does that include us? / yn cynnwys ni?

We’re looking forward to participating in the opening weekend of ‘yn cynnwys ni?‘ (‘does that include us?’) at the g39 gallery in Cardiff on Friday 22nd July. If you’re nearby, please come along. Full details below:

does that include us? / yn cynnwys ni?
22 July – 24 September
launch weekend: 22/23 July
g39, Cardiff

[Image: A cut-out of graph paper with a hand-drawn red border and a number on each axis. In the centre it says ‘You’ in bold, hand-drawn font.]

Does That Include Us? is a multi-artform programme of events presented by artists, facilitators and activists, some who identify as disabled and some who don’t.

For the first part of the season, 22 July – 25 August, you are invited to participate in social gatherings, performances, practical activities, conversations and debates. Through these activities we will find innovative and experimental ways to promote discussion around the subjects of access, inclusion, empathy and diversity within the arts and the wider community.  All workshops, gatherings and events are free to attend, and you can find more information on individual events throughout the season on the website; updates and amendments to the timetable, will be published here throughout the programme, as well as a weekly calendar at the beginning of each week.

Around the Toilet
Fri 22 July 4—7pm

The research for yn cynnwys ni? at g39 begun in early 2015, and started by looking at one of the most fundamental manifestations of the need for debate around inclusion and institutional good practice – the toilet. Although the warehouse currently occupied by g39 is fitted with several toilets, none of them were accessible in a wheelchair or met the current regulations in terms of planning. Eighteen months later, we are very pleased to be able to invite you to the grand opening of our brand new toilet space, built by artists, and fully compliant,  the new toilet will be opened by  Around the Toilet, a team of academics, artists, activists and students who use arts practice based methods to explore notions of belonging and what makes a safe and accessible toilet space. Following the grand opening, there will be a workshop between 5-6pm based around the idea of the Utopian toilet, run by artist Nicky Rose from The Bower Wirks and inspired by her ‘toilet challenges’.

Between 6-7pm, hear from some of the Around the Toilet team, Dr Jenny Slater, Dr Emily Cuming, Dahlia Tayel-Brown, Mikhail Tayel-Brown and Gillian Kemp about their latest project, Travelling Toilet Tales, an animation documenting journeys taken or not taken due to in/accessible toilets. People of all ages and abilities welcome.

For more on the project on Twitter : @cctoilettalk or visit their blog aroundthetoilet.wordpress.com.

Servicing Utopia’s first architect workshop: reflections, questions & ways forward

The team delivered its first workshop aimed at architects in professional practices, visiting Bond Bryan at their Church Studio offices in Sheffield. The workshop title was Toilets: Rethinking Accessible Architecture and was open to architects as part of their CPD (Continual Professional Development) training. We had four architects on the day: two architectural technicians, a Part One student at the firm, and a Part Two architectural assistant. All four were involved in some way in the design of educational buildings (from secondary schools to university buildings), housing and retail. One of our attendees admitted to a slight trepidation at going to anything with ‘toilets’ in the title, although this person cheerfully added that CPDs were usually about ‘boring wall partitions’ and at least this one sounded more ‘interesting’.

Lisa began by giving a brief overview of the ‘Servicing Utopia’ project, and its central aim of rethinking accessible toilet architecture as part of a broadening of ideas around access. What happens, she asked, if you put people’s experience before design standards? Lisa then outlined the ongoing development of the digital ‘toilet toolkit’ and invited the architects to help in the design by responding to the question: ‘What are some of the obstacles facing you in the design process when it comes to issues of accessibility?’

workshop3

[Image: A large table covered with sheets of paper, toilet drawings, magazines, drinks. People sitting at the table fit into the edges of the image.]

We then divided into two smaller groups, led by Jessica from Sheffield’s Live Project, and MA Architecture student Niki, both of whom are in the process of designing the toolkit. Each group looked at two of the project launch ‘scenario’ cards, which raise questions of access in relation to issues of disability, gender and caring, and were asked to sketch a design response to these ‘case-studies’. Many of them sketched floor plans, for the most part taking a pragmatic approach to issues of safety and security.

