The Safety Map, an installation created by Pink Fringe and artist Kate Shields, will invite the LGBTQ community to share their experiences of Brighton and Hove, by adding their stories to a quilted map of Brighton. Abby Butcher from Pink Fringe tells us about the project.
Where did the idea for The Safety Map come from?
Brighton has a reputation for being the ‘Gay Capital’ of Europe, so perhaps many people would assume it’s a safe place for the LGBTQ community. As queer folk ourselves, we know this is not always the case. The Safety Map was created by Pink Fringe to ignite a conversation – about safety, risk and visibility.
Our work often investigates the complex range of identities that sit under the LGBTQ label and the diverse experiences of those identities; we hope that this project would give a voice to everyone. The Safety Map was funded by the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, and we are pleased to see that this area is a priority for the police in this city.
How does the audience interact with the installation?
Audiences are invited in and asked if they have any stories to contribute; these could include tales of street harassment, names of safe spaces in the city, areas that historically held some relevance for the LGBTQ community or spaces that the community could benefit from knowing about – such as the location of gender-neutral toilets. If audiences wish to contribute they’ll be given a luggage tag to write their story on, the lead artist, Kate, will then stitch it onto the relevant location on the map. Audiences are welcome to come in and read the tags whilst enjoying a cup of tea in a reflective and calm space during a busy weekend.
How did audiences respond to The Safety Map when it was at the Marlborough Theatre in May 2016?
People were so generous with their stories, but it was saddening to hear that most LGBTQ people who came in have experienced hate crime or street harassment in Brighton.
This did, however, really pull the project into focus for us, and served as a reminder of the relevance of the work. The piece is all about the audience; their stories and anecdotes bring the map to life.
What do you hope the legacy of the work to be?
The more stories we collect, the more of a detailed picture we can paint about safety on our streets. We record every story online on our digital map, and we hope by the end of this phase of the work we will have more information that we can communicate to the police about areas that feel unsafe for LGBTQ people, and areas that are important.
We’ve found that a lot of people don’t know what qualifies as hate crime – for instance, if you get called a derogatory name on the street because of your gender or sexuality – that’s a criminal offence. We want to educate people on these facts so they are well equipped to combat street harassment and hate crime in our city. My dream is for it to be re-created in other cities across the UK, and for it to be used as a device for LGBTQ folk and the police to connect on important issues. The relationship between these two groups has a complicated history, but I really believe working in creative, accessible ways could help find more common language between the two.