Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Offenders asked what it means to be a man

Artist Rupert Philbrick
THE work of young offenders from Deerbolt prison is on show to the public this week as part of a project which explores what it means to be a man.

Men at Deerbolt Young Offenders’ Institution, in Startforth, have been working with artists to create the multimedia exhibition as part of the Men’s Voices Project which was launched by Changing Relations – a North East arts education company.

Men from Barnardo’s Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programme, boys at Woodlands Pupil Referral Unit, in Ferryhill, and men at Eldon Lane and Stanley Men’s Crees also took part in the masculinity project which has included workshops in print-making, creative writing and cross-stitch.

The free public exhibition is being held in Empty Shop’s TESTT Space, in Durham city centre, and will run for the duration of Durham Book Festival until Sunday, October 15. Teesdale artists Polly Turner and Rupert Philbrick, of Changing Relations, have helped to curate the exhibition along with performance poet Chris Robinson. Ms Robinson said: “Growing up and living in a north eastern former mining village, I have been exposed to many manifestations of masculinity and I have seen how destructive it can be to individuals, families and communities.

“I was, therefore, delighted to be asked to be part of the artistic team on the Men’s Voices Project exploring the themes of man and masculinity with local groups of men.”

Those involved were given the opportunity to record a personal testimony of what it means to be a man and the results have been included in Mr Philbrick’s sound installation as part of the exhibition.

The project also explored how messages about masculinity had shaped men and boys in the area and whether any of these could have contributed to the health and social challenges faced by men and the other people in their lives. Those who took part told the artists they felt caught between generations, attitudes and expectations. They also felt that there wasn’t enough support for men experiencing difficulties.

Project mentor doctoral researcher Stephen Burrell of Durham University’s Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse (Criva) said: “The project represents an innovative approach to engaging creatively with men and boys in the North East to encourage them and the wider community to reflect on the social construction of masculinity and the massive impacts it has on our lives and those of everyone around us.

“It forces us to ask could we all be a lot healthier and happier if we were free from some of its constraints?”

The exhibition can be viewed everyday this week between noon and 4pm at 25 North Road, Durham, DH1 4SG.

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