The Refuge Tree

It’s that time of year again! When I don trainers and a variety of clashing neon sportswear bargains and ask you to support my London Marathon fundraising efforts for Refuge, a brilliant charity which helps women living with domestic violence. Except this time, instead of just asking you to sponsor me, I have bigger and more exciting plans afoot! Mainly, this:

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A glorious collaboration between lots of amazing women artists and illustrators and all round good eggs which has had me positively skipping with delight the last few weeks, as my vague idea has taken root into something bigger than I could have imagined possible.

I’ve collaged the silhouetted branches of a tree (currently 90cm wide x 115.5cm tall, and growing), cut it up into over 90 postcards and sent these out to the aforementioned wonderful, all-female crew who are going to draw anything they like on their own section. The tree will be reassembled for International Women’s Day on the 8th March and the individual postcards auctioned off on Ebay, with all proceeds going to Refuge. The auction will run here from Thursday 7th - Sunday 10th March - follow me on Twitter and Instagram for updates.

*UPDATE* I’m very excited to announce that the wonderful London Review Bookshop is going to display the tree in their shop window! I’ll be installing it on the 1st March and it will stay up for about 2 weeks. Head over to 14 Bury Place (near the British Museum) to see the finished Refuge Tree in all it’s glory!

This charity is so important to me. One in four women in the UK will experience an abusive relationship in their lifetime. I didn’t realise how real this statistic was until I started talking more openly about my own experience, which makes me all the more determined to continue raising awareness. You can read a bit more on my fundraising page here. Helping those who have experienced violence and abuse is at the core of everything Refuge does, and their work includes aiding women experiencing domestic violence, sexual violence, ‘honour’ based violence, forced marriage, FGM, human trafficking and modern slavery.

I really want to raise as much money as possible and hopefully this tree will give my marathon fundraising a fantastic start!

So I’m very excited to reveal the names of the artists taking part:

I’ve been so overwhelmed by the positive response. Thank you so much everyone for your support! You can follow the tree’s progress by searching #RefugeTree on Instagram and Twitter. I cannot wait to see it take shape!

The Great Inktober Auction

I’m seizing this International Women’s Day to give my London Marathon fundraising for Refuge a boost. I loved running the marathon so much last year that I rashly signed up to Team Refuge again, the freezing February training runs a hazy memory when I filled out my application back in May (this past week I’ve clambered through two snow drifts in an attempt to keep my legs on track, that’s worth a couple of quid, surely?).

Anyway, my main news is that I’ve listed lots of the #inktober paintings I made last year on Ebay, with 100% of the profits going to Refuge. Refuge is committed to a world where domestic violence and violence against women and girls is not tolerated and where women and children can live in safety. Please take a look, spread the word on social media and bid, bid, BID for your favourite. The auction will run until Sunday evening. Good luck!

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The same way that the #inktober challenge spurred me on to push my work in a new direction, training for last year's marathon gave my brain the boost it needed at a really difficult time. 12 months ago I found it so painful to say that I had experienced an abusive relationship. Fundraising for Refuge has really helped me talk about it more openly. It shouldn’t be this hard — 1 in 4 women in the UK will experience domestic abuse — but I still occasionally have days when I give in and blame myself for failing. My strategy for those days (which are happily much, much fewer and farther between than they were 12 months ago) is to replay things that my incredible, no-nonsense therapist told me until I can hear my own voice again (that and do some yoga). Thanks to the support of extraordinary friends and family (and the aforementioned incredible therapist) I have rediscovered who I am and I know why I want to stay alive. This probably all sounds a bit self-indulgent, but I just wanted to try to explain what abuse does — it will take away everything you thought you knew for certain and turn everything you thought was good about being you into something unbearable. And it can happen to anyone.

This is why women and children need Refuge. I am shamelessly asking you to sponsor me again, or to bid on a painting, or just to share this on Twitter / Instagram / Facebook / anywhere, to help other women who aren't as lucky as I am.

There are many forms of violence and abuse. Refuge offers specialist support to women and children who may be experiencing a variety of forms of gender-based violence including: domestic violence; rape and sexual abuse; forced marriage; so-called ‘honour’-based violence; human trafficking and modern slavery; prostitution; and female genital mutilation (FGM).

You can find my sponsorship page here and the ebay auction here.

Thank you so much for anything you can give. London Marathon - here I come! x

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