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!


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 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.