Our November Event at Waterstones: A Word with the Authors

UPDATE: We’re thrilled to announce our final event of 2018 is now sold out!  Thanks to all of you who booked up 100 tickets to our special literary evening tomorrow, Thursday 29th November.  This means Waterstones Gower Street is going to be packed with lots of passionate people, not to mention our line-up of award-winning authors, as we discuss writing trauma, recovery and gender-based violence. (If you are desperate to go, you can try turning up on the evening in case there are no-shows, but sadly, no promises.)

On Thursday, November 29, seven award-winning authors from around the UK will speak at our next Clear Lines event: Writing About Trauma, Recovery, and Gender-Based Violence.  It’s a difficult topic, but a necessary one — both for the writers themselves (many of them writing from personal experience) and for the audience, who will be coming to Waterstones Gower Street in Central London for this unique literary evening.

Working across a range of fiction, poetry, and memoir to capture the human truths behind sexual trauma, these authors will take part in a lively, honest discussion about the ethical questions, the challenges, and the rewards of addressing these topics through literature. The event commemorates UN Women’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, taking place 25 November-10 December.

While in the past year #MeToo and #TimesUp filled news headlines, many of us know that sexual assault and abuse are not anything new. Survivors have lived with the legacy of these traumas over the course of decades and lifetimes.

Poet and writer Clare Best says: ‘It took me more than fifteen years to write The Missing List and in a sense I’ve been writing this book all my life, since I was abused by my father from the age of seven.’ Her memoir, a finalist in the Mslexia Memoir Competition 2015 came out with Linen Press in September 2018.  She continues: ‘I’m driven by wanting to help create a space in which people can talk, ask questions, split taboos wide open. And I want to model the healing power of creativity – crafting The Missing List might have saved my life.’ 

Similarly, novelist Louise Beech says: ‘My writing has always been my therapy, my way of trying to access buried memories and cope, so if talking about it helps me or anyone else, then that is powerful stuff.’ Maria in the Moon is Louise’s third novel (she has since written two more), and The Irish Times calls it ‘a stirring novel, beautifully written.’

Clare and Louise will speak on the evening’s second panel with Madeleine Black, a survivor of a teenage gang rape who recounts her lifelong process of recovery in her memoir Unbroken. A spokeswoman for The Forgiveness Project, Madeleine will be coming from Glasgow for the event. That panel will be chaired by writer, survivor, and longtime Clear Lines collaborator Tanaka Mhishi, whose spoken word poetry was featured on BBC Three.

Broadly, the second panel of the evening addresses violence by a perpetrator known to the victim or within the family — while the first panel addresses the classic narrative of the dangerous stranger ‘out there.’ But how can survivors and writers subvert that traditional narrative?

Drawing from her own violent trauma as a teenager, Yorkshire-based poet Clare Shaw has long explored the polemical power of literature across her three award-winning collections. She writes: ‘Words have the power to harm and help us, and a powerful language can transform us as individuals, communities, and societies.’

Likewise, Clear Lines Co-Founder Winnie M Li transformed her real-life stranger rape into her debut Dark Chapter, a fictional reimagining of the crime and aftermath from both victim and perpetrator perspectives.  Winner of The Guardian’s Not The Booker Award 2017, it was also shortlisted for the Best First Novel Award and the prestigious Edgar Award in the US for crime fiction. 

Abigail Tarttelin’s third novel Dead Girls is similarly labeled ‘a feminist crime thriller,’ which places at its centre a young female protagonist determined to find the killer of her friend — and of other victims.  Tarttelin writes: ‘May we teach girls not to be obedient, digestible, and decorative, but to fight with teeth and mind and fists; to see themselves as potential victors, and not ineluctable victims.’  In fact, this re-writing of victims as survivors and protagonists very much fuels all these authors’ work. Join us for an unforgettable evening on Nov 29th.

Writing About Trauma, Recovery, and Gender-Based Violence: A Clear Lines Event
Waterstones, 82 Gower Street, London, WC1E 6EQ

Thursday 29th November, 2018
6.30 – 8:30 pm

Books by the authors will be available for purchase and signing.

The importance of safe spaces in the club scene: Clear Lines and Boiler Room event this Wednesday

I think having a safer space policy is the very least you can do as a promoter or venue to make your stance on harassment clear and acknowledge the risks womxn take when stepping into your party.”

 – Martha, DJ, sound artist and documentary-maker. 

