Who are we and what we do
We are a celebratory, inclusive and artistic safe space for sex workers. We host events, creative workshops, peer support groups and more. At Sexquisite we believe in art as a force for change, and do this by providing a platform for sex worker artists to make, create and share work! We are here to support, challenge and shift the damaging rhetoric around sex workers - one show (or poem) at a time.
Why is our work important?
In the UK and across the world, sex workers are still marginalised and excluded from society. Traditional negative attitudes mean that stigma remains a debilitating compulsory that unfortunately, comes with the job.
Many sex workers are not out to family, friends or colleagues in a non sex work setting, and many face discrimination if a non sex work related employer finds out they work in the sex industry. On top of that, current laws in the UK mean that sex workers often face prosecution for working together. The legislation and attitudes surrounding sex work, mean that many sex workers are isolated or at risk of isolation.
At Sexquisite we aim to create inclusive, safe and non-judgmental spaces to process experiences through art and provide support for fellow sex workers. We aim to challenge the stigma and double standards in society surrounding sex work and support the full decriminalisation of sex work. We have provided guidance, support and opportunities to over 40 sex workers, and since founding two years ago have collaborated with a number of organisations.
Since inception, we have ran the following projects:
- Sexquisite Cabaret 2019 at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club (paid and supported eight sex worker artists to develop work for a show that sought to combat stigma by bringing artists and audiences closer through performance and Q&A discussion).
- Sexquisite Cabaret #DECRIM NOW November 2019 at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club 2019 (paid and supported eight sex worker artists to develop work, pushed for decriminilsation of the sex industry and collaborated with Radio AVA and East London Strippers Collective to raise money for SW Union United Voices of the World).
- Collaborated with Colours Hoxton and joined their season of events, running a writing workshop looking at storytelling through poetry and comedy.
- Sexquisite Lottery Funded Writing Workshops (worked with 10 sex workers over eight weeks online, looking at processing experiences through writing - supported by the National Lottery Community Fund).
- Ran various online dance courses and classes through 2020 and 2021 open to sex workers and allies. All our workshops are ran by sex workers and our faciliatators are paid equity standard rates. We also offer free spaces to those on low income.
- Two courses of Writing to Process Experience for sex workers and allies. These were online and we also offered free spaces to those on low income.
- Sexquisite Digital Cabaret (provided paid performance opportunities to 9 sex worker artists, and community within a time of isolation).
- Launched our bi-weekly Peer Support Group for sex workers.
We have been busy organising, and building a community of sex workers that are socially and politically aware of their rights, and providing creative spaces and support groups for sex workers to process their experiences. But now, we want to take our work to the next stage.
Our next project, why we need your help
Whilst running our writing workshops in early 2020, it became clear that almost everybody that participated in the workshops identified the need for a theatre show made by sex workers, to provide an accurate representation of our community.
As a group, we came up with the idea of creating a devised theatre show written and performed by sex workers as a way to examine the nuances of sex worker experiences. Often in mainstream media sex workers are portrayed in a negative light and written about by people who have no experience of the industry. We want to take back control, and showcase the humanity of our community.
Whilst we are working with a mixed group of sex workers some who have never performed before; all sex workers are performers. This is because performance is intrinsic to sex work. Our project aims to convey the discrepancies between the way sex workers are viewed and what being a sex worker is really like. We hope that by telling our stories we can challenge misconceptions about sex work and community theatre with a view to positively impact meaningful change.
Aims and objectives
Aim: To put sex workers voices at the forefront and increase representation of sex workers in the arts.
Objective: By working with a community of sex worker artists, we will devise, develop and showcase a show that represents our community authentically.
Aim: To challenge preconceptions of the quality of community theatre.
Objective: By collaborating with a community that is already experienced in performance due to the nature of their work, we will subvert pre-existing negative connotations of community theatre and put on a high quality show.
Aim: To create a one hour theatre show with the sex work community showing the complexities and nuances of being a sex worker.
Objective: We will work together over a 12 week period on Zoom in workshops facilitated by artists with lived experience of sex work. We will successfully deliver a full length show created for a digital platform.
Sex workers are constantly pushing back against attempts to further censor us and restrict our work. From plans to introduce the Nordic Model and proposals to ban strip clubs in Bristol to shadow banning and de-platforming on social media, we are constantly having to fight for rights and against discrimination.
