Sitting opposite me, Freya Slack is sporting a slick, geometric bob and huge silver hoop earrings. Her socks are illustrated with outlines of breasts and the same ones adorn her tote bag. She wears a vivid red sweater.
The red part is important. Why? We’re here to talk about periods.
Last October, Freya, who studies Interactive Arts at Manchester Metropolitan University, launched the initiative Don’t Cramp My Style as part of a university project. It soon blew up into something much more important.
“There are a lot of period poverty charities in the UK which is amazing…but actually the core of the period problem is the taboo,” Freya explains, her eyes wide with enthusiasm.
“People struggle to talk about this taboo, if you do something creative it helps to break it.”
This is where DCMS comes in. The project takes on a two-pronged approach; a DCMS handbook on periods and other taboo topics designed and written by Freya which is distributed at toilets throughout Manchester, and a live event which creates a place where all things menstrual can be discussed and celebrated.
DCMS has recently been awarded funding by Whitworth Young Contemporaries, which supports young people who want to expand their projects and support communities. This funding has gone towards the handbook and to the event.
In January DCMS held a fundraiser at The Peer Hat which raised £300 to buy products for the Bolton branch of the Red Box Project, which creates ‘period boxes’ for schools. The event featured everything from artwork to performance poetry.
This October DCMS will be hosting a follow up event at The Horsfall and Freya is calling on creatives to produce artwork and create performances based on the theme of starting periods.
“It’s [this event] all about starting periods, the reason why? I think It’s a great thing to go right back to the beginning,” Freya tells me.
Although she’s put on an event like this before, this time there’s added pressure as DCMS evolves into something more.
“[With] this event, we want to use the money to create period positivity packages, we’re gonna [sic] work with girl guides, create them [the packages] and donate them to 42nd street,” she reveals.
“We wanted to do something that we created ourselves, taking our first step at being out own charity.”
HELLO THERE ARTIST! Don’t Cramp My Style is back for our 2nd event for October 29th, 2019 and we are calling out for artists and performers! DCMS has recently been awarded funding by The Whitworth Young Contemporaries @whitworthyc meaning we are able to hold another event, after the success of our last in January, raising money for charity tackling period poverty in the UK through creating platforms for people to talk openly and safely about their periods. DCMS invites creatives to produce art about starting their period or their first interaction with periods, whether you menstruate or not, for our event called “You Alright Down There?!” The work can span across all areas of art; whether painting or performance, embroidery or dance, all art is welcome! If you have any questions do not hesitate to message me! I’m happy to help in any way! #callingallcreators #periodart #dontcrampmystylemanchester #endometriosis #startingperiod #protestart
Freya is quick to point out that raising money is not the sole purpose of the DCMS, it’s about raising awareness and starting conversations.
“What DCMS is offering at these events is a platform, there are no platforms out there that openly allow people to discuss this in a face to face way.”
Creative expression is a central theme to the DCMS project, and Freya is an advocate of using art to open up the discussion on periods and to allow people to explore a topic that many find uncomfortable to talk about.
“The art community is such an open group of people, [art is a] fantastic way to reach out to people. No matter who you are, there’s going to be something you can relate to,” she explains.
Throughout our conversation Freya keeps returning to the same idea: that education is a key to breaking the taboo surrounding periods. She believes that art can bridge the topics of health and education.
Freya was heavily influenced by her mother and grandmother, who have both worked as nurses.
“I’m in no way academic but as an artist…I do see a crossover with public health and medicine, and [I] see a way to educate people so they can be healthy and happy.”
This is where the DCMS booklet comes in. It’s a small guide jam-packed with information all about that time of the month and everything related to it. It features illustrations drawn by Freya and is a work of art in its own right.
Freya wrote it all herself and had it reviewed by her mum and a doctor. It has been medically approved but includes a disclaimer. The booklet has been distributed across the city, and can be found in both female and male toilets at places such as the Whitworth Gallery and the Manchester Museum.
Creating the booklet was an important way to transform menstrual education, as Freya explains.
“There are different ways to educate people, it doesn’t have to be in a GP room or in a classroom.”
What’s more, placing these booklets in galleries and museums has the added benefit of making the art world more accessible too.
“Galleries seem very elitist, but the fact that they are taking on this project shows that times are changing,” adds Freya.
My DCMS book is at 42nd Street! Il so happy to see this project keep growing and growing Thank you 42nd Street! https://t.co/FlU7Rp3JxI
— Freya (@SlackFreya) August 27, 2019
Considering DCMS started as a university project, she has managed to create an impact in areas encompassing health, art and education, which is an impressive achievement, although Freya jokes that it’s started to define who she is.
“I was introduced at a party as ‘that period girl’. Wow, this is who I am now.”
The DCMS event will happen on Tuesday October 29 at The Horsefall at 42nd Street Mental Health Foundation @ 6:30pm. If you want to be involved contact Freya on https://www.facebook.com/dontcramp/ or on the Instagram account @dontcrampstyle