My Fabulous Tartan Frock
As part of the 16 Days of Action to End Violence Against Women campaign, Kirstin Innes finds out about a ‘fashion show with a difference’
It’s difficult to know exactly how to explain My Fabulous Tartan Frock, an event performance taking place over three days at the Arches as part of the annual 16 Days of Action to End Violence Against Women campaign. On publicity materials, where attention grabbing shorthand is necessary, the organisers have plumped for ‘fashion show with a difference’, but in reality there’s a great deal more to the event than that.
‘Since the summertime, we’ve been working with a group of women who have experienced domestic violence, and we worked up a script based on their experiences,’ explains organiser Rachel Jury of progressive arts group conFAB, responsible for some of the most interesting, genre-boundary defying events in Glasgow in the past few years.
‘We’ve also been workshopping related issues with groups of young people around the city, and the one thing we’ve found is that the issues are so enormous and so ingrained that we haven’t been able to discuss them cohesively in one single art form.
Jury has assembled ten non-professional performers, including former MSP Rosie Kane, who are happy to state that they have experience of domestic violence, not necessarily first-hand, in some way, to bring the testimonies of the women’s group to life.
‘The performance has become a mix of testimony, specially created visual and sound. We wanted to use all these art forms to make connections with how domestic violence sits within wider society, how it’s supported, challenged, etc. The performance comes very much from an equalities standpoint: that while even one woman is being raped or suffering domestic violence then there is no equality.’
Perhaps, by now, you’re wondering how all of this sits with the original idea of a fashion show. The key is in the title, an homage to a performance work staged by artist Marcia Farquhar at the 2007 National Review of Live Art, called ‘Acts of Clothing, Summing Up or Marcia Farquhar’s Fabulous Tartan Frock’.
‘The performance basically consisted of Marcia getting changed in and out of a rail of clothes and telling stories about what each garment meant to her personal history,’ explains Jury. ‘It stayed with me, that performance. What struck me was that she was in quite a privileged position, because she’d had some of these clothes as a teenager – when women have to flee a situation, because of domestic violence, they usually don’t end up getting to take their clothes with them.’
The fabulous tartan frock, then, has become a symbol of something women who have suffered domestic abuse may have been forced to give up. The performance does start with what looks like a fashion show, and there will be, apparently, a very big tartan frock involved, catwalk show being another art form that Jury’s team have used to get their message across.
Jury is also keen to state that each performance will be followed by a discussion ‘to help people work through what they’ve just seen,’ and that members of Glasgow Women’s Aid will be on hand to talk to anyone affected by the issues raised.
Arches, Glasgow, Tue 08 – Thu 10 Dec, 2pm & 7pm (Tues/Wed) / 1pm & 6pm (Thurs). Tickets are free. For more information on the campaign, see www.16days.org