One in five UK women between the ages of 16-59 has experienced sexual violence. As any Archers listener will know, it is a crime often hidden from sight. Hundreds of knitters and crocheters have created a huge artwork in flowers to bring this fact to the public gaze, and raise money for the Cambridge branch of the charity Rape Crisis.
The artwork is made from over 1,000 knitted and crocheted Rhapsody clematis flowers and leaves, covering 12 square metres of fencing on Jesus Green, by the picturesque River Cam in Cambridge. They are various shades of purple, blue and green, chosen by their many different makers (some glittery!). Four out of five flowers are purple and one in five blue, to reflect the prevalence of all the people, and it is mostly women, who are hidden among us having experienced the horror of rape or sexual violence.
The artwork has a big visual impact, you can’t miss it and it’s beautiful. I think it is made more beautiful by the fact so many people worked together to bring it to life. The project started because I wanted to give my customers a big project to work on together – in the last few years we took part in making jersey bunting to display when the Tour de France came through town and made the biggest beekeeper’s quilt in the world for charity, and it was time for more. Clare Collier is a knitting group regular here and very much wanted to help organise a yarnbomb. We knew we wanted to make an artwork which thousands of people would enjoy and the charity Rape Crisis is close to Clare’s heart. She is a survivor and undaunted about speaking out, and together with members of The Sheep Shop knitting group came up with the idea of the Rhapsody clematis display.
Clare Collier says “I’m passionate about yarnbombing, and have been running national yarnbombing projects for the last three years. They bring people together, form community, and can raise money, and awareness. As well as being amazing pieces of public textile art. When Sarah said she wanted to start a yarnbomb project, I was keen to help get involved. I’m a rape survivor, and Sarah has a Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre collection box on her till, and a light bulb moment made it obvious to me what we should be doing. So we came up with the Rhapsody in Bloom yarn bomb project. I feel proud to have been part of this project, and feel it highlights the significant problem that women still face in our society, from sexual violence. The finished clematis yarnbomb is a beautiful piece of art. And also conveys the strong message of 1 in 5 women being survivors. I look forward to my next yarnbombing project very soon.”
Planning started early this year, and thanks go to Liz Marley and Emma Field who designed and donated the knitting and crochet patterns. The yarnbomb took five months to bring to flower after that point: hundreds of people put their hands to work making them, with each person making anywhere between one leaf and a hundred flowers, then it took a month to assemble by a team of volunteers.
Norah is the Development Officer from Cambridge Rape Crisis, and says “Sexual violence is a hidden epidemic in our society, over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted each year, 70,000 are raped and it is estimated there are 4.5million adults living in the UK today who are survivors of child sexual abuse. The impact of sexual violence can often be very silencing and hidden so to see this beautiful yarnbomb being so visible and bold in a public space really helps to raise awareness about a difficult issue in a very accessible way. Those who have taken part in the making of it have so generously given time, care and thought to show that those who experience sexual violence are not alone. As a local charity providing dedicated support services to survivors of sexual violence any funds raised through the yarnbomb will make a big difference to us and will enable us to continue to deliver support services to those affected by sexual violence in Cambridgeshire. Everyone at Cambridge Rape Crisis was so touched and moved by the vision, creativity and energy of those who organised and made this amazing piece of public art possible. The yarnbomb in its beauty not only helps to raise awareness about the issue it also celebrates the courage, strength and resilience of survivors of sexual violence”.
The artwork, like real flowers, is ephemeral. You can see it from now until the last week of October. Many more willing hands will then be disassembling it to turn it into brooches which will be sold by Rape Crisis to raise funds. You will be able to get hold of a brooch from Rape Crisis, the details will be on their website after it comes down. You can donate to Cambridge Rape Crisis here.