Our Work: Red Dress

Our Work: Red Dress

Sometimes, you can’t see the wood for the trees

We believe gentle, poetic storytelling through creative writing, performance, drawing and visual metaphor, increases our self knowledge and can help us be more confident and open about our lives, even if we’ve had some difficult experiences.

We believe there should be more stories told by those of us who have experienced the worst of other human beings – using artistic means – because cultural depictions of violence, traumatic experience, sexual violence and violent crime against women and children are hugely popular, lucrative art forms, that are not typically made by us or for us. We want to avoid making spectacle from trauma, and navigate the cultural fascination with predatory and violent men by sailing our own ship. 

Times are changing. We are not the only artists who want to create more thoughtful stories around these themes, in fact, we like to think we might be part of a movement.

Our history

In 2021, Una and Sara delivered a pilot project with a group of women in Leeds – a creative writing group with additional drawing and forum theatre. We developed our Red Dress approach through this project: careful planning, getting to know our participants, a warm, human approach, a focus on creating the highest quality work possible, and a thorough and extended follow up. Dedicated to All the Others: Leeds participants explored their first person accounts of experiences of sexual violence, using Becoming Unbecoming as a prompt. You can see some of the results of that project here. The project was funded by Leeds Inspired. 

In 2021 and 2022, Una created an international research project called Dedicated to All the Others, producing an online archive of professional artists, writers and activists talking about how they created a life story work about their experience of violence, and what effect this story-telling has had on them. A series of talking head videos, conversational podcasts and blog posts is available here. This R&D was funded by Arts Council England.

For the same project, Una collaborated with her partners in São Paulo, Brazil, Coletivo Rubra, to broadcast a subtitled performance of their theatrical adaption of Becoming Unbecoming, Dedicado a todas as outras. This was followed by a thoughtful discussion between Una, members of Coletivo Rubra, and theatre director Felipe Vieira de Galisteo, with simultaneous interpretation. This R&D was funded by Arts Council England.

Finally, funded by the Brigstow Institute, with support from Oxford Criminology, and in collaboration with Dr Ana Baeza, Una is working on exploratory research into the cultural environment of depictions of violent and sexual crime and will produce a written report in October 2022.

Our people

Una

Una is an artist and writer. Her graphic novel Becoming Unbecoming (2015) is a social history/memoir of sexual violence, misogyny and femicide in Yorkshire in the 1970s. The book has been widely translated, featured on BBC Radio Woman’s Hour, Open Book, Free Thinking, in the New York Times, Newsweek and Oprah Magazine. B/U won a Prix Artemisia in 2019 and has been adapted into a play in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Una’s other graphic novels are On Sanity: One Day In Two Lives (2016), Cree (2018), and Eve (2021). She has had many projects supported by Arts Council England and produced numerous illustration commissions to enhance research into: Child Sexual Exploitation, online sperm donation, loneliness in older people, maternal mortality rates in the global south, decolonised curricula, and journalling during lockdown.

Una is experienced in community arts education and university lecturing, designing and delivering a wide range of activities to people from many backgrounds. She has a Ph.D from Loughborough University and has carried out research at the Oxford Centre for Criminology and the Oxford Centre for Life-writing.

Sara

Actor, singer, project manager, writer and dramaturge. Sara works with young people, adults with disabilities, older people, communities and anyone else who would like to perform or be heard. Sara believes in the power of performance to transform lives, unite communities and lift the spirits. She can design and deliver a bespoke drama session, or collaborate with Una, bringing your writing to life through forum theatre.

Sara is experienced in delivering workshops, training volunteers, and producing tours and theatre, in the third sector. She was director of the Life Act for Open Minds Theatre Company in Rotherham, Yorkshire, a performing company for Adults with Learning Disabilities. Her work as a writer and performer has been produced with West Yorkshire playhouse, Red Ladder Theatre, Leeds Youth Theatres and Leeds City Council. She has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe and delivered a series of lectures at Leeds Becket University on Youth and Community Work. Sara has a degree in Politics from York University and an MA in Theatre Studies from the University of Leeds. She is First Aid trained and has a current enhanced DBS.

We are looking for suitable artists and writers to join our collective. Get in touch if you are interested.

Board members

Red Dress Collective was registered with Companies House as a not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee in Nov 2021. Our voluntary board of members guide us, advise us, oversee legal and financial requirements and help us set our priorities. Our board helped and advised the team throughout our start up process. We are very thankful for their support. Our board members are Anna Mazzola, Dr Tamara Turner Moore, and Sara Allkins.

Anna Mazzola

Anna Mazzola: Human rights solicitor and writer who provides advice and input to Red Dress and feeds into their strategy. She has worked for many years as a solicitor specialising in cases arising from the criminal justice system, particularly cases for survivors of male violence. She is a consultant for the Centre for Women’s Justice providing training to advocates on challenging the justice system and has over ten years’ experience in human rights firms dealing with judicial review cases, claims against the police and other state bodies, inquests and public inquiries. Anna is also a novelist whose work deals with the impact of crime and injustice, and who is interested in how violence against women is portrayed on page and on screen.

Dr Tamara Turner-Moore

Dr Tamara Turner-Moore is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology and lead of the Stigmatised Sexualities and Sexual Harm research group at Leeds Beckett University.  She specialises in research into sexual harm, such as sexual violence, abuse, bullying and harassment. Her work also encompasses sex and sexuality, including sexual thoughts and fantasies, and socially stigmatised sexual practices. Tamara has an international research portfolio dedicated to understanding intersections between sexualities and sexual harm, with the goal of improving the lives of people affected by stigmatisation and harm, and preventing further stigmatisation and harm. She often draws on participatory, creative and mixed methods in her research and collaborates with research participants, practitioners and other researchers. Tamara brings her research expertise and passion for preventing sexual harm to the Red Dress Collective’s Board of Trustees.

Becoming Unbecoming

Rights to the graphic novel Becoming Unbecoming by creative director Una are available, with pre-agreed limits, for use as a springboard for discussion and as a basis for non-profit creative activity in visual arts, creative writing and performance. Any work based on the book should aim to create a better world for all of us by challenging cultures of spectacle and prurience and by raising the human voices of victims of crime.

Creative workshops

We deliver creative workshops face to face and online

Online training

We can create bespoke training with a password protected webpage and Zoom tutorials.

One to one support

We offer individual creative tutorials.

To book a session or ask a question, use the contact form below to tell us what you need.

Contact


“The project was a milestone in my seeing my writing as writing from my experience. I can see and hear my life and voice in it more strongly now and that feels good.” 

Dedicated to All the Others: Leeds


Una