creative uturn 2012

u~turn masks

Between September 2011 and April 2012, we are running creative:u~turn, the second year of a major new creative arts programme for women who attend U-Turn Project.  U-Turn is a charity that works with vulnerable and hard to reach women of all ages who have been trapped in cycles of prostitution, drug addiction, physical abuse and homelessness from a young age.  The project has been funded by international law firm, Reed Smith LLP, and consists of four series of six halfday workshops, each of which is being run by one of our professional artists.  Two RS volunteers help out each week.

We designed creative:u~turn to give vulnerable women an opportunity to explore their creativity and learn new creative skills; share with and support one another, helping to breakdown barriers and build trust and shared understanding; develop transferable life skills (including teamwork and communication); and gain self-confidence and self-esteem.  In the long-term, it is hoped that these skills may help them to self-determine their future in their own communities.

Over the last four months, the women have worked with our visual artist and photographer as well as Reed Smith volunteers to create masks and collage maps themed around ‘identity’.  They have also taken part in six drama sessions, during which they have worked alongside our drama artist to explore conflict and identity through improvisation, acting out scenarios in mini-vignettes which were filmed.  These vignettes were then shown yesterday at a screening at the Reed Smith’s offices.

“I used to be shy; the workshops have helped me to come out of my shell.  Standing  up in front of everyone…I just pretend the cameras are not there and get on with it.”  Participant

The final set of workshops in the 2011/12 programme, focusing on music, will start on 20 February.  These will culminate in a performance on Monday 26 March at which they will also be presented with an anthology of their work and a Certificate of Achievement.  This will provide an important, achievable goal for the participants and aims to raise their sense of self-worth.

“I’m proud that I took part ‘cause I never take part in anything.  I’m quite shocked that I’ve done it.  I really enjoyed it.” Participant


70% of those involved in street prostitution have a history of Local Authority care.  Up to 70% of women enter prostitution before age 18; 45% report experiencing sexual abuse and 85% report experiencing physical abuse during their childhood. (Home Office (2004) Paying the Price: a consultation paper on prostitution.)

Long-term effects of recent and historic sexual abuse include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and panic attacks, depression, social phobia, substance misuse, obesity, eating disorders, self harm and suicide.  (HM Government (2007) Cross-Government Action Plan on Sexual Violence and Abuse; Home Office, London; Department of Health (2006) Tackling the health and mental health effects of domestic violence and sexual abuse.)


Read a participant story from last year’s creative u~turn project.  Admire some of the women’s photos.