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Brew Room supports campaign to combat sexual harassment

After joining the movement for women’s safety, Blackpool Social Club’s Street Harassment Map prompted more than 50 women to share their experiences and provoked positive responses from craftivists, pubs and the council. Now we’re calling for more women to add their voices to the campaign

A central Blackpool pub has lent its support to a craftivism campaign that aims to highlight sexual harassment in the town’s public spaces.

The Brew Room on Church Street is displaying posters for We’re Sew Done, a textile art project that came about in response to incidents reported on Blackpool Social Club’s Street Harassment Map.

The map was launched in April as part of national grassroots women’s safety movement Reclaim These Streets, which highlights the precarious safety of women following the brutal murder of Sarah Everard in March. The map has since helped Blackpool Council win half a million pounds worth of funding to improve women’s safety in the town.

Around 50 women shared experiences ranging from catcalling to sexual assault, including one outside the Brew Room in which a woman reported a man grabbing her hair as she was leaving the pub.

Knittaz With Attitude (KWA), a Blackpool craft collective, responded to the reports by crocheting, felting and embroidering artworks inspired by the women’s stories. Some 17 artists created work, including Annie Rhodes, who embroidered the words “Thirteen and Afraid” onto a felt heart for her Girlguiding craftivism badge.

Norma Foulds, an artist, maker and long-time member of KWA, embroidered a quote from a 53-year-old woman who recorded an incident in 2019 outside the Regent Cinema, reading: “He tried to drag me, saying, come on, come home with me.”

“I stitched it onto a really old pillowcase,” said Foulds. “It was that association with when something bad has happened – it never leaves you. It’s there in your dreams, when you lay your head down on your pillow.”

In response to the Brew Room incident, makers Louise Ashcroft, Joe Booth and Charlie Ashton created a hooped embroidery reading “Not Your Babe”, featuring long strands of wool to emulate a ponytail.

“As I turned back to the drinks a man was leaning over and putting something in them.”

The work was on display in Blackpool Central Library in October and organiser Aunty Social has created plaques relating to individual artworks placed in the locations plotted on the Street Harassment Map. QR codes allow viewers to explore all the artworks on a custom-made website.

When volunteers placed a plaque on a railing outside the Brew Room, it stood for less than five minutes before being torn down. When Brew Room management were informed, they offered to house a plaque and posters inside the pub as a clear signal that sexual harassment won’t be tolerated on the premises.

The posters, which were kindly donated in support of the project by Print It on Whitegate Drive, encourage customers who do have unwanted interactions to alert bar staff, and invite them to record the incident on the map and report it to police.

The posters have been placed at a time when needle spiking in bars has been highlighted in the media and drinks spiking is a longstanding problem. Blackpool’s Street Harassment Map contains one such incident this year, in a town centre bar.

“We put our drinks on a shelf which was on the edge of a balcony near the front door. I had told my friends I would wait with the drinks so they could have a dance. As I turned back to the drinks a man was leaning over and putting something in them,” a 34-year-old woman reported. “I called over the staff and doorman. The drinks were taken away and all tested positive for substances with a testing kit they had behind the bar. However, the men still had time to finish their drinks and wink at me before strolling out of the pub.”

On one Friday night in October, two serious sexual assaults were reported in public places on the Fylde Coast. Police were called to Jean Stansfield Memorial Park in Poulton on Friday 22 October after a victim in her twenties was followed into the park by a group of four or five men, described as being in their thirties, before one of the men attacked her.

In a separate incident five hours later a woman in her thirties was raped outside a betting shop in Fleetwood. A 31-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of rape and placed on bail until 21 November.

Blackpool Council has shown its support for the Street Harassment Map and contacted Blackpool Social Club in July to request permission to use the evidence collected in a bid for the government’s £23.5m Safer Streets Fund, which is intended to “make public spaces safer for all through projects to help women and girls feel safer on our street”. The fund was allocated in October, with Blackpool Council being awarded £550,000 – the second largest sum in the North West after Cheshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, and more than Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

Blackpool Council leader Lynn Williams said the authority intends to put women and girls at the heart of the delivery of its plans which will fall under a campaign titled It Stops Here.

Blackpool Social Club is continuing its campaign to highlight harassment in public spaces and is calling on readers to add their experiences to its map by filling in its simple Google Form.

The project aims to provide a way for women to share their experiences, anonymously or not, and to demonstrate to victims that they are not alone in their experiences and that their complaints are valid. It helps give women the confidence to report incidents like street harassment to authorities, and builds a picture of the extent of the problem in Blackpool. It is hoped that the map can be used as an educational tool to help combat sexual harassment in the town.

Blackpool bar owners, and other interested parties, are also invited to join the conversation about how to improve female safety by emailing [email protected].

Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
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    Antonia Charlesworth Stack is a journalist and editor from Blackpool. She was deputy editor of Big Issue North magazine and is editor of Blackpool Social Club. Antonia is also the founder of Reclaim Blackpool, a women's safety campaign that began life as an article she wrote for Blackpool Social Club. She's a contributing author to the Lancashire Stories anthology with her story about a Blackpool performer, The Call of The Sea. The book is available for free in libraries across the county.

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