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Shameless! Festival opens its doors to 600 attendees

The Shameless! Festival of Activism Against Sexual Violence, organised by Birkbeck’s Sexual Harms and Medical Encounters team and the Women of the World Foundation, welcomed guests for a day of inspiring talks, workshops and activities.

Professor Joanna Bourke and Jude Kelly CBE Photo © Ellie Kurttz

On Saturday 27 November the Sexual Harms and Medical Encounters (SHaME) team and The Women of the World (WOW) Foundation held the Shameless! Festival of Activism Against Sexual Violence, a one-day festival that brought together activists, researchers, speakers, survivors and artists to confront and change attitudes to sexual violence. The event was held at the Battersea Arts Centre and was supported by the Wellcome Trust.

The festival’s illustrious line-up included Professor Joanna Bourke, Professor of History at Birkbeck and Principal Investigator of the SHaME project, and Jude Kelly, CBE, CEO and Founder of the WOW Foundation and Birkbeck Fellow, who opened the event. The aim of the festival was to bring together academia, arts and activism to tackle the issue of sexual violence, abuse and harassment and seek to find solutions that lead to a rape free world.

Birkbeck’s SHaME project brings together researchers from a number of different disciplines who are investigating the connections between sexual violence, medicine and psychiatry. The aim of the project is to understand the role played by medical professionals, including psychiatrists in understanding and dealing with sexual harms in order to end the stigma associated with it.

The event was held in the same week as the United Nations’ International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women, which took place on Thursday 25 November, and the following 16 days of activism which ends with International Human Rights Day on Friday 10 December. It is hoped that the conversation and interests sparked by the festival will contribute to the end of sexual violence across the globe.

Attendees heard from prolific speakers including authors Laura Bates and Winnie M Li, and model and author Emily Ratajkowski. The day also featured performances and workshops by artists, poets and musicians who all spoke to theme through their respective mediums.

Professor Joanna Bourke commented: “The Festival exuded a tremendous sense of solidarity, safety, and anger. Yes. Anger that so many people (of all genders) are still being subjected to sexual violence, abuse, and harassment. The range of events taking place was incredible, from panel discussions to "hands-on" workshops, to music and poetry recitals, and much more. It was a productive collaboration between academia, the arts, and activism with all of us working towards similar objectives, creating a rape-free world.”

Look out for the next festival in late 2022 on the SHaME project and The WOW Foundation’s website

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