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Forty Voices, Forty Years

Forty Voices, Forty Years was an award winning heritage project led by Welsh Women’s Aid in collaboration with the George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling at the University of South Wales during 2018-19.

We recognise that women’s memories, voices and lives are often written out of national heritage

Because of this, we visited women across Wales who had been involved in the Women’s Aid movement over the past 40 years, recording their fascinating stories.

Dr Emily Underwood-Lee, Research Fellow at the George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling said of the project:

“We believe that sharing stories enables us to hear the voices of those who have often been omitted from the history books. The stories collected in the Forty Voices, Forty Years project will give us a chance to reflect on who we are, where we have come from and what we want to be. Sharing stories can create community and a greater understanding of one another through listening to the tales that make us who we are.”

Alongside preserving these stories, we also collected objects from people and organisations who had been involved in the movement. Objects included protest banners, handmade posters and t-shirts, leaflets from past years and more.

The stories and collected materials were showcased in the Forty Voices, Forty Years touring exhibition, a full final exhibition at St Fagan’s Museum and have been preserved in an online gallery hosted by the People’s Collection Wales. You can also view past venues visited here:

Forty Voices, Forty Years Touring Exhibition 2018 – 2019

This project commemorated the work of these women over the past forty years, but also enhances understanding of the movement to stop violence against women in Wales, improving community knowledge about these types of abuse and our work to prevent it. We also wanted to encourage reflection on our future priorities as a movement through our Future 40 campaign, as we work towards our shared goal of eradicating violence against women once and for all. Dr Emily Underwood-Lee was awarded the University of South Wales Impact Award 2019 for Best Impact on Culture, Heritage and the Arts.

A final project report has now been published summarising the project’s impact, including:

  • 26 women instrumental in the women’s liberation and Women’s Aid movement in Wales had their stories recorded.
  • 46 oral histories and digital stories from activists, survivors and staff involved in the Wales movement over the past 40 years.
  • 18 survivors contributed 22 stories were created from digital storytelling workshops.
  • 46 accessible digital stories shared across Wales and online through The People’s Collection Wales, YouTube and Facebook.
  • Comprehensive archive created at The People’s Collection of Wales and the National Library of Wales, which will continue to be added to in the future to further grow the collection, and a timeline created of key historical moments relating to the Welsh Women’s Aid’s movement captured and shared.
  • 68 volunteers supported the project, and over 100 days volunteering provided.
  • 5,648 people in Wales attended the touring exhibition and over 14,500 museum visitors saw the final exhibition.
  • More than 20,000 individuals, pupils and students, community groups, and others attended exhibitions and lectures in their local communities and educational spaces hearing powerful survivor stories, learning about the reasons for the movement, the challenges and achievements faced at various times over the past 40 years, and better understand why the sector is still needed.
  • Approximately 10,000 individuals accessed project information via online resources and social media.

The report can be found here in English and Cymraeg.

To find out more about the project, email: [email protected] or [email protected]

We are grateful for the generous support of our funders enabling this project to go ahead, including Heritage Lottery Fund, the Big Lottery Fund’s National Lottery Awards for All and Hanfod Cymru.

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