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The Souls of our Shoes – 16 days of activism against gender-based violence

Published: 27th November 2023

Shoes displayed in the lady chapel at Worcester CathedralThe Mothers’ Union has joined forces with the Cathedral and Worcester Community Trust for a powerful exhibition to raise awareness of domestic abuse and gender-based violence. 34 pairs of shoes are displayed in the Lady Chapel at the Cathedral alongside quotes from people who have been affected by domestic violence.

On average 149 women are killed annually by their partners or ex-partners (in England and Wales) with recent figures higher due to Covid-related increases in abuse. 58 children on average per year are also killed in the UK due to abuse. In Britain, police receive a complaint of domestic violence every 30 seconds. It is estimated that in 2022, 1.7 million women experienced domestic abuse and we don’t have figures for the abuse of men.

Pair of battered shoes in a shoe boxFirst created in 2017 by the Scottish Interfaith Anti-Trafficking Group, displays of shoes have been used since then to raise awareness of the pain and humiliation of domestic abuse, the terror and the effect on children. For the display in the Cathedral, the shoes have been painted purple with white ribbon laces to represent the colours of the campaign and there is one pair of battered shoes in a box to represent those who don’t survive domestic abuse.

Judith Grubb and Jo Wilson standing next to the exhibition of shoesPresident of the Mothers’ Union, Judith Grubb, said: “One of the Mothers’ Union aims is to support the family unit and help those families in trouble. Raising awareness during the 16 days of activism is really important. All the shoes were donated and there will also be smaller displays organised by MU members in churches across the Diocese. I am grateful to Jo from the Cathedral Education Team for creating such an eye-catching display and it’s great that Worcester Community Trust have also joined us with their expertise in supporting damaged women.”

Close up of 5 pairs of shoes in the exhibitionWorcester Community Trust have a stand alongside the exhibition with details of their different projects. There is also a board with phone numbers and websites of organisations that can support those affected by the exhibition. “This kind of exhibition doesn’t just raise awareness but can also evoke memories and raise emotions so we wanted to ensure people knew where they could go for help,” said Judith.

The shoes were spray painted and arranged by Jo Wilson, Learning and Community Engagement Officer at the Cathedral. She said: “I was keen to ensure the display as striking as possible. The shoes represent the souls of those affected by domestic abuse and I’ve positioned the quotes from survivors as their inner soul. There is also bunting displayed from the Joy Project, which is one of Worcester Community Trust’s projects with women.”

The shoes will remain in the Lady Chapel of the Cathedral for the 16 days of Activism, from the 25 November to 10 December.

Page last updated: Monday 27th November 2023 3:54 PM

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