An animated and wide-ranging discussion followed which highlighted the possibilities and constraints of architectural design as seen from the perspective of those who plan the built environment. What follows are some bullet-points or key insights from the lively discussion.

** Please note: the following bullet points are comments or questions raised by participant architects at the meeting and do not necessarily reflect the views of the project team and its participants. **

  • Disabled toilets are generally taken into account as being more broadly accessible spaces by architects, even if they are just labelled ‘disabled’. As one participant put it: ‘There’s a misconception that disabled toilets are just for disabled people. But “Disabled” caters for everyone’. Another person added that they viewed it as being a little bit like Priority Seating on a bus: disabled toilets cater for everyone, but there should be priority access for those who need it most.

  • A recurring feature of the conversation was a distinct pragmatism about space and money. ‘We get space allocation for things and then it has to be done that way’, was a typical response. The financial implications of designing for ‘utopia’ was another common theme. One response to an innovative design proposal was: ‘That’s great in an ideal world. But we are never afforded the luxury of enough space.’ In relation to the matter of school toilets, another participant commented: ‘Toilets [in school settings] are usually made to the absolute minimum and you do it to the lowest cost’.

  • School toilets were something of a recurring theme across the course of the hour. And it seemed that this was not just because of the architects’ experiences designing for these settings, but because – as so often is the case – school toilets emerged as a charged environment where many of the anxieties, dangers and problems regarding toilet provision are seen to intersect. One architect had designed a unisex toilet for a school, but this had to be retrofitted – that is altered, or parts added – following parental complaints.  The participant added, however, that there were other, relevant issues perceived to be relevant to this decision, including so-called ‘antisocial behaviour’ within the school. We learned that architects have to plan around ‘dark zones’ (places which can’t be surveilled, and are therefore areas in which bullying can take place) and a new-ish and very twenty-first century problem: camera phones. The latter was said to be the biggest single issue facing architects in school toilet design where, as one of them put it, the absolute priority ‘would always be safeguarding the children’. Hence the increasing popularity of full-height cubicle partitions with reduced gaps at the bottom to prevent phones from being slipped under or over the partitions. The overall impression was that designing for school toilets involves an intrepid negotiation between providing open spaces and visibility – to prevent bullying – as well ensuring means of invisibility and privacy. Small wonder that the school toilet continues to provide a memorable setting for teen angst in film, from Carrie, to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, to last year’s The Falling… One participant summed it up by saying: ‘School toilets – they’re a minefield!’

  • A distinct pragmatism underscored the discussions. From this hour-long session, we learned that architects are inspired by innovation and willing to adapt designs as long as these provisions are communicated to them early on in the design process. But the general advice was that they follow British Standard guidelines on building regulations and signage: ‘These are the people you need to be talking to if you want to see any form of change’. If briefs don’t conform to building regs, they told us, architects won’t do it.

  • Another recurring theme was the idea that, ‘You can’t cater for everyone…you just can’t.’ Participants were particularly vocal about this in relation to questions of cultural difference (including faith and religion), and also perceived ‘anti-social’ uses of toilets. In relation to a scenario card concerning a homeless person’s use of public toilets, the response was that these things ‘can’t be dealt with through toilet design’ – they are about wider issues of welfare, housing and public health. The implication was that the public toilet – that touchstone of cultural concerns and anxieties since Victorian times – might well flag up key social problems, but these can’t be effectively remedied through architectural design. Which brings us back to a wider research question: does the built environment reflect or produce social tensions?

In all, it was a lively, interesting discussion, proving yet again how what Barbara Penner terms ‘humble things’ and places can provoke musings on emotions, bully

workshop5

[Image: Five people sitting at a table and one person standing near a door. Some people are using pens to draw on paper, others look thoughtful.]

ing, parenting, economics, childhoods, social justice. I wonder how many CPDs manage that in an hour? The written feedback we received suggests that the architects found the workshop enlightening and useful, particularly in highlighting the range of questions involved and the importance of thinking more about the ‘flexibility of the toilet to cater for a wide range of needs’.  One participant wrote: ‘It’s opened my mind to the fact that toilets should have just as much thoughtful design as the other spaces in a building.’

