Yesterday evening in the drizzling twilight, the shadowy streets that frame Woodhouse Moor were transformed as several hundred women danced their way around the park together to form a glittering, girl-power fuelled, collective disco, in protest against sexual assault.
In the light of the recent bout of sexual assaults in Leeds, the disco-themed march, which went by the name ‘Hype The Park’ #BoogieNotBlame’, sought to empower the student community – in particular its women, non-binary and trans* members – to feel safer in the local neighbourhood, and encouraging them to stay safe collectively by walking (or boogieing) home together.
After a pre-party outside the Union with girl-power anthems and ‘positive vibes only’ being blasted out, courtesy of LSR Station’s female DJs, the march for empowerment headed towards Hyde Park. Placards raised, faces smiling and fairy lights on, an estimated 500 women felt safe and powerful together, chanting and dancing down streets that, on a normal night, they might rather avoid.
LUU’s Political & Campaigning rep and organiser, Rosie Collington, came up with the glittering idea just over a week ago, with the campaign attracting the attention of the local media and reaching thousands of people on Facebook.
Such spontaneous success is evidence that the cause resonated with so many within the student community. Last night, the event’s motto ‘TOGETHER WE ARE SAFE, TOGETHER WE ARE POWERFUL’ was truly reified.
LSR station manager Lissie Day, who helped to organise the event (and also to elegantly push the wheelbarrow-sound system ahead of the march) described the movement as ‘a positive, lighthearted way of conveying a serious issue. Having a disco-themed protest makes it accessible and inclusive for students like me who haven’t been involved in political campaigns before’.
Afterwards, Rosie thanked all of those who took part in the event, describing it as ‘the most amazing, empowering experience of my life.’ In a post on Facebook, she added, ‘there was so much consciousness about the reasons why we came together in the first place. Apparently it is possible to challenge ideas and change things through disco. Apparently collective action and women and non-binary only action isn’t “too radical” after all. Apparently organising a big event like this collectively, working together and supporting each other and being our own bosses is also possible.’
It took one thoughtful idea, one week, and one community of positive individuals to create an unforgettable, girl-powered collective that reclaimed the streets, albeit for just an evening, through collective disco. I cannot wait for the next one.
Photos and words: Lucie England-Duce