Commissioned by Union 105, NativityHub is transforming the project space there into a maternity hub for six months. Union 105 is located in Chapeltown and is one of East Street Arts’ creative spaces in Leeds. NativityHub is integrated into existing networks, including groups and professionals already in the area to widen existing participation. Chapeltown is a very multicultural area of inner city Leeds and NativityHub involves locally based pregnant women and parents with birth narratives who are willing to share their experiences.
NativityHub provides a maternity information and support service embedded in a collaborative participant-led art practice. The hub encourages and nurtures a multiagency, interdisciplinary and holistic approach to maternity where relationships are built on an equal footing, enabling the practice of both art and midwifery, and the exchange of information, knowledge, experiences and skills. A variety of activities in smaller more intimate group sizes encourages social networking and peer-to-peer support.
Activities include weekly maternity ‘drop-in’ gatherings for local women; birth stories, documenting of oral narratives from mothers of all ages; talks and mini-exhibitions from artists interested in birth; practical support sessions from birth-workers; exhibition of artefacts participants bring regarding their birthing experiences; Home Birth, images of local dwellings where babies have been born with contributions from the individuals concerned; collaborations between the participants, artists and birth workers on an ongoing basis, photography studio sessions for participants; ‘how to’ practical photography workshops for birth partners (leading to peer support networking for fathers and others); and other activities as determined by participants.
MaternityHub encourages an approach where women themselves determine the agenda and work collaboratively with artists, birthworkers and Claire Harbottle (who is facilitating this project) to rewrite and reimagine birthing from women’s perspectives, making work that is by them, with them and from them. Claire researched the visual representation of birthing for many years before retraining as a midwife.
Additional funding and support is being sought to invite birthworkers (doulas, natal yoga leaders, hypnobirthers, waterbirthers and parents who support others) to offer talks, workshops, and practical sessions with (and determined by) interested participants in collaboration with artists with birth-related practices.
Following on from a longstanding interest in the visual representation of pregnancy, miscarriage and birthing, and the completion of a Masters in Fine Art which almost exclusively focussed on maternity and parenting, Claire embarked in 2011 on a BSc in Midwifery Studies and now works part-time within a collective of independent midwives.
Having photographed births for many years, and having looked at the representation of birthing by a number of other artists and within both contemporary and historic medical contexts, she felt there was something fundamentally wrong with the way birthing women are almost universally represented. Without having been conscious of the fact, she found medicalised conventions rooted in eighteenth century autopsies embedded in her work, and more worryingly in her own and her subjects’ expectations of giving birth. Claire was not alone in this as further research confirmed that these conventions have been accepted implicitly across many disciplines related to maternity. Her recent work, critically informed by this research has sought to redefine her practice, to move away from conventions she regards as harmful, and through a very self-reflexive approach to artmaking, to expose and explore many of the concerns related to privacy, voyeurism and intrusion which often provide the excuse for failing to show work dealing with this subject.
For further information, or to become involved in the project please contact Claire directly or via Union 105.
Union 105 is situated on Chapeltown Road. Its remit is to support artists based in the area through it’s seven studios and to deliver a series of commissions that invite artists to develop new work in response to and with the sites, contexts and people of Chapeltown. The small, off the street Project Space hosts work by commissioned artists and partner events.
East Street Arts’ Adult and Community Learning programme that offers art classes to a range of people is also administrated and coordinated from Union 105.