Pop-up photo studio with Johanna Ward

We’re excited to be hosting a pop-up photo studio during Saturday and Sunday of the festival, as part of a special project by our Artist-in-Residence Johanna Ward.  Sign up to participate and take a visual stand against sexual violence and abuse!  Hear Johanna explain her project ’The Watchful Eyes’ in her own words:

Johanna Ward_8160‘The Watchful Eyes’ by Johanna Ward

Have you ever felt someone’s eyes upon you when your back was turned? We use our eyes to communicate many of our emotions and the effect can be powerful, before we’ve even spoken a word. Eyes can attract, they can repel and they can strike fear purely through the power of our gaze. But imagine a story told with a cropped frame, with only the eyes of a person peering out, acting alone as characters in a story – could as powerful a story be told?

Over the course of the 1st and 2nd August I’m running a pop-up photo studio in the hope of encouraging people – you – to garner your feelings on the deeply emotive subject of sexual violence, and present these emotions to the camera. If you feel fury, I want you to show this.  If you feel sadness, embrace it and show it. Whatever your emotion, if you’re willing to engage in this visual experiment, I ask you to make your statement and become a part of ‘The Watchful Eyes.’

The Fear,  Johanna Ward

The Fear, Johanna Ward

In the book Ways of Seeing, John Berger said men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. But in the context of the subject of this festival, I don’t believe it’s that straightforward. If neither person in the exchange of looking is threatened, perhaps the tropes learned through cinema and advertising may be true.  But where one is threatened, that person does not welcome the passivity Berger ascribes to the woman. The issues that arise when considering how to visually interpret a complex subject such as this inevitably drew me to our widest known storytelling media: cinema. Film affects how we perceive our sex, our identity, our sense of self and can have positive and negative affects. But even in 2015, mainstream media continues to push at the same gender clichés that have influenced society for decades.

I have also drawn further inspiration from a psychology article I once read in relation to experiments that used pictures of eyes to deter littering and theft. These subjects may be far removed from the subject of sexual violence, but the experiments are still fascinating. Psychologists placed pictures of “staring eyes,” sometimes with text and sometimes just the eyes themselves in areas afflicted by crime or laziness (people not clearing away their rubbish in a communal area) and in both cases, the presence of eyes positively reduced the number of items stolen, or left lying around. I found this fascinating and somehow the article stuck and revealed itself when I was approached to participate in this festival. I wondered how this could be applied if these guardian eyes were placed in dark alleyways, in bus shelters, or lonely streets. Could it deter sexual crime? Could it deter someone attempting to attack another?

By focusing on the dynamic between art and science, I want to address the imbalance between the supposed active (male) and passive (female) and perhaps challenge these gender stereotypes in imagery. This series of images will become the next chapter of my project, The Fear, currently a work in progress that explores the darker relationship between men and women through photography.

Pop-up photo studio, 1st and 2nd of August

Please sign up for a 10-20 minute session on either the 1st and 2nd August where it’ll just be you and me in a small studio. We can talk about your feelings on this subject, or if you prefer, you can stay silent — and along the way, I’ll be photographing your eyes.  Signing up is easy and can be done by clicking on this link:


Why can’t this man talk about rape?

How easy is it for a man to talk about rape? Do they have any right to get involved in the conversation? Do we care what they have to say?

We need more men to get involved in conversations about rape, assault and abuse. Which means we need to recognise how hard that can be. Talking about abuse is hard – even for those of us who do it all the time.

Chris Packe shares his thoughts in the video below and will have more to say at The Clear Lines Festival on August 1st.

Get involved in the conversation at the UK’s first festival on sexual assault. Chris will be part of ‘Where have all the good men gone?’ on the 1st August, with White Ribbon’s James Chespy, Alex Feis-Bryce from National Ugly Mugs Scheme and Dr Nina Burrowes.

Talking about sex and intimacy after abuse at The Clear Lines Festival

How can you build or reclaim your sex life after experiencing sexual violence?

Life after abuse can present all sorts of challenges. Recovery from trauma, the challenge of learning to trust others, the challenge of being yourself again. It can also create difficulties with sex and intimacy.

In the video below, Ione Wells and Nina Burrowes discuss why we need to have more conversations about sex and intimacy after sexual violence. Join Pavan Amara the founder of My Body Back, Ione Wells, who started the Not Guilty campaign, and psychologist Dr Nina Burrowes for a discussion about the different ways that sexual violence can affect your sex life and what you and your partner can do about it at the Clear Lines Festival on Sunday 2nd August.

