Mixing the colours - Museums Association

Mixing the colours

Based in Glasgow’s East End, where social deprivation levels are among the worst in Europe, Glasgow Women’s Library is an Accredited museum and archive of national significance and a lending library relating to women’s lives.

As an innovative cultural centre for equality, diversity and inclusion, our work enables the most vulnerable and excluded women in society to break down barriers to learning and participation, engender self-confidence and develop skills and knowledge to equip themselves to become fully active citizens.

Our Mixing The Colours: Women Speaking About Sectarianism project is a successful example of engaging diverse communities of women on important complex social issues in a creative way.

Sectarianism in Scotland has a long and ingrained historical legacy and remains an issue for communities.

Mixing The Colours was funded by the Scottish Government, along with 44 other community-based projects, as part of their Tackling Sectarianism Programme with the long-term aim of nurturing a cohesive and inter-dependent Scotland based on principles of equality of citizenship and valuing diversity.

The project insisted that women’s voices were gathered and heard on what has been thought of as a traditionally male issue, it addressed their exclusion from previous research and societal dialogue and recognised that sectarianism is not simply a problem of men and football and that people experience sectarianism differently.

Between July 2013 and March 2016 we engaged 478 women and 28 partners in an extensive programme of engagement using 24 different methods including creative writing, oral history, film making and book reviewing.

Participants designed the content and context of the project and developed a strong collective identity to share a multifaceted understanding of sectarianism and its complexities.

By expanding the debate to include women from a range of communities and diversities, women made their lived-experiences of sectarianism visible, exposing sectarianism as inextricably linked to their safety in, and ownership and access to, public spaces.

Using collective action theory, the project’s main working values were to acknowledge the structural inequalities faced by women and ensure that those experiencing prejudice, discrimination and hatred were central to the process of challenge.

By supporting women to speak about their experiences and produce the resources for interventions, Mixing the Colours ensured participants’ role as the agents of change.

Mixing the Colours participants produced a publication of their stories, which were largely fiction based on fact. They performed their stories at public events across Scotland to mixed gender audiences to encourage empathetic responses, perspective-taking, reduce negative attitudes and promote inclusivity.

The project created opportunities for people to hear perspectives outside of their own experience, culture, religion, ethnic group and gender.

Audiences reported that hearing the writers read their stories and engaging with them in lively discussion was beneficial. In the majority of cases, audiences reported the highest levels of increased understanding at events that featured the Mixing the Colours writers performing their own work.