For our part, we continue to explore and interrogate the role of creativity, utopia and design in a world of regulations, briefs, deadlines and existing protocols. How to make these co-exist in meaningful and accessible ways continues to drive the project forwards…

Servicing Utopia: An event summary

How might prioritizing people’s experiences present new ways of thinking about the design process of toilets? With this question as our starting point, on Monday 18th April we hosted a launch event for one of our new toilet projects, Servicing Utopia. The project is a continuation of previous research undertaken by the Around the Toilet team, which focused on the safety, comfort and accessibility of toilet spaces for queer, trans and disabled people. Servicing Utopia collaborates with planners, architects and designers to critically interrogate the toilet design process. These critical discussions will inform the design of a digital Toilet Toolkit to be used by architects and designers and a short film to promote the accessible design of toilet spaces.

At our launch event at The Art House in Sheffield, researchers from Servicing Utopia were joined by interested parties from a diverse range of backgrounds, including design, animation, social enterprise, research, architecture and toilet product manufacture. Following a buffet lunch on arrival, the event hosted a series of short presentations about issues of toilet access and a creative workshop led by Tom Gayler, a designer at the Royal College of Art. Dr Lisa Procter, lead researcher on Servicing Utopia, and Dr Jenny Slater, a co-researcher on the project, opened the event with a short talk about the background, aims and outputs of the project. Procter reminded us that toilets are complex and important spaces that require consideration and innovation beyond standard design templates.

Activist and artist, Gemma Nash, joined us next to discuss her experiences as a disabled parent. She spoke of the very public and visible feel of some baby-changing facilities, and how this has contributed to her anxieties around feeling judged and in need of proving herself. Nash also noted the lack of baby (and adult) changing facilities in many accessible toilets. She emphasised the importance of being able to locate accessible, private toilets with full changing facilities to allow disabled parents, who may be with personal assistants, to relax and take care of their children without judgment. Following Nash, we watched a short film of performer and writer, Ivan Coyote, giving a talk entitled ‘We all need a safe place to pee’ about their experiences of using toilets as someone who is non-binary. Coyote argued that they shouldn’t be asked to use the men’s toilet when they are not a man; using a toilet which matches your gender is not only important for safety issues, but also for users’ identity, comfort and personal wellbeing. Coyote noted, however, that it would not only be non-binary people who would benefit from gender neutral single-stall toilets, there are many others who also need the privacy, safety and accessibility of private and inclusive designs.

 

Later on, insights from these presentations informed a workshop led by Tom Gayler. Gayler provided six ‘toilet access’ scenarios for us to consider in small groups. The fictional scenarios were written based on the stories and experiences shared with Around the Toilet researchers in our workshops with queer, trans and disabled participants last year. They included a diverse range of issues related to inadequate toilet facilities, such as baby changing, gender policing, homelessness, locked accessible toilets, noisy hand-dryers, and the unavailability of hoists. We used these scenarios to develop a ‘user experience’ approach to toilet access, and consider the kinds of social and physical obstacles preventing different people from accessing the toilet spaces they need. We drew timelines for each toilet scenario and, using coloured string, we ‘mapped’ out how much influence various aspects of the toilet journey (e.g. signage, space, facilities and culture) has at each point of the experience. The visual mapping of the toilet scenarios led to some really useful, critical debates and analysis about access and exclusion.

 

  Servicing Utopia 0    Servicing Utopia 5    Servicing Utopia 1 [Image: Photos of long white pieces of paper with annotations and coloured ribbons stuck down in lines.]

Reflecting on these scenarios, Gayler asked us to reimagine Part M of the building regulations and think of two practical ideas to be implemented in the design of toilets, as well as one general point. Our groups came up with a lot of suggestions:

  • Private, gender neutral and accessible facilities need to be provided in all spaces

  • It should be assumed that everyone, regardless of gender and dis/ability, needs access to all facilities (e.g. urinals, sanitary bins, changing facilities)

  • We should maximise the use of toilet spaces. If one exists, don’t leave it locked (unless for a good reason)

  • Worthy design impacts on upkeep – innovative/interesting/safe spaces may be less likely to be treated badly

  • Incorporate the experiences of children in the design process

  • Re-think spatial hierarchies (i.e. sometimes more/better toilets should be prioritised over other options)