Our collaboration with international dance party curators Boiler Room this coming Wednesday 17th October has got us in the mood for a proper boogie. And we’re even more thrilled to announce a line-up of Boiler Room faves who will be ensuring we can dance the night away together whilst raising funds and awareness for Clear Lines’ mission to create open, honest and inclusive conversation around sexual assault.

The event is guest list only and it’s filling up fast, so remember to email us at clearlinesfestival@gmail.com as soon as possible to join us on the night. And in case you haven’t been persuaded yet, we thought we’d let one of Wednesday night’s amazing artists, Martha, do the talking. A member of our team recently spoke to Martha; DJ, sound artist and documentary maker from Peckham, who shared with us her thoughts on safe spaces and the role of music in creating open discussion.

     How did you get into DJing/performing?

I have always been very active in searching for new music. I started playing on Reprezent Radio (which was in Peckham at the time, where I’m from) when I was 16 and began working in radio production a few years after. Radio is my favourite medium and programming my show comes quite easy to me, but it took me ages to learn to DJ and be confident with it, to be honest it’s something I’m still experimenting with and developing.

     Who are your role models, and why are role models important?

I’m really lucky to have some amazing mentors in my life who have helped me realise my potential and bring my ideas to life. They’re not necessarily people in the public eye, and that’s important. Whilst it’s great to have figures on Instagram and in the media to look up to, they can feel quite far away. Celebrate and appreciate the real ones around you who want to share their experience and their knowledge. Role models who look like you are the first step in helping you visualise yourself doing something you’re interested in and passionate about, but the hard work will come from you!

     Have you ever felt as though your career in the music industry has been hindered in some way because of who you are and how you identify?

Any blocks I faced coming through in the music industry are similar to issues womxn face in a great number of industries. These things are not specific to music and everyone in every workplace should be considerate of the daily battles womxn face just trying to do their jobs.

     Do you enjoy nights out as a punter as well as DJing? How do you feel when you are out in a club crowd? Are there specific nights that feel more comfortable than others? 

It’s not something I have one answer for because each scenario is different. I’m a very shy person and being in crowds can be quite overwhelming, but I love experiencing music on an amazing sound-system and soaking up the atmosphere DJ’s create during their sets. That love often outweighs my anxieties. so you’ll find me at the back of Room 2 Corsica studios at the hyper-dub night, in this groove in the wall that’s just enough space for my body.

     What are your thoughts on specifically ‘safe space’ clubs or nights? Do you think they work?

I think having a safer space policy is the very least you can do as a promoter or venue to make your stance on harassment clear and acknowledge the risks womxn take when stepping into your party. Putting a poster up saying you have a safer space policy is not the same as having a safer space policy. The staff need to be briefed and trained to deal with scenarios that may come up on the night and the whole club team should be on the same page! I think these policies are good for raising awareness and starting conversations with those who might not have considered safety in a club environment before.

     How would you/do you create safe spaces to make club environments more inclusive, particularly for people who have had negative experiences in terms of sexual harassment, assault or violence?

I’m no expert but most of it is just basic respect and common sense. Listening to individuals who have been affected is essential, and (if they’re happy for you to) elevate their voices, then roll out any practical support they ask for.

     Clear Lines aims to create discussion on the themes of sexual violence and consent through the arts. Do you think music has the power to create discussion?

Yes, that’s a huge part of music’s functionality. But at the same time we should also consider that music is an escape for many people who have been through a lot.

Martha is a DJ, sound artist and documentary maker from Peckham, south east London. Martha plays on NTS every Friday 3-4PM and produces The Hour podcast for RA. You can find out more about Martha on her Instagram page and on Facebook

Martha will be joined on Wednesday 17th October by renowned DJs BBZ, Lil C and Manara, who will be bringing the sound to Clear Lines. Remember to get your name on the guest list by emailing us at clearlinesfestival@gmail.com.

Get your name on the list for our October event!

