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What happened at our first ever MENSTRual Festival

audience shot from above in the street at csm
audience shot from above in the street at csm
Post-Grad Community - MENSTRual: 2020 photo credit: George Richardson
Written by
Post-Grad Community
Published date
11 March 2020

Written by Olivia Mossuto, MA Fine Art Chelsea College of Art (Post-Grad Community Ambassador).

The relationship between biological functions and cultured life often results in the development of etiquette, as deemed necessary by “polite” society. In many cases, etiquette becomes stigma, then taboo, despite the universality of some experiences. Menstruation falls readily into this category even though there are 800 million people menstruating daily, according to Global Citizen.

MENSTRual: was a two-day celebration surrounding all things period related. The postgrad student-led event tackled a range of issues, including the particular stifling of menstruating people and the environment, through full-day programmes filled with dialogue, tactile learning, and openness!

Sanitary Pad Making Workshop run by Post-Grad Community
Sanitary Pad Making Workshop run by Post-Grad Community. photo credit: George Richardson

Day 1:

At an intimate location in London College of Fashion's RHS West Space, the first day was filled with talks and shares of postgrad student period projects that sought to bring awareness to issues of period poverty, eco-menstrual solutions, and the function of art activism. Each talk concluded with open conversation, which yielded fruitful dialogue about a wide breadth of future projects with the ability to improve the state of menstruation as is.

The multi-faceted approach to topics on menstruation, begs that the event negates any sort of summation. On one hand, there was a presentation by Joey McAleese on the possible sustainable futures of menstruation and what the situation looks like currently. On the other, Likun Zhang artfully crafted and shared a soundscape based on her personal experiences add need to manage the effects of menstruation. The entire day took on the topics of periods with the same level of nuance, inviting a range of different disciplines to approach the subject in a way that dealt with the core issues holistically and excitedly.

Full Speaker List:

day one photos

Day 2:

With the promise of a raffle, workshop tables, and bustling vendors, the energy at Central Saint Martins presented entirely new opportunities for mingling and conversation, all in the name of period power. During the peak of the event, there was a complete willingness to share by all parties involved – every participant, whether attendee or coordinator, empathized with each other through their experiences of having a period, and what it meant having to live with one.

This openness by the audience become most apparent at the DIY booths, where it was possible to make your own reusable sanitary pad or a period-tracking bead bracelet courtesy of Ricebox Studio who are UAL postgrads currently working on "Red Cloud Project" as part of Rights Studio design fellowship programme at Child Rights International Network (CRIN). These little projects required a small time commitment, meaning that, if you were sewing your own sanitary pad beside a stranger, there was bound to be some sort of interesting dialogue (and there was!).

workshop activity

Many of the vendors that attended the event led thoughtful discussions on contemporary issues surrounding menstruation, and actualized visibility on a breadth of issues that have yet to be addressed in the hopes of positive menstruation for all. Bloody Good Period, a non-profit charitable body already active and running, provides period supplies to asylum seekers and refugees, as well as those who simply cannot afford them.

Jesse Adler, CSM MA Material Futures student presented her current project which aims to educate consumers about the ingredients and impact of period products. Long term, she hopes to develop a material conscious tampon-like device for those who don’t want to use pads or a cup.

Mehak Phillip presetned the India based project Bags & Sacks, a social initiative to empower marginalised Indian women through workshops. Providing awareness surrounding period poverty, sustainability and gender equality amongst the women in India.

On the business side of things, companies like Eco Dreams are challenging capitalist models and working on sustainable models of supplying period products to consumers and menstruators alike. The root of all these initiatives can be traced back to the desire to break taboos and provide adequate education and support on the subject of menstruation. Joey McAleese sums up the sentiment of the event with ease,

“It all comes back to the taboo around menstruation and that we can’t provide or educate people about sustainable alternatives until we start addressing the fact that menstruators can’t talk about periods.”

contributors to day two

MENSTRual, as an event and conversation, brought us one step closer to changing the narrative, and changing our futures.

Full list of contributors

The amazing sponsors for the free goodie bags and raffle prizes:

  • Modibodi the original period underwear brand.(donated 200 tote bags, £100 voucher for the raffle, discount vouchers and samples)
  • Cheeky Wipes: making a bum job better (donated 250 washable fabric sanitary pads, discount vouchers and samples)
  • Mooncup: The Original Silicone Menstrual Cup (provided 2 vouchers for cups for the raffle)
  • MOSS Pilates Kings Cross Yoga Centre  (provided a 2 mat class raffle prize)
  • Ohne: 100% organic tampons (donated 2 samples for the raffle)

Special thanks

Thanks to the mighty efforts of Co-Creators Kate Asquith and UAL Post-Grad Community team Rachael Lakhan, Abigail Fletcher, and Laetitia Forst this wonderful event was made possible for all students and staff across the six UAL colleges. If you are interested in being involved in future event opportunities like this – stay tuned with the Post-Graduate Community Friday newsletter which goes out to all postgraduate student UAL email addresses.  Alternatively subscribe with your personal email here.

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