  • Consider other people’s positions and experiences in the design process, and do whatever you can do understand/learn about others

  • Question and challenge the idea of a ‘standard’ toilet user

  • Re-think narrow notions of what a toilet ‘should’ be

  • We can’t design away socio-cultural values – we need change beyond the built environment

  • Advertise accessible toilets accurately (e.g. if it’s permanently locked and unavailable to disabled people or used as storage then it’s not accessible)

  • Build private options for all facilities (washing included)

  • Toilet signs should be descriptive (telling you what is in there) rather than prescriptive (telling you who can go in there)

The useful and insightful discussions that have come from this event will contribute to the design of our Toilet Toolkit, which is due to be available from July 2016. Throughout May, we will also be joining architectural practices for further discussions around the experiences of toilet users in order to encourage a more critical understanding of issues of design and accessing toilet spaces. We would like to thank Gemma Nash and Tom Gayler for their excellent contributions to this event, and The Art House for their brilliant hospitality. More from Servicing Utopia coming soon!

Storying School Toilets Workshop Summary from the Sheffield Hallam University Primary and Early Years Conference

On the 12th January 2016, Lisa Procter (University of Sheffield) and I (Jenny Slater, Sheffield Hallam University) ran a workshop as part of the Storying School Toilets project, at the Sheffield Hallam University Primary and Early Years Conference. The workshop was based upon work we had done for the ESRC Festival of Social Science late last year; working with Primary aged children and artist Nicky Ward from The Bower Wirks to create comics of children’s toilet stories. You can view all the comics here (get in touch with j.slater@shu.ac.uk if you want any physical copies sending your way!).

The first thing we noticed prior to the workshop was that only two participants had signed up (whereas other workshops had 40+ people in attendance). This sent a message to us about the perceived importance of the toilet space in a school or early years setting. However, over lunch somebody informed us that toilets had in fact been brought up as something that children were worried about in the transition from primary to secondary school – the scare stories of having heads and bags flushed down the loo prominent in children’s minds. Toilets are clearly a space that pupils think about – something which only became clearer as our workshop went on!

Indeed, when it came to the workshop there were only two participants. Both Amy Ambler and Jane Loader were from Rainbow Forge Primary – Amy a TA in the Early Years setting, and Jane the head teacher. Rather than detrimental, the small group led to really interesting and productive conversations. We have themed these below, and shared them with Jane and Amy’s permission.

Working in early years

We discussed how the toilet is often the first thing that children want to see when they visit a new school or home. Amy pointed out that when working with nursery age children, toilets are such a big part of the day. The importance of talking about toilets in relation to early years settings and schools  was then clear from the outset.

Toilet Training

We talked about the very strong social and cultural ideals that  inform perceptions of at what age children should be able to use the toilet independently, and result in toilet training being an  emotive subjects for staff and parents. Both Amy and Jane pointed out how they are often talking to parents who are very anxious if their child isn’t viewed as using the toilet ‘properly’. Assumptions around what it means to use the toilet ‘properly’ seemed to be defined around being clean at a certain age. It can be really difficult for parents whose children don’t meet this expectation and not all school staff can be very empathetic.

There was a conversation about the perception that some parents take less responsibility in their children’s toilet training, so it becomes the job of the teacher/TA to toilet train. This can be difficult for early years staff as it can be the case that the lessons taught at school are unlearnt at home in evenings, weekends and holidays. Yet, as we’d discussed, these perceptions aren’t always fair on the parents either.

We also talked about disability and toilet training – how not ‘getting’ using the toilet related to certain impairment labels. This led to reflections about how although there is an expectation for us to all use the toilet in the same way, some of us don’t and can’t!

We were left with a number of questions: Do we all use the toilet in different ways anyway? Are we all taught how to use the toilet differently? [Do you flush before you pull up your pants, or the other way around?] Should school and early years staff talk to parents so that the messages delivered to children about how to use the toilet are consistent? Or should we be discussing the fact that we may all use the toilet differently  more openly? What do we teach about hygiene and the toilet seat? Hovering? Putting toilet paper on the seat in a public loo?

