The Other Project, co-ordinated by Third Year Fine Art student Mia Ferullo, is a collaboration between Leeds Central Library and York St John University’s second year students. The students were divided into four groups, each being given an issue of the Leeds Other Paper. With a combination of Fine Art, Photography and Illustration students, this project displays a range of works that explore the topics and content of the Leeds Other Paper during the 1970s and 80s. This third blog includes responses to issue 148 which was released on the 28th November 1980. This issue focused on the repercussions of Peter Sutcliffe’s (The Yorkshire Ripper) murders, with the “Resist the Curfew” protests where women were fighting for their right to feel safe on the street at night.
In November 1980, the Leeds Other Newspaper published several stories which highlighted the anger felt by hundreds of women towards cases of male violence against women. These women expressed their intolerance to the way the press poorly presented these cases, often portraying female victims as ‘less value’ in a bid to excuse police failings.
One article outlines this criticism as it describes the unjust representation in the media of the victims of Peter Sutcliffe. Richard McCann, whose mother was murdered by Sutcliffe in 1975, has detailed the impact of these events on his life in his public speeches, one of which I attended at secondary school in 2011. During this speech Richard presented an image of a tall white building, the Clock Tower of the Parkinson Building at Leeds University.
He described how this building had appeared to him at several significant points in his life, from the home he lived at as a child with his mother, through his prison cell window, and in later years he studied there. Richard now describes how the building had, in a strange way, begun to serve as an emblem of his mum.
Now the successful founder of his own Academy, and a huge believer in the importance of education, Richard proves how empowerment can be found through education even in extremely dark circumstances. His story also uncovers the value of objects on the landscape in their ability to hold memories and identities and remind us of the possibility of change.
“Reclaim the Night”
Upon receiving the brief, I knew I was going to focus on the Ripper story the moment I saw the title ‘Resist the Curfew’. My mother lived through this horrendous period in Yorkshire’s history, so this personal connection led me to use her within my work. When I asked my mother about this period in time, the reply was simply “I remember the fear, pure fear.” This really struck a chord with me and influenced the use of backlighting within my work, keeping my mother’s face anonymous, emphasising the idea of Mr. Sutcliffe’s victims being any woman, not just sex workers as the police force and media first, and wrongly assumed. The anonymous silhouette also addresses the idea that the victims of Mr. Sutcliffe, who I will not give the satisfaction of being addressed by his ‘stage name’, were not only the thirteen he murdered and seven he attacked but the thousands of Yorkshire women who lived in fear every day for five years.
The ‘Reclaim the Night’ riots were another aspect of the article I found interesting and I decided to watch the Netflix Documentary ‘The Ripper’ to aid my research. The documentary highlights the sexism and failure to listen to women and while these protests were initially kickstarted in 1977 during the Ripper period, they are still ongoing more than 40 years later; leading one to ask, has anything truly changed? As a woman, I focused on shooting at night and as part of my work, I decided to go on a walk around my local area at night to photograph the streets; my ‘reclaiming of the night’. I think the most poignant moment of this project occurred during this walk, when a man with the best of intentions said, “you want to be careful out here on your own, no place for a young woman this time of night”. The irony of this exchange does make one believe nothing has really changed.
Women should have the right to walk safely and alone during the night. Women should not feel the need to look over their shoulder or carry keys or a panic alarm between their fingers to feel safe and women should not need educating on how to protect themselves, particularly when on their own. My work is entitled ‘Reclaim the Night’ to pay homage to Mr. Sutcliffe’s victims and the women not only in Yorkshire, but across the world who are reclaiming the night.
I found this to be a really exciting project! It was brilliant to be introduced to a paper that was such an advocate for all human rights and had the drive to give everyone a platform where they could be heard. Without papers like the Leeds Other Paper, countless people would be made silent. I found it really rewarding to be a part of the paper’s story.
When I was given this brief, I first read the issue we were given cover to cover and highlighted key words and articles that stuck out to me. I chose to create my final piece around the story, ‘Women, angry at male violence say: ‘Resist the curfew!’. This was a really powerful collection of stories that highlighted the anger that the women of Leeds (and beyond) felt after a curfew had been suggested by West Yorkshire Police in 1980. This curfew would be imposed on the women of these communities, trapping them in their houses at night.