Tickets are available on Eventbrite. Book early to avoid disappointment as space is very limited.

Tickets are now on sale!

Some members of the Clear Lines Committee

Members of the Clear Lines Committee

We’re pleased to announce that the first batch of tickets for the Clear Lines Festival are now available to the general public! A 4-day festival of discussion, music, film, theatre and art from July 30th to August 2nd 2015 in London. It’s the UK’s first-ever festival of this kind, focusing on creating a space to talk about sexual assault and consent.

We have an ambitious and exciting programme! A wide range of performances, workshops and panel discussions will explore creativity both as a therapeutic response and as an agent of change. You can choose from the ticketed sessions below. This is just the first set of events on sale, and we’ll be announcing the full line-up over the coming week, when those tickets are ready for release. For now, check out the current schedule of available events (many of them free) across the four days. There are a limited number of spaces in the venue available, so please book your tickets today.

Date: July 30 – August 02, 2015

Venue: Iklectik, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, SE1 7LG. The venue is a 5 minute walk from Westminster Bridge and the closest tube stations are Lambeth North and Waterloo.

Arts and Activism – Tackling Sexual Assault (Free but spaces are limited)

Thursday, 30 July 2015 from 18:00 to 19:15

How can we use art and creativity to challenge social attitudes around rape and gender-based violence? And why is cultural change so important alongside legal change? Join panellists from Femme FierceSouthall Black Sisters and #thisdoesntmeanyes in this discussion.

Clear Lines Festival Film Night

Thursday, 30 July 2015 from 20:00 to 22:30

An exclusive double bill of two thought proviking documentary films: First, the Emmy-nomiated documentary ‘Brave Miss World.’ Next, the BAFTA- nominated film ‘The Unspeakable Crime’, followed by a discussion with the filmmakers Sara Hardy and Blue Ryan.

Unheard USE

Photographer: Kenneth Jay

Clear Lines Festival Theatre Night

Friday, 31 July 2015 from 20:00 to 22:00

Five powerful and poignant plays, exploring victimhood, surviving, and recovering in conjunction with Goblin Baby Theatre Company.

What Do We Tell The Kids About Sexual Abuse? (Free but spaces are limited)

Saturday, 1 August 2015 from 12:30 to 13:30

Every parent needs to find a way of living with the risk of the sexual abuse of their child. But whilst the vast majority of children are abused by someone they know most of our messages to children are about the dangers of strangers. Why do adults send such confusing messages to their kids and what can you do to keep your child safe? A discussion lead by Dr Nina Burrowes,  a psychologist and researcher specialising in the psychology of sexual abuse.

Tiff Stevenson

Tiff Stevenson

Clear Lines Festival Comedy Night

Saturday, 1 August 2015 from 20:00 to 22:00

Hosted by funnywoman Tiff Stevenson, a stellar line-up of stand-up comedians tackle the issue of sexual assault and poke fun at some of our cultural attitudes surrounding rape and sexuality. More to be announced soon!

Do Real Men Get Raped?

Sunday, 2 August 2015 from 14:30 to 15:30

Men and boys are much more likely to be victims of sexual violence than perpetrators of sexual violence and yet as a group of victims they are often invisible. Join our panelists, Michael May, Alex-Feis Bryce and Dr. Nina Burrowes for a conversation about the realities faced by men who are living with the impact of sexual violence.

Sexual Violence in Popular Crime Fiction: A Conversation With Killer Women

Sunday, 2 August 2015 from 17:30 to 18:30

Top crime writers Kate RhodesErin Kelly, and Melanie McGrath come together for a unique discussion about the representation of sexual violence in popular crime fiction. Killer Women will discuss if rape is often used for shock value or narrative drive, rather than a realistic portrait of the crime and its psychological impact?  As women writers, do they feel a responsibility to handle the topic in a certain way?

Book your tickets today on Eventbrite and keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook feeds for more announcements in the next week!


We did it!

Our Crowdfunder has now closed and we are thrilled that we managed to raise 206.3% of our initial target on Crowdfunder! We have been just bowled over by the support and we are so grateful to each and everyone of you who pledged to help make this festival happen.

We are still finalising the schedule but will be releasing tickets on July 13th – so watch this space!

And we are still looking for volunteers for the festival – if you have a few hours to spend over the next few weeks and would like to help out, just email info@clearlines.org.uk for more information.

Thanks again for all your support and pledges – Clear Lines Festival is go!