Toilets as a gendered social space

It was noted that small children do a lot of ‘hanging out’ in the toilets – yet this is more usually thought of (as a problem) in relation to pupils in secondary schools. At Rainbow Forge this happened especially after the toilets had been refurbished as they were a nicer space to both go to the toilet, but also be sociable!

Amy and Jane noted that although the staff see the toilets as separate to the classroom, the children don’t see it that way. When children are asked why they are in the toilet (if not going themselves), they say that they have to be there because they’re playing with somebody that is going to the toilet. We discussed a preferred classroom layout where the toilets would be in the classroom (but this would be expensive).

When children are young there isn’t much gender divide around who uses the toilets as a social space, but this changes as children get older (boys stop using them socially – something we discussed more widely with adults in Around the Toilet).

At Rainbow Forge, the toilets are not gendered for the younger children, but become gendered as the children get older. The toilet cubicles are coloured very traditionally – bright pink for the girls and a bluey grey for the boys (chosen by the children when they were re done!)

There was conversation around whether disabled children have the same opportunities to be social in using the toilets – at Rainbow Forge the disabled loo is in with the other toilets for young children, but is separate for the older children.

Hygiene

Lisa and I talked about how handwashing kept coming up in previous toilet workshops with children – but that it felt quite ‘adult’ imposed. We all agreed that we might have had different stories told in our workshops in schools if staff weren’t present (so children didn’t feel that they had to say the ‘right’ thing). Interestingly, when we ran the same workshop in a coffee shop with children, hand washing wasn’t a part of any of the stories told!

There was a conversation about whether children learn that hands should be washed as a social etiquette thing (e.g. in public toilets and in schools), and that children might not bother at home.

We discussed the ways that children are taught about hygiene. Amy mentioned a nursery rhyme/video that showed different types of germs as different colours. If a child hadn’t washed their hands the TAs would say to them, ‘I can still see the red germs’ and they go and wash them off with soap.

Jane and Amy told us about scuba diver toys in a splash play area. If they got dirty children didn’t just rinse them in the water in the play area (which has bubbles and glitter in it), but take them to the toilet to wash properly in the toilet sink with soap, which they felt was reflective of the importance children attach to these toys.

Privacy/Visibility

There was an idea that the toilets may become gendered as the children get older because of fear of sexualisation/toilets can be perceived as a sexual space.

The toilet cubicles for small children are often low in order to allow adult surveillance, but there were issues of privacy here, especially for the girls (and particularly privacy from adults).

Discussion that as adults we also want privacy when using the toilet – but that this is about cultural/social norms/what you are used to and see as ‘normal’.

We talked about the idea of poo and wee being visible – young children want to show adults when they’re had a wee or poo in the potty, but we learn to become ashamed of it later in life.

There was a discussion of whether the pupils ever kiss in the toilets as they are private spaces.

Roles of teacher/TA/cleaners

Whose role is it to clean up the toilets was a big issue in the early years classroom.

Cleaners didn’t want to clean up poo on the wall of the toilet, and there were question marks over whose job this should be. Rainbow House has developed a practice where there are ‘kits’ to allow TAs to clean it up straight away. However, there were also some issues over whether the job of cleaning toilets, and helping children to go to the toilet should always be the job of the TA. Amy said that if you work with 5 year olds, and it was only you helping the children use the toilet, you’d be doing that all day! The consensus was that it should be split between TAs and teachers, but the teachers don’t always like that.

We left with the thought that if we don’t like toilet related jobs, should the person doing them be paid the most money?

The final comment of the day was that Amy, Jane and the others at Rainbow Forge didn’t get enough time to talk about toilets. We very much hope that we’ll be doing more work with them in the future!

Latest Toilet Drawings

This is the latest contribution from Smizz, our incredible artist who has been ‘live drawing’ some of the Around the Toilet workshops. This was drawn in response to the discussions we had at our Making/Creating workshop, which was led by Nicky from The Bower Wirks earlier this year. These drawings will be turned into postcards, just like the previous ones, and will be available for free at our final public event on Friday 27th November.

Hope to see you there!


[Image: Lots of small, colourful cartoon drawings of people doings things, including using toilets, alongside captions and questions about toilet embarrassment and discomfort.]