We have a very exciting collaboration with international dance music curators Boiler Room to bring you a special fundraising party on Wed, Oct 17th!  As a leading music platform, Boiler Room events book up within days, so if you would like to attend please email names to clearlinesfestival@gmail.com as soon as you can!
  • This event is meant to draw attention to sexual harassment & assault within the club, music, and festival scenes — and highlight the need for gender equality in these industries.
  • Line Up TBC (but all very exciting DJs)
  • Open Dance-floor Policy: By joining us in this space, you agree to celebrate and respect everyone in the Boiler Room community – regardless of race, religion, nationality, ethnicity, physical ability, gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • BYOB
  • Free to attend, but suggested donation £5 on the door. All proceeds go towards helping us continue to run Clear Lines events.
Boiler Room, Bethnal Green
Wednesday 17th October, 2018

Registration now open for Clear Lines 2017

Clear Lines Festival to Address Sexual Assault and Consent Through Art, Comedy & Panel Discussions Bringing Testimonies Forward

Not the Booker prize winner Winnie M Li and activist Tania Mendes announce full line

In the midst of the #MeToo movement and a growing public awareness around sexual misconduct, a dedicated group of volunteers are bringing back Clear Lines Festival for its second edition, taking place from 1st to 3rd December 2017 at Rich Mix in London.Clear Lines brings together a lively line-up of artists, speakers, activists, survivors, academics, and therapists to address sexual assault, abuse, and consent through the arts and discussion.The festival aims to replace the shame and stigma around these issues with insight, understanding, and community.
Winnie M Li, Artistic Director of Clear Lines, is herself a rape survivor and author, whose novel Dark Chapter recently won The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize 2017. She set up Clear Lines in 2015 with psychologist Dr. Nina Burrowes and a group of volunteers, including Tania Mendes, Festival Director.
Winnie M Li said:
“There is something so isolating about the aftermath of sexual violence, and victims often feel they should stay silent because no one wants to hear their stories. But #MeToo has proven how many stories are out there, and how they need to be heard. With Clear Lines, we’re trying to collectively devise creative ways of storytelling, healing and challenging rape culture. Through the arts and comedy, we can bring to life the human side of these experiences, in ways that emotionally reach audiences and lead to connection and understanding.”
This year’s programme includes award-winning comedians Sara Pascoe and Tiff Stevenson, New York Times best-selling novelist Marti Leimbach, psychologist and policy consultant Dr. Nina Burrowes. Theatre, film screenings, stand-up comedy, and spoken word all feature in artistic showcases, alongside Q&A discussions about art and the lived experience of gender-based violence.
Run entirely with crowdfunding and the good will of those involved, the festival was started in 2015 by a small group of activists, artists, and therapists who felt a space was needed to talk openly and honestly about experiences of sexual assault and abuse.Now, with #MeToo trending, they feel that space is needed more than ever.
Tania Mendes, Festival Director, said:
“Clear Lines provides the space to tackle what can be the difficult subject of consent and sexual assault, whilst currently sitting alongside the momentum currently seen with the #MeToo campaign, we hope that more people will be open and come forward to listen and contribute to this discussion. There isn’t a single voice or experience.The goal is to make a festival like Clear Lines redundant in the future. But for now, this platform is needed and we’re calling out to everyone to take part in a problem that impacts and is entangled within all of society. There is a shift in attitude and we need to embrace it and collectively ask ourselves how we can help. Now is the time.”
Two years after its founding Clear Lines is growing, with foreign filmmakers flying in to present their films. Li and Mendes are planning to secure funding in the future so the scope of the festival can expand outside London to the UK and beyond.
In addition to responding to #MeToo, Clear Lines 2017 will also highlight the intersectionality of experiencing sexual abuse and assault, with sessions focusing on disabled survivors, LGBTQ survivors, and BAME or ethnic minority survivors.

Registration for Clear Lines 2017 is now open. Most events are free but booking is required. To reserve your spot in sessions throughout the festival, click here.

We did it! Thank you for supporting our crowdfunding campaign.

WOW — we did it!!

We set a very steep goal of raising £3,000 in just 3 weeks, and we’re THRILLED to say we surpassed that goal!  On Nov. 17th, we successfully raised £3,320 from 71 supporters in just 21 days.

Thanks to all of you, we are now able to officially declare Clear Lines 2017 a go! We’ve been able to secure our amazing venue, Rich Mix, for 3 days with incredible sessions, arts, and performances taking place from Friday to Sunday.

From all of us, a massive THANK YOU — and we hope to see you at Clear Lines from Dec. 1-3! Tickets will be available this week; in the meantime, please check out our speakers and schedule to get excited!

— the Clear Lines 2017 team

Volunteer Recruitment Meeting on Oct. 31, 2017

We are fast approaching Clear Lines 2017, which is taking place from Friday, December 1st until Sunday, December 3rd, 2017 at Rich Mix.

If you are passionate about ending sexual violence, and all forms of VAWG, please come along to the Clear Lines 2017 volunteer recruitment meeting at 7 pm on Tuesday, October 31st, 2017, at the Southbank Centre (exact location to be announced on our Facebook event).

