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!


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!


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.

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.