(Click on the image to view it bigger!)

Making Space for Intimate Citizenship – Presenting findings from the project so far

Next week Jenny Slater (Jen) will be travelling to Toronto to take part in three days of workshops called, Making Space for Intimate Citizenship. You can find out more about the workshops, here, including a great easy read summary, and loads of other great resources. You can also follow what’s going on using #makingspace

Jen will be presenting some of the findings so far from the Around the Toilet project. She has 2 minutes to present, and for the rest of the time she will be learning from other academics (who also have 2 minutes )to present!), and workshops run by people with labels of learning difficulty. Jen is going to use some of the Tweets from the project so far to do her 2 minute talk.

You can see a (not yet short enough!) version of Jen’s talk here, which was made using Storify. Feel free to share it about!

https://storify.com/cctoilettalk/around-the-toilet-for-the-makingspace-workshops

Jen will report back from the workshops on her return!

Making/Creating Workshop Summary

On Tuesday 11th August, we held our final toilet workshop of the project; a creative exploration into toilet awkwardness, comfort and safety using recycled art materials and our wild imaginations.

Nicky, an artist at The Bower Wirks, delved into our experiences of toilets in an innovative fashion; starting the workshop by asking us to sit in a circle of chairs and imagine how we’d feel if the chairs were toilets. As we sat, looking each other in the eye and shifting uncomfortably on our imagined toilet seats, we discussed what it was about being visible and audible on the toilet that made us feel so awkward.

Nicky asked what we could do to make our circle of inward-facing toilets even more uncomfortable. We suggested that the toilets could be transparent so that all excretions would be on full view to others; there could be a technology which recorded the noises made by participants on the toilet and then played them back afterwards, and those noises could be accompanied by a screen which broadcasts an image of the individual who made the noise in the first place; there could be a full audience surrounding the toilet-users; we could be sitting in a circle so small that all our knees were touching; and we could be expected to pull Christmas crackers during our toilet act. Despite many of us finding toilets uncomfortable, awkward and unsafe already, we had many ideas of how they could be even worse.

We were then encouraged to work with masses of corrugated cardboard, lace, various kinds of fabric, colouring pens, paper, wooden pegs, lengths of bamboo and many other materials in a creative adventure to find our ideal toilet; one which didn’t present any of those feelings of awkwardness, exclusion, fear or discomfort. Features in our public toilet utopia included huge amounts of space; walls which were inviting to be written upon; a television; a flap to allow goats to visit; a foot spa; a view of the sea and the stars; a Tory-exclusion policy; a cross-word; a sign to stop the policing of toilets; no cost to use; a hoist; a chair for children; and a shelf for colostomy bags or other things.

There were so many ways in which we felt toilets could be improved. We reflected on just how unimaginative most toilets spaces can be, especially accessible toilets, which tend to emphasise functionality and give no extra consideration to relaxation, comfort, pleasure and aesthetic. Nicky asked us to think about the range of ways toilets could be used in our toilet utopia and reminded us just how limiting and regulative current toilet-use tends to be. Our art materials filled the space at Z-arts with an incredible maze of card, colour and toilet politics – a vision of what could be possible in a better future! Thank you, Nicky, for helping us to unleash our imaginations!

And a huge thank you to everyone who has attended any of the Around the Toilet workshops over the past few months.

The next part of the project will be an exciting collaboration with the Master’s students at the Sheffield School of Architecture. In September we’ll be meeting the students to discuss the outcomes of our workshops and they’ll start work on a public installation to get other people thinking about toilets as well. Keep an eye on the blog and twitter account for further updates!

– Written by Charlotte Jones, Research Assistant on the Around the Toilet project

Performance Workshop Summary

Our most recent workshop, an exploration of toilets through the art of performance, was held at Manchester Deaf Centre on Saturday 18th July. Jess, Loz and Rohan from the queer poetry, art, and theatre collective, Queer of the Unknown, facilitated the session in a way which was relaxed and comfortable, even for those of us who – like me – were nervous about performing in front of others. Activities ranged from the absurd to the serious; using our bodies, experiences and ideas to respond to toilets in physical ways which were new, exciting and different from the conversations we’d had in previous workshops.