There are lots of ways to get involved, big and small, remotely and in person. We are looking for individuals with a variety of skill sets to help with planning and logistics on the lead up to the festival, to support us with fundraising, ticket sales, and social media, and to volunteer througout the festival. We only ask that you are honest with the amount of time you can commit and are passionate and commited to making Clear Lines 2017 happen!

Feel free to get in touch via Facebook or email or email info@clearlines.org.uk if you have any questions.

We hope to see you on there!

Festival Organizer Winnie M Li Named 2017 Not the Booker Prize Winner

We are pleased to announce to the Clear Lines community that our festival organizer, Winnie M Li, has won the 2017 Not for Booker prize for her debut novel, Dark Chapter.

Dark Chapter, which chronicles the violence and aftermath of a brutal sexual assault of a Taiwanese-American woman in Belfast, was the leader among both readers and the judges panel and beat out four other shortlisted titles for the top prize: Man With a Seagull on His Head by Harriet Paige, The Threat Level Remains Severe by Rowena Macdonald, Not Thomas by Sara Gethin, and Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout.

Li based Dark Chapter around her own experience of, as she describes, falling between the cracks of the justice system following her sexual assault. It is from this place that Li co-founded Clear Lines as a space to talk about sexual assault — and we are thrilled to be bringing Clear Lines back for its second iteration from Dec. 2-3, 2017. Stay tuned for more details on this year’s programming.

#itsnotok – Films of the Clearlines Festival are now online!

The first ever Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week is taking place from the 1st-7th February 2016 to help public, statutory and third sector organisations to participate in a discussion about sexual abuse and sexual violence. During the week initiatives like Clearlines Festival and organisations, individuals and groups working in this area or affected by these issues are invited to raise awareness about sexual abuse and sexual violence and how to prevent it in the UK. The hashtag is .

To coincide with this week, we are releasing films of some of the amazing sessions that took place this summer.

Some highlights include:

What do we tell the kids about sexual abuse? How do our messages about sexual abuse confuse children? Learn why your child is unlikely to tell you if they are being sexually abused.

Finding pleasure after pain: Sex and intimacy after sexual violence. How can you build or reclaim your sex life after experiencing sexual violence?

How can we improve media coverage of sexual assault and abuse? Why do certain stories make the news and others don’t? Can we can change the way media professionals understand and portray sexual assault and abuse in the media?

Watch more of the films here.

Thanks for making Clear Lines a success!

volunteersWe’re proud to say the first-ever Clear Lines Festival was a great success!  From last Thursday until Sunday, Old Paradise Yard in Lambeth hosted a truly special gathering of speakers, artists, survivors, experts, and festival-goers — all eager to engage in an open, honest, authentic conversation about sexual assault and consent.  We could not have done this without the support of our crowdfunders, sponsors, performers, panelists, volunteers and YOU.  So thank you for following us on this journey.  We’ll now be taking a break to recover, and then have a think about where to take Clear Lines in the future.

Tears and laughter

audienceMany of our events were sold-out, with an estimated 500 people coming to participate at Clear Lines.  At our Theatre Night, tears were shed both in the audience and by our artists during the Q&A after these hard-hitting performances. And at our Comedy Night, we shook with laughter listening to Josie Long, Sarah Kendall, Stuart Black, and our MC and curator Tiff Stevenson.  Bridget Christie gave us a special preview of her Edinburgh show, and poets from the Burn After Reading Collective moved us with their insightful, elegant readings at our closing event. Panels like ‘Where have all the good men gone?’ and ‘Sex and intimacy after Sexual Violence‘ had our audiences fully engaged in heated discussions with our panelists and performers.

Only at Clear Lines would the Chief Crown Prosecutor for London appear on the same night as comedian Josie Long — or would Bridget Christie’s Edinburgh preview follow a panel called ‘Do Real Men Get Raped?’  If you missed some of our events, we are working on preparing our video coverage, and hope to make these videos available online soon.

What Those Involved Said: 

“It was an amazing experience. although very intense, it felt a safe space where vulnerability could be shared and I felt there was also a bit of collective healing.

“What you’ve done is pretty miraculous and you could see how the festival lit up those people. I haven’t experienced such positivity and hope like that, possibly, ever, especially in the face of such a tough subject.

