Dedicated to All the Others is a life story project, funded by Arts Council England and Leeds Inspired. It’s rooted in my first graphic novel Becoming Unbecoming.
Since Becoming Unbecoming was published by Myriad Editions in 2015 so many people have reached out to me to tell their stories, and I’ve tried to be worthy of their trust in me and my work. It’s just a little book, but it has a big heart, like me 🙂 Now, through my not-for-profit company Red Dress Collective and my project Dedicated to All the Others, I hope to build on these encounters, and help others to find creative ways to tell their life stories.
I always thought I should use Becoming Unbecoming as a resource, I just wasn’t clear how that would work. But my readers showed me how. They emailed, they hung around after talks, they befriended me and I befriended them. Like Sarah Hildebrand, quoted above, they showed me how the themes and aesthetic of Becoming Unbecoming can help others find their voice, which is nice, because I dedicated it to them.
On 24th November, 2021, I had the pleasure and privilege of gathering by zoom for a book club, based around Becoming Unbecoming, with a small, brilliant group of women who have trusted me with their life-stories. The ‘book club’ was the first stage in a six week activity that explored a range of approaches to writing lives that have been touched by violence. I’m being very cautious and have spent time preparing for this ethically challenging scenario. I’m hoping to learn as much from my participants as they do from me and I’m so grateful for their contributions.
The video below is made from an ambient recording at Slung Low theatre, without a microphone, and was meant just for our own records, but it came out so well we decided to share it. Written by Participant 9, it was inspired by our first telephone conversation, when I mentioned that I felt if I’d had exposure to feminism, I might have been better protected as a child and young adult. Performed by Sara Allkins, who specialises in ‘forum theatre’, a strategy in which participants test their creative writing as performance. Participants influence the work by ‘directing’ the performance from the safety of the group, utilising the actor as both proxy and mirror. In this case, the group wanted Sarah to read the work in the style of a preacher.
The six week pilot project was funded by Leeds Inspired. Just a little pot of money to do big work. After the pilot, I took what I’d learned into a period of research and development funded by Arts Council England, and subsequently I’ve begun working with charities and arts orgs with my company Red Dress.
Here are some amazing images made by Participant 5. In pencil and burn marks on paper.
Here are some samples of writing, made during the creative writing activity.
Participant 2 is a prolific writer and made these two striking, powerful works on the themes of silence and noise, after a discussion on Una’s silence in Becoming Unbecoming and about survivors finding their voice.
Here’s participant 5 again, in writing. ‘My Bed’
This blog post was updated on 11th March, 2022