How a movement ignites is unpredictable. As the private details of the recent rape trial in Belfast became public, a spark flew. Like the Parkland shooting in the United States, one gun crime in a litany of similar horrors, this particular trial was neither the first of its kind nor unusual. The interrogation of the accuser, who in many ways the legal process treated as the accused, is how rape trials work: the dismaying thing about the Belfast trial wasn’t that the treatment of the alleged victim was extraordinary, but that it is a template.
The Parkland shooting didn’t fundamentally differ from other school shootings which were never enough to motivate the government to act. But it lit a fire. Standing up to something as powerful as the NRA, teenagers spoke to huge crowds. They shamed those who were supposed to be leading them, who instead offered platitudes over the bodies of their friends. They said enough is enough. It wasn’t just rhetoric; they offered solutions, putting forward recommendations for specific changes to gun law.
Sometimes things that seem immutable suddenly reach a moment of transformation. The Belfast rape trial triggered the #IBelieveHer movement, which led to the subject of consent being on everyone's lips. Dublin writer and artist Ingrid Casey felt the need to do something, so she posted one of her paintings on social media, asking if it would be a good idea to auction it for Dublin Rape Crisis Centre; wildfire on Twitter, this eventually led to Take Heart Pop Up Art.
Take Heart encapsulates this movement for change. On May 10th at Bagots Hutton on Dublin’s Ormond Quay there will be an exhibition and sale featuring work from our finest artists and brightest writers. Not only a way of raising money for Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, this will also be a space where the arts community show their solidarity with people who have been abused, and whom the system is failing.
Take Heart will feature incredible work including original paintings, prints and photographs by artists such as Maud Cotter, Damien Flood, Pauline Bewick, Brian Maguire, Kathy Tynan, Hugh O’Conor, Francis O’Toole, Janet Mullarney and Conor Horgan to name just a selection involved in this project. There will be something for everyone, from inexpensive prints to gallery-standard pieces. The book table will feature among others signed first editions by Claire Keegan, Nuala Ní Chonchúir and Lia Mills and an exquisite leather-bound limited edition of Redemption Falls signed by Joseph O’Connor. Volumes of The Broken Spiral will also be available, an anthology in aid of DRCC which features stories from writers such as Sinéad Gleeson and Claire Hennessy.
Its editor, Remie Purtill-Clarke, is passionate about Take Heart and the reasons behind it; she believes the effects of the Belfast trial “rippled through a large part of Irish society who recognise there is a deep injustice at work in this country, and want to see that change. Now.”
Kerrie O’Brien, one of the brains behind the beauty of this event, says she is honoured to be working with inspiring, talented women like Remie on the Take Heart project, and is keen to support the DRCC and those affected by sexual abuse and violence: “After creating Looking at the Stars for the Dublin Simon Community, I realised the difference creative communities in Ireland can make when we come together.”
DRCC chief executive Noeline Blackwell agrees that support from the arts community through Take Heart is encouraging: “We are truly grateful for the opportunity to work with a fantastic collective of artists and writers for such an exciting event. It will raise much needed funds for our work; equally importantly, its contributors become partners in our campaign to prevent the harm and heal the trauma of rape and other forms of sexual violence in a most creative and engaging way.”
Following Parkland, none of us could have foreseen hardened gun advocates handing in their weapons, or an 11-year-old girl speaking to America, giving the world shivers, declaring that her life matters. None of us could have predicted that a rape trial in Belfast would spark desire for change – in how we treat rape victims, how we talk about consent, how we can make the system less hostile for the most vulnerable.
Take heart comes from the French: courage. It takes courage to bring a rape charge to court. It takes courage to speak out and hope to be believed. Solutions aren't always perfect; they are often a process rather than an answer to an equation. But asking how we can tackle rape culture is a start, discussing how we might change the system is a start, talking about consent is a start. As one of the contributing authors to Take Heart, Dimitra Xidous, puts it: "Yes is a perfect word. It is the most perfect word I know."
The full gallery can be viewed at takeheartpopup.com in advance of Take Heart, Bagots Hutton, May 10th, 6-8pm