Get involved! Call out for volunteers

rotator buntingWe are the UK’s first-ever festival dedicated to talking about sexual assault and consent through the arts and discussion. From July 30 – Aug 2 in Central London, survivors, artists, psychologists, performers, activists, writers, and the public will come together in a vibrant, very human exploration of themes around sexual abuse, sexual violence, and consent.

Intrigued? Here’s how you can help!

We have a great, dedicated team of volunteers who’ve set up the festival from scratch, but as we head into the final weeks before the festival, we’ll be ramping up our activity. We could definitely use more volunteers, who can spare approximately 5 hours a week prior to the festival, especially those with experience in:

  • Publications and graphic design
  • Managing teams
  • Sponsorship
  • Event management, communications, and marketing

Co-founder Winnie M Li says:

Ever since we went public with the festival, people have been stepping up to ask: How can I help?  Many are survivors who have experienced firsthand how our society treats survivors of sexual assault, and who know there’s a lot of room for improvement.  They want to use their skills and efforts to change things for the better— so others won’t have to go through the same thing we’ve been through.  And so the public can start to understand our experiences.  Of all the events I’ve worked on so far in my career, Clear Lines has been the most uniquely empowering one: here’s a community of people passionate about working on an issue that’s close to them, and who want to bring about change for the better. Join us as we aim to replace the shame and silence usually associated with this issue, with insight, understanding and community. 

Email us at volunteer@clearlines.org.uk for more information, and tell us about why you’d like to be involved and what skills you can offer.

Theatre Night Announced!


Unheard USE

Photographer: Kenneth Jay

We’re proud to announce the five plays which will be re-staged for our Theatre Night on Friday July 31st, 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. Tessa Hart, Artistic Director of Goblin Baby, produced the Unheard Festival, and is collaborating with us on Theatre Night. Many of the original cast will be returning for Clear Lines.

We’ll be introducing you to our writers next week, and in the weeks after, we’ll release more information about our cast and directors.


Early Bird Tickets for our Theatre Night are now available by pledging to our Crowdfunder campaign. Remaining tickets will be released in early July.

Photographer: Kenneth Jay

Photographer: Kenneth Jay

The five plays

‘This is How It Happens’
by Tanaka Mhishi

A survivor describes his first year after being raped. Lyrical, beautiful but also honest, and ultimately, more about survival than abuse.

by Samantha Coughlan

Breathless, partly based on Sam’s own experience, explores how a naive, trusting teenager becomes embroiled in a destructive relationship.

Extracts from ‘Doe’
by Rebecca Robinson

A group of women share their unique experiences of the same abuse. Are they victims? Or can they find their own strength after recovery from the trauma and suffering?

Photographer: Ricardo Correia

Photographer: Ricardo Correia

‘Everything’s Normal’
by Winnie M Li

At a job interview, on a first date, and at a dinner party, Tess wonders if she can really pretend that everything’s back to normal.

‘Two Girls’
by Allie Costa

In this haunting, poetic duologue, two women emerge from a violent attack.

We’ve reached our initial target! Please help us impact people around the world

Thanks so much to all who’ve helped us reach our initial target!  You’ve made the Clear Lines Festival a reality.

The Clear Lines Festival will provide a space for the public to meet with artists and experts this summer to have the conversations we need to start having about sexual assault. We’ve raised enough money to host the festival, but now we want to raise enough to film the content and bring the festival to a screen near you.

Festival organisers Dr Nina Burrowes and Winnie M Li talk about the festival in this video.

Now that we have the bare minimum, we can cover basics like venue hire, insurance, equipment, and printing costs.

We’ll need a lot more if we want to film the events and post videos online for free, so we can impact people around the world and give Clear Lines a legacy.  After all,  it would be a shame if all the work on this festival could only be seen by those who were there in person at our London venue.  So we’re aiming for a stretch target of £9000.

Clear Lines is being organised entirely by volunteers who are putting in hundreds of unpaid hours to work toward this event. Many artists and experts are contributing their talents to Clear Lines because they are passionate about changing things in the area of sexual assault and abuse. Any additional funds can help us cover their expenses for new work they will be creating at the festival.  

We have 15 days to go and have raised over £4,000. Let’s aim higher! To pledge, visit our Crowdfunder campaign. Thank you!

Why we need events like the Clear Lines Festival, by Nina Burrowes

Blogged here first by Dr. Nina Burrowes.


Sexual abuse is both something we’re always talking about and rarely talking about. It’s constantly in the news. Constantly part of political rhetoric for change. Constantly something we worry about. But rarely do we actually have a conversation about it. Rarely do we ask the questions that need to be asked and seek to find the answers together.

