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Creative Methods

Creative ideas for conducting research such as PAR (Participatory Action Research), art projects, group work or any other interactive sessions.

Working Together To Create Change: PAR/PEER Research

The North East has a significant tradition and depth of expertise for conducting participatory action research on sex work but also on other intersecting social justice issues, such as sexual and domestic violence, race, crime and justice. Much of the research undertaken by NESWF was commissioned by Northern Rock under Cullagh Warnock’s leadership.

Participatory Action Research involves local people, researchers and experts working together to create change, by developing partnership responses to a social issue based upon the following values:

• Inclusion: including all those involved where possible, facilitating shared ownership of the development and outcomes of the research (stakeholders)

• Participation: working with participants as co-researchers (community members as researchers, as experts on their own lives and experiences)

• Valuing all voices: using innovative ways of consulting and working with local people, for example through community arts, or theatre based workshops

• Transformative: action, outcomes or interventions happen as a result of the research.

• Ethical: rigorous ethics are a central element of the process and practice of doing PAR.

Some examples of PAR from the NESWF:

Changing Lives PEER: exploring the lives of sex workers in Tyne and Wear research into adult sex work in Tyne and Wear and the services supporting them (Laing and Irving, 2013).

A Way Out PAR Peer Talk: hidden stories funded by Northern Rock and managed by A Way Out. (O’Neill, Jobe, Bilton, Stockdale, Kath, Hannah and community co researchers, 2018).

PowerPoint which informed the PAR sessions below:

awo par training
Download PPT • 5.23MB

Barnardos SECOS Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in the North East

Open Clasp Theatre Company Rattle and Roll (2010)

The North East Sex Work Forum & Regional Learning Day is run on participatory principles.

Open Clasp Theatre Company - Changing the World One Play at a Time

Our aim is to Change the World, One Play at a Time by placing theatre at the heart of transforming the lives of disadvantaged women and girls.

We are an award-winning women’s theatre company and a leading force in the North of England with a national and international reach. We make truthful, risk-taking and award-winning theatre informed by the lived experiences of women disenfranchised in theatre and society, those from minority communities and women affected by the criminal justice system. We collaborate with women and young women on the margins of society to create bold and innovative theatre for personal, social and political change.

Telephone: 0191 272 4063


A probation office, a prison cell, a homeless shelter… Sugar is set in an abstract world where we meet three women all ‘doing time’ in very different ways, caught in a waiting space of continuous floors and revolving doors. Three survivors. Three voices seldom heard.  

Meet Annie, Julie and Tracey as we circle around their stories in an unflinching trilogy which honours the hard realities of lives lived in and around the criminal justice system.  

Presented by Open Clasp Theatre Company, Sugar is an intimate piece of theatre made for screen devised with women who are homeless, on probation or in prison.   

In partnership with Meerkat Films, in association with Live Theatre and supported by The Space access it here.

Rattle Snake

Spine tingling and visceral, Rattle Snake will take your breath away. An epic tale based on real life stories of women who have faced and survived coercive controlling domestic abuse.

“Rattle Snake holds the voices of those who have survived coercive control and our aim is to make the best theatre we can to ensure those voices are heard.” Catrina McHugh MBE, Writer of the Year, Rattle Snake, 2018 (Journal Culture Awards)

Rattle Snake has been programmed online by Northern Stage as part of #GoodNightIn 2-6 March 2021. Access tickets here:

Dr Angelika Strohmayer

The Partnership Quilt: An Interactive Living Archive of Sex Worker Voices (open access in 'Curator: The Museum Journal' Special Issue 'Art as Archive 1' - April/May 2020)

"Working alongside people who use and manage a local charity and professional quilters, we sewed a quilted blanket which we augmented with capacitive touch sensors to turn the craft piece into an interactive archive. In this way, the quilt tells the story of the women who were involved in making it not only through the seams, but also with our embedded voices. We describe the process of quilting a digitally augmented social fabric and the ways in which the sewing allowed us to learn through the seams, we present a project that brings together aspects of human connection, crafted learning, and living archival practice."

Follow their journey here.

“We come together as one…and hope for solidarity to live on”: On Designing Technologies for Activism and the Commemoration of Lost Lives (forthcoming in 'Designing Interactive Systems 2020' in July, we also won an honourable mention award for the paper, meaning it’s in the top 5% of papers this year!)

"On International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (IDEVASW), sex worker rights advocates and support services commemorate lives lost due to violence. In this paper we describe and reflect on a Feminist Participatory Action Research project that supported the activities of IDEVASW over two years in North East England. Working alongside a charity that provides services to women who are sex workers or have experienced sexual exploitation, we co-organised the first local activist march on the day. As researchers and service providers, we present detailed reflections on the use of digital technologies during the public activist march, a private service for commemoration, and the development of a semi-public archive to collect experiences of the day. We develop two ways of framing the design of digital technologies for activism and the commemoration of lost lives: as catalysts for reflection and opportunities to layer experience."

Follow their journey here.

The Red Umbrella March: Crafting a Living Activist Archive

Angelika Strohmayer, Janis Meissner, Sarah Charlton

December 17th marks the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Historically, on this day sex workers carry red umbrellas and march through the streets of large cities to fight for their rights, reduce stigma, and to make their presence visible in a city. In 2016 Changing Lives organised the first of these marches in Newcastle upon Tyne. The authors joined sex workers, support workers, police, and other supporters on this march as well as the remembrance service that took place afterwards. Through ethno-mimesis, they recorded their experiences of the march and subsequent service, focusing on the use of digital technologies. Between the march and the service, they also encouraged attendants to partake in their ‘red umbrellas’ activity. Here we used the open source JigsAudio tool to begin to craft a living activist archive of Newcastle’s experiences on the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

red_umbrella_report (1)
Download PDF • 1.35MB


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