We hope the outcomes of our theatre show will build up momentum to fight against the growing number of issues our community are facing, and push for the decriminalisation of the industry.
What we have done so far
In January 2021, we posted a call out for a sex worker artists to work on a devised theatre project. We had over 30 applications from all over the world, and met in early February with a cohort of 17 sex worker artists, 14 of which have gone on to be involved in the project.
Our project is now live, and we are working on developing a digital devised theatre show. We are working with 14 sex workers from across the UK, US and Europe to devise a politically engaged digital theatre show, to protest against the implementation of the Nordic Model in the UK.
We hope that our show will combat the inherent societal stigma that all sex workers face. By platforming our stories, we will use theatre to magnify the imminent danger that we are facing. We will equip people with the resources to reach out to their local MPs and impact change.
We want to provide a fee to all of our artists working on the project. We believe that artists deserve to be paid for their work, but this can be only possible with your help!
We are asking for £5,000 which is approximately 30% of our total budget. This will support our arts council application as the arts council asks you to have 30% cash match funding.
Our total budget
£50 per artist per week at 2 hours a week = £600 for all 12 weeks pp x 14 artists = £8,400
£100 pp - producer, director and facilitator at 4 hours a week = £3,600
Marketing/PR = £200
Graphic design = £100
Contingency of 10% = £1230
Meet the artists delivering the project:
Maedb Joy is a poet, actor, writer and theatre maker. She is the founder and co-artistic director of Sexquisite Events. Maedb trained at Guildhall School of Music and Drama where she graduated with a First Class Honours and a nomination for the Evening Standard Future Theatre Fund.
She is passionate about using art as a force for change, and merges poetry and theatre to tell stories that predominantly affect working class communities. Her work has been featured at The BBC, The Barbican, Pulp Poets Press, Beaconsfield Gallery, and more.
Carmen Ali (also known as April Fiasco) is a multi-disciplined performer and writer specialising in stand up comedy and neo burlesque. She is the co-artistic director at Sexquisite Events and Resident Host for our cabaret shows. She is also one of the co-organisers of Cybertease (virtual socialist strip club) and is a passionate sex worker activist.
Jackie Fisher is a director currently based in Madrid. She came on board to our project after working with Maedb throughout her final year at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and directed and mentored ‘if secrets could talk’ - a show which explored the rise of survival sex work induced by Universal Credit.
Jackie’s directing credits include Can I Touch Your Hair? (Hull Truck, The Curve Slough and Omnibus Theatre Online), If Secrets Could Talk (Short, Guildhall), The Cat’s Mother (Vault Festival, Underbelly Edinburgh, Dublin Fringe), and Spill Your Guts Here (Edinburgh Fringe), as well as several associate and assistant director credits.
Testimonials from our previous projects
"I was so nervous to apply, but after meeting everyone at Sexquisite I got such a good vibe, and I could never have imagined that doing that show would lead to so many friends, opportunities and performances. I am just so grateful for what you have created. Thankyou for having me in that first show and continuing to include me and support me and encourage me. I am so appreciative to work with Sexquisite. So many amazing things wouldn’t have happened for me without it."
“It felt like talking to your biggest fans every time. Everyone has been very supportive and non-judgemental throughout.”
"Thank you again for such a wonderful group. I really, really enjoyed myself on it! 10000% so much love to you both for creating that awesome space. You truly helped my creative writing so much and brought me happiness every week."
“It had really helped me process parts of my experiences I was struggling to do. I have found the writing immensely useful for my mental health and I have been sharing my work with my therapist. I'm very glad I joined the group.”
"I want to say a huge thank-you, because the course has been a massive inspiration. I want to start my own project now!"
"Thank you soooo much for this experience, it's been the absolute best. You're such a friendly talented group and it's been brilliant to write with you all!"
One of our previous workshop participants who also performed at our first 2 live shows expressed how important working with us has been. Since working with us she has gone on to perform regularly within the cabaret scene, winning various awards and now works regularly as an artist. Other members have expressed how working with us has been crucial in navigating their mental health and healing from their experiences. It is vital that sex workers have more opportunities to control our own narratives and showcase our work.
If you have any questions, or believe you can help us support our project further. Please email us at [email protected]