Over the past 5 years, Renfrewshire Council has been working with various groups in partnership with the Star Project to improve family and personal relationships.The women in the partnership are members of Renfrewshire Women’s Association (RWA)

Their aims are:

  • To make the environment a safer place for women and children
  • To replace violence and exploitation from families and society with better communication and relationships
  • To support and help thrive those recovering from gender violence.

Each year RWA organise a conference in November (Outrage) to raise awareness of the issues. RWA specifically use a variety of art forms including visual art, new media, photography, drama and creative writing to stimulate debate, seek solutions and ensure the conference is interactive and accessible. In the months leading to the conference RWA work with groups of women, men, older people and youth on an arts-based project on selected topics. These art workshops are led by professionals who use the medium as a stimulus for discussing issues and attitudes. The art is displayed at the conference venue (Paisley Town Hall) with delegates from various council and voluntary services staff who work with women, children and families.

Past onferences have had the following themes:

  • 2006 – Mental health and Wellbeing
  • 2007 – Mutual Respect
  • 2008 – Positive role Models for Young Men
  • 2009- The Power and the Positive: Empowering Women to Move Forward
  • 2010 – Don’t Get Angry, Get Active: Community Empowerment through Collective Action

Kate Dickie, Bafta award winning actor, is the patron of RWA and the events have attracted such high profile speakers as Dr. Mairead Tagg, Fred MacAulay and Lord Advocate Eilish Angiolini. Workshops, drama performances and new media presentations provide an opportunity for participants of all ages to come together to share thinking and views.

Key success factors

Although intergenerational practice is not the focus of Outrage, it is key to its success. The conference and arts project bring together different age groups from youth to older people to share experiences, discuss different (and similar!) attitudes across the generations.

The art exhibition allows participants to address the conference theme and offers participants and delegates the opportunity to discuss varying attitudes and experiences.

Over the last 3 years Women and Children 1st have organised drama performances in the local secondary schools with supporting workshops. These are then presented at the conference, giving adults the opportunity to experience the topic as it is being tackled in the children’s schools. It also allows parents and grandparents to learn about different ways to address these delicate issues and protect young people from becoming victims and perpetrators of gender violence.

In 2008, RWA was concerned about the need for positive role models for young men and worked with two groups of young people. The most surprising discovery was adults’ perception of the type of person young people respected and wished to emulate. Most adults assumed it would be pop stars and footballers. However a significant number of young people felt their main role models were in the family and community and were actively working to create a better life for everyone.

Ultimately RWA’s conference and arts projects bring together people from different generations, genders, abilities, ethnic backgrounds, professions and communities with the aim of raising awareness and challenging violence within relationships. At this year’s Outrage conference there was a tree dedication ceremony for Renfrewshire women who had experienced violence. The most extreme cases are women killed by their partner or ex-partner. This was a poignant short ceremony with all ages coming together to pledge as a community to continue the good work to promote better understanding of how to deal with frustrations so that violence is consigned to history.