For our first performance piece, we divided into pairs to dramatize toilet action using movement and sound, but no words. Performances included secret sexual encounters, covert graffiti, the loud threat of the hand-dryer and getting locked inside a cubicle. So many of our toilet encounters take place without verbal communication that this felt like quite a familiar and comfortable mode of expression which also helped us to get used to the feeling of being silly in front of each other.

In another activity, we were invited to imagine our bodies shrinking down to a size which allowed us to fully enter the toilet system. As a group, we swam down into the toilet bowl and then made our own discoveries of what existed past the U-bend. Some found mermaids, fish, and other exciting treasures, and others discovered less creative offerings, such as my own encounter with a ginormous barricade made of fused toilet roll and excrement.

One of the final activities required a different type of creativity. We were asked to conceive of a toilet door covered in graffiti. Amongst all of the gossip, sleaze and slander, we discovered a beautiful sonnet. It was our task to write that sonnet over the next half an hour. Some participants explored their feelings of toilet anxiety, whilst others took the opportunity to serenade and romance their favourite loo.

Toilet love letter

[Image: An image of a tweet which includes a photo of a hand-written ‘love letter to the Toilet’ with the sonnet rhyming pattern written down one side of the paper.

This was a fun, relaxed day which allowed us to express important ideas and experiences in colourful and poignant ways. Thank you Queer of the Unknown!

At our next workshop on Tuesday 11th August we’ll be exploring toilet politics whilst getting creative with art materials. For more details take a look here. Hope you can make it along!

– Written by Charlotte Jones, Research Assistant on the Around the Toilet project

Next Workshop!

Making/Creating Workshop

Tuesday 11th August 2015, 12-4pm, Z-arts, Hulme, Manchester

Facilitated by Nicky, an artist from The Bower Wirks, this free workshop will explore toilet politics whilst getting creative with art materials. Participants will make their own props and exhibits to use in toilet activism or to take home and put up on the wall. We will be creating our own toilet seats, cardboard cubicles and lots of props to explore feelings of awkwardness and comfort when accessing and using public loos. This will start us on a journey of re-imagining the toilet and ultimately exploring how toilets can make our lives happier. If you live in or near Manchester, identify as trans*, queer and/or disabled, and you’d like to attend the workshop, please sign-up using our Eventbrite page or get in touch with Lisa Procter (l.h.procter@sheffield.ac.uk). No prior artistic skills needed. Free lunch, tea and coffee will be provided on the day and funds are available to cover local travel costs and childcare. Workshop places are limited.

For further details about the workshop contact Lisa Procter (l.h.procter@sheffield.ac.uk), or for more information about the project more generally, please contact Jenny Slater (j.slater@shu.ac.uk).

Forthcoming Workshops

Performance Workshop

Saturday 18th July 2015, 12pm – 4pm, Manchester Deaf Centre, Manchester

This free workshop, led by Queer of the Unknown, will be an informal investigation of toilets – our thoughts, ideas and experiences – through the medium of performance. If you live in or near Manchester, identify as trans*, queer and/or disabled, and you’d like to attend the workshop, please sign-up using our Eventbrite page, or get in touch with Jenny Slater (j.slater@shu.ac.uk). No prior experience of performance is required. Free lunch, tea and coffee will be provided on the day and funds are available to cover local travel costs and childcare. Workshop places are limited.

Making/Creating Workshop

Tuesday 11th August 2015, time TBC, Z-arts, Hulme, Manchester

Led by researchers on the Around the Toilet project, this free workshop will explore toilet politics whilst getting creative with art materials. Participants will make their own props and exhibits to use in toilet activism or to take home and put up on the wall. If you live in or near Manchester, identify as trans*, queer and/or disabled, and you’d like to attend the workshop, please sign-up using our Eventbrite page or get in touch with Jenny Slater (j.slater@shu.ac.uk). No prior artistic skills needed. Free lunch, tea and coffee will be provided on the day and funds are available to cover local travel costs and childcare. Workshop places are limited.

For further details about the workshops or for more information about the project, please contact Jenny Slater (j.slater@shu.ac.uk).