Make Do and Mend
‘Life changing’, student at Barrington School, Bishop Auckland
Make Do and Mend started life in 2015 as an original Arts Council-funded play, in which the characters depicted were based on three real women who received support from the Just for Women Centre in Stanley, County Durham. The verbatim script was created using interviews with these women, and much of the set, costumes and props were designed and made together with them. The use of verbatim theatre is a crucial tool in providing insight into the lived experience of survivors, and we feel it to be an essential prerequisite to improving community and professional responses to victim-survivors of domestic abuse. Following a successful tour of the play in 2016, we decided to create a film version of the play. Our film enables us to widely share the stories of these women in venues where erecting staging and lighting is not practical, and it can be used as an arts-based educational tool for training workshops.
Professionals from Gentoo and Northumbria University Mental Health Student Nursing Association have told us that our play and workshop gave them an understanding of the links and early, small signs of abuse that can be identified, as well as an insight into useful ways of talking with survivors.
In 2018, the film became the basis for art-making projects at Wolsingham School, St John’s Catholic School and Sixth Form College and Tow Law Youth and Community Centre. Visual Artist Polly Turner supported young people creating a series of collaborative textile outcomes, alongside discussion, using the film of Make Do and Mend as a starting point for inquiry.
Check our events page to see when you can watch the film.
Watch the trailer for the film:
Audiences of our play Make Do and Mend asked ‘why do men commit domestic abuse?’ and called for men’s side of the story. Inspired by this, research and development project Men’s Voices was created, bringing together emerging and experienced practitioners from varied disciplines to deliver creative arts workshops. These workshops were undertaken with a diverse group of marginalised men and boys, gathering testimonies, exploring experiences and bringing them together in story-sharing, performance, creative writing and visual arts to explore contemporary narratives of masculinity. We aimed to empower men (and women) to question destructive norms and explore healthier patterns in their relationships with themselves and each other, using art as a platform to reach young men and boys at a crucial identity-forming time.
The artists who facilitated the workshops – visual artists Rupert Philbrick and Polly Turner, and poet Chris Robinson – went on to produce their own body of work responding to the theme and group sessions. Their work, together with artwork produced by men and boys from Deerbolt Young Offenders Institute, Barnardo’s Domestic Violence Perpetrator programme, The Woodlands School and Men’s Cree groups in Eldon Lane and Stanley, was displayed in a public art exhibition in Empty Shop’s TESTT Space in Durham City, October 2017.
Public workshops were offered during the exhibition, together with a panel discussion ‘A crisis in masculinity?’ as part of Durham Book Festival, hosted by New Writing North in Durham University’s Palace Green Library. Here our collaboration with Ross Raisin, author of ‘A Natural’, was showcased. We co-commissioned Ross to write the piece ‘Manufacturing Men’ that featured in the Guardian.
Leading on from this, and following a grant from the Arts Council, a revised version of the exhibition will be touring rural venues in County Durham.
Click here for exhibition dates.
What Would You Do? is an original film produced together with a professional filmmaker and young people at Ferryhill Business and Enterprise College. The film depicts a scenario in a realistic and relatable way that reflects how today’s young people see such experiences unravelling.
We have created a practical and active training session and educational resource based on our film. Our training session uses relevant-to-classroom practices, to give teachers and other educational providers resources, teaching strategies and confidence to support students’ learning about sexting risks, healthy relationships and sex education.
The practical workshop session explores:
- The risks and consequences associated with sending intimate personal images;
- The laws surrounding sex and sexting;
- Who to go to for advice if you find yourself in difficulties relating to personal relationships;
- Trust and what makes a good friend;
- Sexism and the double standards applied to girls’ and boys’ sexual behaviour;
- Self-esteem and what can impact self-confidence.
By the end of our training session you will:
- Be familiar with our film (What Would You Do?), the RSE Sexting resource pack, and the key take-home messages;
- Understand and have tried out a range of teaching strategies and activities for delivering RSE content introduced in our resource pack, including discussion methodology Philosophy 4 Children;
- Reflect throughout and identify problems that may surface along the way;
- Create a plan of how to use our pack in your context; i.e. whether you have 10 minutes available in tutor time, plan an assembly, or can devote a series of lessons to it in your own existing RSE programme.
2017 saw the start of a new research and development project that used dance, poetry and visual arts to create a performance authored by many women; unpicking attitudes and behaviours surrounding shame and honour in relation to women’s bodies and sexuality, weaving together common threads across different cultures.
The project, co-ordinated by choreographer Alys North, ran workshops with four diverse women’s groups across the North East, which invited creative expression via participative arts processes, drawn from the artistic team’s backgrounds in dance, poetry, painting and installation art. The work was shaped by a collaboration between four dancers and the original artists who ran the creative sessions with the women’s groups, working alongside our Assistant Director Polly Turner. From this an original combined-arts work-in-progress performance was performed to participants, industry professionals and youth audience at Dance City, Newcastle in October 2017.
Audience responses to the performance helped us to gain critical feedback to inform the project’s refinement and shape our intended plans for a public tour in 2019 beyond the research and development period.
The project will work towards an outcome that will:
- Create a platform where the women we work with can define how they believe their bodies and sexuality should be treated and respected;
- Raise awareness of how we all participate in judging women’s bodies and sexuality through exploring how attitudes of shame and honour manifest themselves;
- Create a space for reflection about how we can empower, support and respect women better, bringing attention to women’s common experience across cultural differences.
Contact us for more information or to make a booking inquiry about using the resources that have come out of this project.