That’s why we need events like the Clear Lines Festival. We need to start having conversations about abuse. All of us. Not just politicians and journalists. Not just activists and survivors. All of us are living with sexual abuse. Whether we know it or not all of us probably know someone who has been a victim of sexual abuse. Whether we like it or not all of us and everyone we know is a potential victim of sexual abuse.

So let’s start talking. Let’s ask the questions that don’t normally get asked and let’s create a space for everyone because this is an issue we all need to get involved with. It’s not the job of politicians, educators, police officers, and prosecutors alone. It’s everyone’s job to start talking and thinking about abuse in a whole new way.

Which means we need to find better ways of communicating. Ways that are accessible and open. Ways that anyone can get involved with. We need to use drama, prose, film, art. We need dialogue, workshops, opinions. We need experts, lived experience, and a space for the concerns of every parent out there. We need a space where the public can ask questions, learn, contribute and create.

We need spaces like the Clear Lines Festival.

I’m really proud to be part of this initiative. Please help us make it happen by spreading the word and donating to our crowd-fund.

On Sexual Assault – Replacing Shame and Silence with Understanding and Community, by Winnie M. Li


Blogged here first on Mitchell Scholars.org on June 16 2015 by Winnie M. Li

On April 12, 2008, while visiting Belfast for the US-Ireland Alliance’s commemoration marking the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, I was raped by a 15-year old stranger in Colin Glen Forest Park, off the Falls Road.  Ever since then, I’d harbored an unspoken dread of ever returning to Belfast.

However, I had to return many times — for the trial of my attacker, for his sentencing hearing, and later, to be assessed for Northern Ireland’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.  On each of those visits, I would board the plane from London to Belfast with a mixture of trepidation and nausea, reluctant to return to the city of my rape, wishing instead I could hide in my bed.

As a Mitchell Scholar, I was acutely aware of the irony of being raped in Ireland.  As if all the understanding and goodwill built through my relationship with Ireland had taken an unexpected turn when I met that 15-year-old boy.

Last summer, I returned to Belfast for the first time in years.  It was a necessary step in researching for my novel, Dark Chapter, which is based largely on my own attack.  I decided to take the ferry from Liverpool, and after seven dull hours of spotty Wi-Fi and a long blue horizon, I found myself leaning against a deck railing, staring at the stacks of storage containers that line Belfast Harbour and the city drawing near.  I knew my rapist was now out of prison, living on probation somewhere in Belfast.  But I tried to keep this fact at the back of my mind as I went about my research.

Over the next few days I met with police, community leaders, forensic psychologists, and public prosecutors. I was invited back in August, when West Belfast had their Feile an Phobail Arts Festival.  And so seven weeks later, I lived with a family off the Falls Road, went to talks on the Troubles and Boyzone concerts alike. I spoke with Probation Services, other rape survivors, social workers, and visited the new sexual assault referral centre in Antrim.  In a pub on the Falls Road, I met the community leader who had organized the neighborhood protest against my attacker, when they discovered who he was.

My friends often ask me why I felt compelled to visit Belfast again, or even write this novel — but for me, this is all part of a necessary process of recovery and discussion.  It’s not enough to just be raped, and never talk about it again.  Women (and men and children) are raped with shocking frequency.  Yet, our society feels too ashamed to look a rape victim in the eye, to ask about what happened to them — and what they are doing to recover.

That’s one reason I started the Clear Lines Festival, the UK’s first-ever festival dedicated to talking about sexual assault and consent through the arts and discussion. It’s something I founded this April, on the 7th anniversary of my rape. I thought if only we could create a space where artists, the public, and experts could come together, we could bring to light some of the human stories behind sexual assault, and reach a greater understanding about it.

We have an exciting line-up of talks and performances for the Clear Lines Festival, and just a week after launching crowd-funding, we’ve already raised 60% of our initial target.  But £ 3,500 is the bare minimum we need for the festival to happen.  We take international pledges — so help us reach our stretch target of £ 9,000.  Then we’ll be able to film the events, post videos online, and impact even more people around the world.

Please consider pledging what you can and spread the word  — the sooner the better, so we can continue building our momentum.  Just as my relationship with Ireland has changed for the better, I’m hoping we change our relationship with this issue. Let’s replace the shame and silence, with insight, understanding, and community.

Our Crowdfunder campaign ends July 8th and if we raise the necessary funds, the Clear Lines Festival will run July 30 – August 2nd in Central London.

We’re also on Facebook and Twitter.