Youngsters from a Blackpool youth club paint a picture of sexual harassment – just like a French master

Young people at Blackpool Boys and Girls Club got out the paints and brushes to follow in the footsteps of a top Paris painter and put abuse in the the frame.

The group have been looking at harassment and abuse at all levels following this year’s special Ofsted report which concluded that such behaviour had become “normalised” in schools up and down the country mainly driven by social media.

Ofsted’s inspectors visited 32 schools and colleges and spoke to more than 900 children and young people about the prevalence of sexual harassment in their lives. They found that 9 in 10 of the girls said that sexist name calling and the sending of unwanted explicit pictures or videos was common.

Schools have since been asked to tackle the issue and Blackpool Boys and Girls Club decided to discuss it with their members too – using a technique of third-party conversations all based around Henri Toulouse-Letrec’s portrait of his favourite sitter Carmen Gaudin.

The painter featured the poor and working class woman Carmen, famed for her bright red hair, in many of his works and later found out she had suffered abuse, mistreatment and sexual harassment at the hands of men in her past – but only after Carmen had plucked up the courage to tell him about it.

The older members of the club went on a trip to Ormside Mill in Cumbria and worked on a project called Carmen’s Dilemma – on whether to speak out about abuse and harassment and he work including the painting they did in the style of Toulouse-Letrec, has been seen by Coun Gillian Campbell, Blackpool Council’s Cabinet Member for Inclusion, Youth and Transience.

Youth worker Dave Blacker said: “It is a difficult subject, but important to talk about it in an appropriate way. We asked them to talk about relationships, how a boy should treat a girl and the other way round for the younger ones and for the older ones we looked at the story of Carmen who was helped by Toulouse-Letrec

“We got them to talk about the issues while creating a piece of art work. We have found that the experience’s of our young people pretty much matches the national picture expressed in the 2021 Ofsted special report.

“We always encourage our young people to talk freely about any issues that might concern them and offer help and support in dealing with them appropriately.”

Youth worker Ashleigh Threlfall said: “One thing that stood out for me was that lots of our young people had a clear understanding of what the project was about from the start to the finish and have each shared their own opinion or experience of what they feel about bullying or peer-on-peer sexual harassment.”

Coun Gillian Campbell said: “It was a pleasure to visit the club and see again for myself the work they are currently doing around feelings. Just like their previous exhibition, ‘The Joker in Me’, their current one ‘Carmen’s Dilemma’ has allowed the young people to open up on paper about their feelings and opinions around subject matters that they may feel uncomfortable talking to others directly about.

“It concerned me deeply the number of young people who admitted that they had been a victim of harmful sexual behaviour, a shocking statistic that we must tackle.

“We need to work with schools and youth groups to help give these young people a voice, so they can tell trusted adults what is happening to them, and get the help and support they deserve. Well done to the Boys and Girls Club in helping their cohort of young people to do so in a safe environment.”

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