I wanted to address this article directly, in a way that would draw a comparison between what the 70s/80s are idealised to be, and how they were for a large majority of the population. With Margret Thatcher in power, the 80s was a time, for many, of unemployment, poverty, and fear. In my image titled: This Statement, I tore away the facade of a smile and revealed the ‘truth’ written about in the articles I have shown.
I chose to cover the eyes in this outcome to dehumanise the model. I made this decision to relate back to the victims of the Yorkshire Ripper, if people didn’t fight on their behalf, they could easily have become a number, a statistic. When in fact, they were people.
I hope that my piece has achieved its goal of drawing a contrast between the expectation and the reality for the women at that time.
“Reclaim the night!”
I took apart in this collaboration with Leeds Central Library and the School of Art at York St John’s. We were given an issue of the Other Paper to produce a work of art, the Leeds Other paper started around the 1970’s, distributing over the Yorkshire district. It covered events and stories happening in these areas. I was given the story covering the Yorkshire Ripper and the protests against the curfew placed on women because of the killings. For my medium I choose to use Lino printing as it created a sharp, clear image depicting silhouettes of the protest with a sign stating ‘reclaim the night’ in the centre. This was the main slogan for the protests and is still being used today regarding rape crime towards women. I added silver leaf to the sign, so it stood out against the Lino as it holds such an important message. Using the silver also links to the context of the night curfew, but also as the protests were during the night and the message had to be visible for the people to see and react to.
My name is Kekezza Gibson and I am a second-year photography student. I photographically responded to the Leeds Other Paper article “Women Against Violence Against Women March”, specifically the section covering the “Resist the Curfew!” because of the 1980 Yorkshire Ripper killings. Because of the killings by the Yorkshire Ripper women were advised to stay indoors, however many women protested this by marching with torches and by questioning men in the street to ask if they were the Ripper, etc. The march was organized by ‘Women against Violence Against Women’ and one of their three demands was that a curfew was given to men as opposed to women, because it was a man killing women that were assumed to be prostitutes, yet it is women that are being shut away to ‘protect them’ when it is a man committing the murders.
Many of the women killed by the Yorkshire Ripper were assumed to be, and depicted in the papers as, prostitutes and the public were seemingly unbothered by this because they felt safe; why wouldn’t they if they did not match the profile of the previous victims that coined their death justifiable in the eyes of society? Only when a known student, someone who society felt had ‘credibility’ was murdered, did people begin to see the Ripped as a problem for them all to be concerned about. I decided to take a photograph in a dark street with a lamppost and edit it so the light cast from it was red, this references the Red-Light District how everyone implied that the victims of the Ripper were prostitutes, and how this label was imposed on them, even if it was not true.
For my piece for The Other Project, I chose to work from the Yorkshire Ripper article. My first idea was to focus on the female body due to the issues within the article. I wanted to do this by using a print of my breast as I felt it was relevant. I then surrounded the piece with the quotes from the article as well as line drawings of the female body. I used greys, black, white, nudes and gold. I used these colours as I wanted the base colours to bring out the nudes and gold as they were what I wanted to be the main colours. I chose to focus on the idea that women were basically seen as though their bodies weren’t their own, as men would still do what they pleased to them. Women weren’t treated as individuals, they were always either seen as owned by one person or by many and I wanted to represent this within my work.
“Annette & Charlene”
When the Yorkshire Ripper was at the pinnacle of his reign of terror, the women of Leeds were in uproar over being commanded to adhere to a strict curfew. This highlighted the issue of double standards within the community and the justice system. In the case of sisters Annette and Charlene Maw, who were sentenced to three years for the manslaughter of their father Thomas Maw, and the case of Douglas Coles, served with two years on probation for the murder of his wife, this inequality was evident. The two sisters had been relentlessly beaten by their father and had acted in self-defence, meanwhile, Douglas’ argument for his heinous act was that his wife had ‘nagged’ him. I resonated with this story a lot, so I wanted to approach it with sensitivity. I can feel the anger of all those wronged women in my blood, because it is an injustice that women are faced with to this day. Instead of hiding women to protect them, hold men accountable for their actions.
If you would like to read the entire Leeds Other Paper about the Women Against Violence Against Women March from November 1980 then click on this link here. Keep a look out for York St John’s Fine Art students next Secret Library Heritage Blog next Wednesday.