The beautiful surroundings of Liverpool docks were the perfect setting to launch the many prongs of the Holding Time Project in Cheshire and Merseyside. Holding Time is an ongoing work designed to create greater cultural awareness of the needs of breastfeeding mothers. In preparation for the process of being photographed, mothers were invited to participating in creative writing workshops with Rachel New, radio producer and writer at Creative Lives.
For this very special event at Open Eye Gallery we were able to hear not only the recent stories created by workshop attendees from Cheshire and Merseyside but also some stories from Coventry mothers who participated in the Holding Time Project during lockdown and were for the first time, able to perform their writing in public.
It was great to hear the range and quality of writing, from poetry to long prose. With an audience of NHS staff, the social prescribing Team from WHAM, members of the local CCG and local breastfeeding mentors, there was plenty of understanding and lots of spare arms to hold babies whilst we all enjoyed performances that were were entertaining, moving and full of meaning.
Behind the performances were animations from the Coventry and Brighton projects, as if listening in to these familiar outpourings of motherhood honesty.
And some of the interviews with participating mothers from Cheshire and Merseyside, were also on show before and afterwards, book-ended by a powerful interview with Dr Vicky Fallon, maternal researcher and psychologist from Liverpool University.
Having spent years examining the links between stigma and motherhood mental illness, spoke fluently and with passion about the need for new directions in breastfeeding promotion that recognise the impact on maternal mental health when feeding aims are not met. Dr Fallon has written a BLOG post on this subject for the Holding Time website, due to be published in January.
In the Atrium screens outside the gallery there were larger than life portraits from the Coventry and Brighton projects – a taste of what is to come in the Cheshire and Merseyside project when photographic shoots take place mid- January, COVID permitting.
The whole day was accompanied by the ‘word gathering’ by local poet Louise Fitzsimons, who asked mothers to join her at her table to write words that encapsulated their perinatal experiences. This quick method, quickly gave rise to a host of interesting words and phrases, which Louise then wove into a performance, delivered at the end of the day.
By 5pm we had all enjoyed some tea, cake and a good laugh. It was fantastic to meet everyone, including members of the Improving Me (WHAM) team who we have worked with for over a year now without meeting! Masks back on, we headed out into the world, a little warmer and more certain, a little bit buoyed by eachother, the poetry and everything that makes this project so special.
Here’s a selection of some of the highlights from the day, including of course, those show stoppers – the babies!
This project is multi-channel, multi platform and operates ity to city. By working with academics, health professionals and grassroots networks it is a large piece of socially engaged feminist art that is intended to bring about meaningful change in UK breastfeeding policy.
Many thanks to Just Jaq Photography for all the wonderful images on the day!