Our project ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ started in September 2021, with the aim of co-creating artistic work with students aged 16 to 24 from The Northern School of Art, Durham University and Bishop Auckland College. The main focus of this creative project has been to challenge harmful sexual attitudes and behaviours, and facilitate open conversation, resulting in confidence, knowledge and healthy intimate relationships.
Why? In March 2021, the devastating murder of former Durham University student Sarah Everard, whose death sparked outrage and protests over the rates of violence against women came just months after the Everyone’s Invited’s mission was founded in June 2020, its aim to express and eradicate rape culture with empathy, compassion and understanding which has already to date received over 54,000 testimonies (2022).
In 2020 a high profile UK university was shaken by fresh claim of sexism and rape culture. Messages from group chats were published on social media to horrified students. A chat from the group exposed ‘posh lads’ plans to compete to sleep with the poorest girl at the University highlighting an intersection of sexism & classism embedded in higher and further education. Bringing together students from different institutions to collaborate creatively will work to address the issues and break down barriers.
Phase 1: Engagement & Research
Beginning with the work of our Artist in Residence Lou Brown (Goodstrangevibes), we engaged students across our three partner institutions through drop-in sessions and artistic workshops, using live art making and discussion as a platform to explore how these issues affect young people. Together with data collected from surveys, evaluations and testimonies, we were able to draw out recurring and shared key themes such as consent, support and boundaries being respected, which were addressed in phase two.
Artwork created during the Artist In Residences at the Northern School of Art and Durham University:
Goodstrangevibes is run by Lou, a queer artist who creates illustrations to make difference in respect to body positivity, mental health, LGBTQ+ topics and sex education.
Lou's artwork is informed by their academic insights, queer identity, past experience of an eating disorder and current experience of anxiety and OCD.
With funding from Curious Arts and Queer Arts North, they recently delivered Revolutionising Sex Education, a project that aimed to shake up sex education. The output was a zine featuring illustrations to expose the reality of sex and its multiplicities through the lens of raw sex stories.
Phase 2: Action
A Student Social Action Group was formed of students from the Northern School of Art, Durham University and Bishop Auckland College, and the use of a “pro-social model” was determined for the continuation of the project. This model created a space to represent positive relationships of all kinds and open a dialogue that we hope will continue to improve young people’s awareness and understanding of healthy intimate relationships.
Following an open call for positive relationship stories of all kinds, the Student Social Action Group re-commissioned Goodstrangevibes to illustrate seven chosen stories, which are featured in our zine: What's All The Fuss About?
Further Community Engagement & Involving Younger People in the Conversation
To extend the project into the community, and to encourage the breadth of positive relationships people can experience to be displayed (i.e. parent and foster child, young person and teacher, young person and their youth group leader), we ran a creative competition for children and young people across County Durham aged 3 to 18 called Let’s Talk About Relationships.
We asked for artwork that depicted the better side of love and friendships. Winners of the competition are being featured in the zine and in our final exhibition on 18th June in Durham (more details below).
Alongside the illustrations from Lou Brown (Goodstrangevibes) and the creative submissions to our art competition, a further four professional artists were commissioned by the Student Social Action Group. The resulting artwork has contributed to the artistic content of the zine, using the themes of the project (i.e., consent, toxic masculinity, coercion, cat calling, lad culture, sexual harassment, sexism, feminism, respect, boundaries, disability, equality, relationships):
1) Sofia Barton – multidisciplinary artist
Sofia is a Punjabi artist from Newcastle upon Tyne who creates bright artwork which is heavily influenced by nature and heritage. Her work is multidisciplinary, and consists of paintings, design, and digital content. Sofia often redesigns objects to portray a careful study reflecting a more modern multicultural and dynamic society.
2) Beka Haigh - live illustration artist
Beka is an artist and illustrator based in Yorkshire. Much of their work can be described by the term 'live illustration' and their portfolio of work includes live drawing or graphic recording (also known as 'scribing' or visual minute taking), 2D and 3D illustration, installation, and live performance. Beka's work often combines live illustration, interactive performance, facilitation, game design and open-source technology in surprising ways.
3) Bettie Hope / aka Slutmouth – creator of glitzy and funky fashion pieces
Slutmouth focuses on rejecting the taboos we hold against our bodies and sexuality and mentality towards these by creating glitzy and funky fashion pieces, interior and furnishing accessories and bespoke commissions. It is a slow-paced brand, that gives new leases of life to fabrics that were once going to a landfill; these products help raise money for 'No Sweats' Solidarity to garment worker's fund. The surface design practice is anchored using traditional screen printing, illustrated natural formations combined with embroidery techniques. The aim is to educate and provoke thoughts on such critical issues happening in society today.
4) James Mernagh / aka Merny Wernz - painter
Merny paints watercolours and murals inspired by online meme culture, technical diagrams, health and safety posters and other things he encounters in the world. His style is vibrant and frenetic and explores the post truth, post internet age of technology we are living in. His portfolio of cryptic diagrams and nonsensical scenes aim to embrace imperfection and human nature.
LET'S TALK: Pop Up Exhibition & Live Performance
12pm - 4pm // Saturday 18th June // Alington House, Durham : Link to Facebook Event
Join us from 12pm as we celebrate the culmination of our overarching project 'Let's Talk About Sex' with a free public exhibition of the resulting creative content! This event is part of Durham’s Summer in the City Festival.
A breadth of artwork will be exhibited, displaying commissions on the themes of this project, by:
// Sofia Barton Illustrator
// Lou Brown AKA GoodStrangeVibes
// Beka Haytch Artist & Illustrator
// Bettie Hope AKA Slutmouth
// James Mernagh AKA Merny Wernz
At 2:30pm don't miss live performance (running time 50 mins) from feminist theatre company Menstrual Rage, that strives to explore issues that universally affect women by telling old and new stories in a fun, engaging way.
Following the performance an informal Q&A will take place with Changing Relations' Creative Director Pollyanna Turner, the project's Student Social Action Group, and other project partners.
Alongside our final exhibition we encourage you to take home a free copy of our zine: What's All The Fuss About?
A virtual exhibition will be available on our webpage www.changingrelations.co.uk/our-work/lets-talk-about-sex for those unable to make the exhibition in person.
We are hosting the following events for those who wish to get involved with the project:
- Wednesday 8th June at 9:30am and 1:30pm in Bishop Auckland:
Workshops for Teachers & Professionals working with young people aged 14-21. We will be talking about our project 'Let's Talk About Sex' and providing free resources for you to use.
If you're interested to join a workshop, please email [email protected]
- Wednesday 13th July at 10:30am: 'What's All The Fuss About?' Resource & Project Sharing Webinar
Interested to know more about this project, or how to be involved with our ongoing work? Click here to register on Eventbrite
Changing Relations would like to thank the funders of this project: Arts Council England, Durham Community Arts & Culture Fund, Durham University, Gaunless Gateway Big Local, #iwill Youth Social Action Fund, National Lottery Awards for All Fund, Postcode Neighbourhood Trust.
Everyone’s Invited is a safe place for survivors to share their stories completely anonymously. The act of sharing their story with Everyone’s Invited allows many survivors a sense of relief, catharsis, empowerment, and gives them a feeling of community and hope.
Information & Support
If you are looking for more information or support on any of the themes we are exploring please download our support sheet.