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Several images on panels ready to be put together as a quilt.

Creativity and the Menopause: AUB unveils participatory research quilt


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Over 30 women from across the south of England who took part in important participatory research around creativity and the menopause came together with their friends and family for the unveiling of the final project – a quilt made by the women over a series of eight workshops.

The project was organised by Pauline Ferrick-Squibb, a Senior Lecturer of BA (Hons) Commercial Photography and MA Photography at Arts University Bournemouth (AUB). The unveiling event on Saturday 22 June, and the quilt-making workshops were hosted by AUB’s Innovation Studio and saw women collaborate over the course of the project sharing their own menopause journeys with the group.

Pauline comments, “The quilt has been produced through participatory research after receiving funding from Research England and AUB. The research aimed to determine whether engaging in the creative process of quilt making would empower women to express their experiences with greater confidence and advocate for changes to enhance their own and others journeys through the menopause.

"I acquired a small grant from AUB to photograph a diverse range of 20 perimenopausal and menopausal women who all generously shared their experiences with me. I was then fortunate to obtain funding from Research England to begin some participatory research with women who were experiencing or had experienced menopause.

"I wanted to find out if the creative process of producing a quilt in collaboration with others would enable them to collectively and individually articulate their experiences, foster a sense of community, and enable them to have greater agency in advocating strategies to improve their experience of the menopause.”

Tracy Thompson, an alumna of AUB’s BA (Hons) Commercial Photography course who went on to take the MA Photography course, met with Pauline, her MA tutor, who told Tracy all about the project. Tracy decided to make her final piece for the MA on the menopause.

“It seems strange to say now, but I genuinely didn’t really know anything about the menopause when I was going through it," says Tracy. "I was in my mid 50s and suffering from anxiety and stress, I had panic attacks, but I just didn’t twig that it could be the menopause.

“I think it’s been tough for most of my generation; my mother said that it simply ‘didn’t exist.’ I photographed my mother for the project, she was very photogenic, and it was precious mother-daughter time for us that I’m very grateful for as she sadly died shortly after."

Pauline continues, "I was privileged to photograph 20 women who shared their experiences with me; women who had experienced surgical menopause, menopause that couldn't be treated by HRT due to medical conditions, women who had early menopause that affected their fertility, women suffering with depression, women whose careers had been affected by their symptoms, and women experiencing the myriad of symptoms that menopause presents.

"Together with the photographs taken by Tracy, the portraits and stories were collated on the central panel of the quilt which was utilised to instigate the first conversations within the workshops."

The series of eight workshops were attended with a core group of 10 women who came every week, and another 10 who attended when they were able. One of these attendees was Carmel De’Lisser who found out about the workshops via a friend who was going.

Carmel comments, “The BIPOC community is woefully underrepresented in pretty much all health matters, including the menopause, which is why I wanted to be a part of the project."

"Making the quilt, sitting and sewing with other women, hearing their stories and sharing mine as we worked was so cathartic. My piece for the quilt was about my great-grandma, I wanted to include my female ancestry and recognise that they were not afforded any openness at all to talk about, or get support for, the menopause."

The quilt is made up of 78 individual squares around a central panel. A variety of creative processes and techniques were used including printmaking using a letter press to make statements, painting and drawing digitally printed onto the squares and embroidery.

The research data is evidenced in the quilt itself as well as in a short video that captures the voices of the women talking during the workshops, which was shown at the launch and will be available at future exhibitions.

The quilt will be shown at The Festival of Quilts show at the NEC, Birmingham, from 1-4 August.

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