On Thursday 3 March, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama hosted an event on behalf of the London-based HIV charity Positively UK.
The event, entitled Women Living with HIV: Our Needs, Our Care, Our Ambitions, aimed at celebrating women living with HIV and the three decades of support services and meaningful involvement of women living with HIV provided by Positively UK. The evening included a performance developed by women living with HIV in collaboration with The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and the Prime Study, UCL. This work was developed as part of a pilot project bringing together theatre practitioners, clinical researchers and women living with HIV to address the lack of stories about older women living with HIV and to stimulate debate about its effect on ageing.
Since the start of the HIV epidemic, there have been relatively few cultural representations of women living with HIV. Increasing numbers of women living with HIV are reaching their midlife and beyond and yet, despite this, little is known about their experiences of ageing. The pilot performance project to be showcased at the evening event is a collaboration between Positively UK, Dr Katharine Low (Lecturer in Community Performance and Applied Theatre, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama), Dr Shema Tariq (Clinical Research Fellow and Honorary Consultant Physician, UCL’s Department of Infection and Population Health), and Matilda Mudyavanhu (freelance theatre practitioner and HIV Youth Consultant). The project has been developed in close dialogue with women living with HIV and with Positively UK, and it has been informed by feedback from an initial ‘taster’ workshop held at Positively UK in September 2015. Generous funding has been provided by the Public and Cultural Engagement department at UCL in the form of a Beacon Bursary.
Baroness Gould of Potternewton was in attendance at the private event and praised the work of Positively UK, saying:
“Positively UK campaigns vigorously to raise awareness and improve service provision for the 35,000 women in the UK living with HIV so that they can access information, support and resources to lead healthy and happy lives away from stigma and violence.”
Tulip Siddiq MP who also attended the event said:
“It was a fantastic evening and so wonderful to hear such brave women telling their diverse stories. I learnt so much.”
Positively UK Participant:
“The creative workshop provides a space for women to come together and share their thoughts, feelings and experiences of being HIV positive. What's different, special about this space is we get to just play with that reality....through words, games, movement, humour we find an opportunity to get to know someone, to explore our talents, our confidence, to assume a character, to be raised up on the merriment of a joke shared and enjoy a special kind of freedom of expression that rests in community. Guided by the free spirited Kat and our very own Matilda, We express, we collaborate, we create. For me this is a process where the learning is refreshing, liberating and above all fun.”
Professor Maria Delgado, Director of Research at Central:
“Events like this remind us of why this kind of research matters and how it can make a tangible difference to people’s lives.”
Dr Katharine Low, Lecturer in Community Performance and Applied Theatre at Central:
"Working in collaboration with women from Positively UK, Positively UK, the PRIME Study and Matilda Mudyavanhu, a Central graduate, is exceptionally exciting. In the short time we have worked together so far, we have addressed a multitude of ideas, challenges and questions through poetry, creative writing and improvisations. I am excited to see where we go next and celebrating a diversity of narratives and experiences.”
Dr Shema Tariq, Clinical Research Fellow and Honorary Consultant Physician for UCL’s Department of Infection and Population Health:
“I am really excited about this innovative collaboration between the PRIME Study health researchers at UCL, Positively UK and The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. My hope is that we can work together to engage women living with HIV meaningfully in conversations about health and wellbeing, learn from each other, and begin to represent the diversity of lived experiences of HIV in contemporary London.”
Matilda Mudvayanhu, freelance theatre practitioner and HIV Youth Consultant:
“I have felt very honoured to be part of this exciting and stimulating collaboration with the PRIME Study Health Researchers at UCL. Being involved with Positively UK for many years and being a recent Central Graduate has given me a unique position to be able to experience the development of this project from many different angles. I have been able to witness exceptionally moving, thought provoking and emotive creative work with the women which gives an honest and truthful light to the voices of women living with HIV.”
Positively UK campaigns vigorously to raise awareness and improve service provision for the 35,000 women in the UK living with HIV so that they can access information, support and resources to lead healthy and happy lives away from stigma and violence.
<p>Baroness Gould of Potternewton</p>