“Thank you for organising such an incredible festival. Words fail me sometimes, when I need them most, they start falling away the moment I think of how it is one thing to be a survivor and it is another thing altogether to make things happen, like the festival, so that someone else can survive, can continue surviving – because I do believe it is an ongoing process, a constant working through it. Your festival, helped me do that, helped so many others do it, or at least know how to deal with it a little better. People will have woken up this morning a little bit changed because of you, because of what you made happen.”  

Clear Lines in the News

We’ve been thrilled by press coverage of Clear Lines, organised by festival sponsor On Road, including this Channel 4 News segment which aired on Monday:

On the Friday morning of the festival, comedian Tiff Stevenson and our co-founder Dr Nina Burrowes spoke on local BBC Radio stations throughout the UK, discussing the use of comedy in addressing sexual assault.  Our other co-founder Winnie M Li did the same, and also appeared on BBC Radio Ulster last night.  Her story as a survivor-turned-activist was also covered by the Irish News and the Daily Mail.  Our media panelist Radhika Sanghani wrote this Telegraph article about our revenge porn panel, and Vice magazine featured our visual artist Ela Xora.

(On Road is doing a larger piece of work on how sexual assault and abuse is covered in the media so do get in touch with them to find out more or if you are interested in being involved.)

Social Media Buzz during the Festival 

Our audiences were busy on Twitter at Clear Lines. Have a look at the festival hashtag #clearlinesfest and check out this storify from our Volunteer Coordinator Kate Llewellyn:

What did you think?

We’d love to hear what you thought of Clear Lines, so please spare a few moments to fill out a quick survey. We’d be really grateful.

Or you could email us at info@clearlines.org.uk — what was your favourite event?  How has coming to the festival changed your attitude towards sexual assault and the people it affects?  Your feedback will help us plan for the future.

What’s next?

Many people have said they’d like to see Clear Lines again in the future — or in other parts of the UK.  We are a small team of volunteers and need to think long and hard about what we can do next.  In the meantime, we’ll be sending out thank you packages to our crowdfunders and editing our videos of the festival.  Johanna Ward is working on her photographic project ‘The Watchful Eyes’, which some of you participated in.  But do spread the word about Clear Lines and what you got out of it!

Rolling into the second day of the Clear Lines Festival!


We’re off to a great start! On the first day of the festival, we had a moving film screening and fascinating Q & A, a packed house during the Arts and Activism Panel and in-depth conversations around domestic violence, singing workshops and lots of good connections.

Our co-founders Winnie M Li and Nina Burrowes have been speaking on BBC Radio about the festival and why we’re creating a new space to bring the community together to talk about sexual assault and consent using comedy, theatre and discussion. We’ve also been featured in SheRag Magazine.

We’re rolling into the second day of the Clear Lines Festival! At 2pm we’ll have another Open House Session with charities and support organisations like Sisters Uncut and Hestia. The event goes on over the weekend at I’klectik in Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, SE1 7LG. Full directions and how to get there are on our website and the closest tube stations are Lambeth North, Westminster and Waterloo.

Today’s sessions:

From 4.30 – 5.45pm, we have a session on Creating clear lines on harassment and revenge pornography led by our festival sponsors international law firm McAllister Olivarius. Join Georgina Calvert-Lee and Halla Gunnarsdóttir for a conversation about what we should do about sexual harassment in the workplace and regulating revenge pornography. These two panel discussions will run back to back.

At 6pm, our expert media panel asks: How can we improve media coverage of sexual assault and abuse? The media plays an important role in perpetuating certain myths and narratives around abuse which has an impact on public (including potential jurors) perception of victims and perpetrators. The panel chaired BBC Scotland’s Head of Current Affairs, Marcus Ryder, with The Telegraph’s Radhika Sanghani, the BBC’s Alison Holt and Clear Lines co-founders Winnie M Li and Dr Nina Burrowes, will discuss why certain stories make the news and why others don’t, and whether we can change the way media professionals understand and portray sexual assault and abuse in the media. Read more on our blog.

Tonight’s Theatre Night kicks off at 8pm. Five plays which will be re-staged, in conjunction with Goblin Baby Theatre Company. Powerful and poignant, these plays explore victimhood, surviving, and recovering. They previously played to sold-out performances at the Unheard Festival in February at The Bread and Roses Theatre, a new writing festival exploring themes around sexual assault and sexual abuse.

Here is the full Clear Lines Programme from Thursday 30th July to Sunday 2nd of August. Check out the schedule too.

You can still book your tickets on Eventbrite.

Follow the #clearlinesfest hashtag and @ClearLinesUK on Twitter for live updates throughout the weekend.

See you all soon!