio' goes on tour. It is not a single exhibition, or any exhibition as such, it is a series of events with displays of my pots, demonstrations of pot-making, talks, seminars, and conversations  that, together, will illustrate the stories of women wanting to leave, ‘exit’ prostitution. 

The aim is to improve the public understanding of what prostitution is and to show that, with the right support, girls and women do not need to live and die exploited in the sex trade – there are ways out.

When and where:

November 7thth-December 31st 2019 with Collage-arts at Collage Artspace 4 and Wood Green Library, Library Mall, 191 High St, London, N22 6DZ (See below for details of full programme for this venue and click here for: invitation to the launch on Monday Nov. 25th.)

March 20th-22nd 2020 Ceramic Art London, Central St Martins, Granary Building, 1 Granary Square, London, N1C 4AA

May 1st-September 30th Beyond the Streets and St. Botolph’s without Aldgate,
Aldgate High St, London EC3N 1AB

September 19th and October 3rd 2020 Southbank Open Spaces Trust with Crossbones Cemetery, Redcross Way, London, SE1 1SD

September 10th-November 3rd 2020 Southwark Cathedral, London Bridge, London SE1 9DA

And the Door Opened will continue in 2021 in Stoke on Trent, Bradford and Leeds.

More details about each of the events:

Collage Artspace 4 and Wood Green Library, November 7th-December 31st 2019
Window and Library displays: Nov 7th – Dec 31st 2019
Launch with speakers and pot-breaking ceremony: Nov 25th  (to coincide with UN 16 days campaigning to eliminate violence against women;) Book your place here

Demonstration of mending a pot with talk: Nov 30th 12-4pm;
How to mend a pot - workshop for participants Dec 7th 12-4pm.

Ceramic Art London, 20-22nd March 2020,
Project to be included in the lectures and workshops programme with a display of completed pots. 

St. Botolphs without Aldgate with Beyond the Streets, Whitechapel, May-Sept 2020
Beyond the Streets, an exiting service in East London, leads a walking tour in Whitechapel in opposition to the ‘Jack the Ripper’ tours, on the last Thursday of each of the five months. The tour talks about the lives of the women who were murdered, stopping at the places they lived, and also talks about the lives of prostituted people now. St. Botolph’s without Aldgate will have a display of pots from the project from May to September.

Cross Bones Cemetery and Southwark Cathedral, September 10th – November 3rd 2020
Ceremony involving the breaking of a pot Saturday, Sept 19th, 2020
Installation of a pot as a permanent memorial and call for action Saturday, Oct 3rd 2020.
Cross Bones is the burial site of the ‘outcast’ people of the 17th and 18th centuries, including prostituted women. Display of pots at Southwark Cathedral in the chapel until October 10th, and in the link until Nov 3rd  2020.