On International Women’s day we look back to an event we instigated last year.
Friday 25th November 2022 was White Ribbon Day. This was the International Day for the Eradication of Violence against Women. White Ribbon is the world’s largest movement engaging men and boys to end violence against women and girls, promote gender equality and create new opportunities for men and boys to build positive, healthy, and respectful relationships.
The conference series involved survivors of abuse, researchers into Domestic Abuse and practitioner workshops. I helped Professor Alyson Rees look for artistic material to support this conference series. We recognised that art and imagery can convey something that research papers and presentations cannot. Through my research I found Henny Beaumont who is an illustrator based in London. She was so struck by Sarah Everard’s murder and subsequently by Jess Philips MP naming all 118 of the other women murdered in that year, that she resolved to commemorate their lives and raise awareness of their murder through painting their portraits. She says, “I will never forget the 118 faces that I’ve painted and the pain of so much unnecessary loss.”
She cleverly videoed the painting process, so that each portrait could be both painted into existence and painted out of existence. This work was beautiful, subtle, and powerful and the potential was obvious. All the conference materials are all freely available on ExChange, including Henny’s artwork.
Having discovered Henny’s work, we thought how powerful it would be to use it to align the University with White Ribbon Day, which the University had not previously recognised. Helen Beddow from the Central Coms team help us to pull the project together. Helen suggested using the screens in the new CSL building to show the art installation. This was fortuitous and led to the connection with Student Services teams who shared the building.
Alongside me at the White Ribbon Day event were representatives of the Student Services Disclosure Response Team at Cardiff University, Cardiff Women’s Aid, Safer Wales, New Pathways, South Wales Victim Focus, the Violence Prevention Unit and South Wales Police.
This was the first time that the new Centre for Student Life at Cardiff University had been used to raise awareness and promote services to students and staff. CASCADE as a research centre usually looks out from the university towards changes that can be made in Social Services and Local Authorities. This was also one of the few times that we have joined forces with teams across the University to raise awareness of our work and promote gender equality to students and staff. It was noticeable that this event allowed staff members to share their experiences. The Disclosure Response Team even received referrals as a result of the event.
We have also met with representatives of the White Ribbon Campaign to discuss the University applying to become a White Ribbon accredited institution and ways in which we can support each other through research.
This demonstrates the many benefits of holding original events like this. It was fantastic to have the opportunity to work across the university mixing professional services, research and student facing departments to achieve things we cannot do in our own teams.
It was interesting to see the value that the arts, and specific artworks, can have in facilitating conversations across the university, as well as for promoting the university, knowledge exchange and facilitating change.
Above all, I hope that this helps support the White Ribbon campaign.
Phil Lambert is Engagement Administration Officer in the Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE). He is also an independent Visual Artist and Creative Agent for the Arts Council of Wales.