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Take a walk in the shoes of brave women

PUBLISHED: 15:53 17 May 2018 | UPDATED: 16:12 17 May 2018

Paper Slipper

Paper Slipper

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Paper shoes give voices to domestic abuse victims at Hackney exhibition

Women are sharing their experiences of domestic abuse by customising paper shoes in a new art exhibition in Hackney.

The project is the brainchild of Little Paper Slipper, a charity founded in 2013 with a mission to give a voice to women affected by domestic abuse - and the chance to work through often traumatic experiences in a cathartic and therapeutic way.

Running from May 17-20 at The Old Bank Vault in Hackney Road, the exhibition features over 160 papier mache shoes customised by the women with words, drawings or accessories and suspended to form one installation.

Hackney-based artist and founder of Little Paper Slipper Marie-Louise Jones explains, “Each shoe speaks with its own voice, while together they tell of how it’s possible to take a negative aspect of society and, through imagination, turn it into something beautiful – just as the women draw on their experience of domestic abuse to create positive and empowering works of art.”

At a time when support services for people experiencing domestic abuse are being cut, the figures from the Office for National Statistics make for stark reading: one in four women in the UK will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, while two women are killed each week by a current or former partner.

Little Paper Slipper runs workshops with women’s refuges around the UK which help to empower survivors to speak about their experiences after suffering abuse.

They then stage inspirational exhibitions which offer a platform for the women to tell their stories.

This month’s event is the third biennial exhibition of the ever-growing collection of shoes which bear inscriptions such as ‘today my life begins,’ and ‘I am powerful.’

“In the workshops we deconstruct notions of power and have discussions about feeling powerful,” says Marie-Louise.

“At the beginning I hear many of the women say, ‘I’m not powerful’, when in reality the women I’ve worked with in the refuges are some of the strongest and most courageous women I have ever met.

“They move me every time. I would recommend for everyone to come and visit the exhibition, the shoes are beautiful, funny, sad, touching, upsetting, angry, happy…a whole array of emotions are present. Through all of the shoes you hear the women’s voices.”

Marie-Louise Jones says the charity has come a long way since its humble beginnings five years ago, when it was just her and her assistant working from a freezing cold warehouse in Hackney, after raising a small amount of money from a crowdfunding campaign to travel to refuges across the country and run workshops.

She initially got involved after being commissioned by domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid to create artwork for their Cabinet of Dreams public installation in Soho.

“Afterwards I felt that there was more I could do for the cause,” she says.

“It’s a cliché but I wanted to try and make a difference - not just sit back and think ‘yeah I know this thing exists but it’s never really going to change, and what can we do about it anyway?’.

“There is something we can do, we can stop ignoring it, start talking about it, and we can try and help the women who have already experienced it,” she adds.

One of the challenges Marie-Louise faced was raising the money to continue doing the valuable work. Two years ago LPS auctioned off customised papier mache shoes designed by artists including Gavin Turk and Jess de Wahl.

There is also the process of building relationships with safe houses for women. Because of the necessary high levels of security, it takes many months of meetings before she is trusted to deliver a workshop at a refuge.

In the meantime, Little Paper Slipper is considering a longer term venue to display the shoes so the public can view the work outside of the regular shows.

The exhibition opens tonight (May17) with a preview, guest performances, food and drink and every guest will take home a Little Paper Slipper canvas bag or pendant.

For Marie-Louise, the highlight is “presenting the shoes and the women’s voices to the world and hearing the responses to the exhibition from the general public.

“We have a comments book at each exhibition and it is always interesting (and moving) reading the reactions to the installation.”

Further details at littlepaperslipper.com.

The Old Bank Vault gallery is at 283 Hackney Road, E2.

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