The national annual march against sexual violence and gender equality, Reclaim the Night, hit the streets of Norwich for its third time on Thursday 8 March.
The march took place on the same date as International Women’s Day. Taking place in the intimate confines of The Dog House Bar in the city centre, the event included a selection of poetry and spoken word performances, followed by a march down to Prince of Wales Road and back.
One student activist, Lotty Clare, spoke to Concrete about her inspirations for writing and performing her own poetry. “It is because of seeing so many people share their experiences online and on TV – I know not everyone is able to speak up about their experiences, but it is empowering when they do.”
“It’s important to celebrate how far we’ve come for gender equality, but we still have a long way to go in terms of gender-based violence, for example,” she added.
Other performers included activist Katy Jon Went and students from the UEA as well as representatives of Leeway, a local sexual abuse charity, where donations were made on the night.
Unlike other Reclaim the Night events across the country, such as London which is considered a ‘women-only’ march, Norwich’s variation promotes an all-inclusive attitude towards supporting all individuals who may be affected by sexual harassment.
Second-year student, Ryan Jordan said: “When I performed, my heart was pounding at first. But in the second half, I thought, ‘I’m with people who are amazing’, and in Norwich you feel that you can do anything, unlike London.”
He continued: “You’ve got a beautifully different array of people. It feels so safe. And UEA has always been very accepting. I feel okay being myself, and I feel that’s what Reclaim the Night is about.”
Several speeches also referred to the ‘Changing the Culture’ and ‘Never Ok’ campaigns at UEA, as well as topical campaigns such #MeToo and #TimesUp, which have encouraged a public dialogue on sexual harassment.
Juliet Donaghy, who sits on the chair of the Non-binary and Women’s network at UEA, helped to organise the event.
She spoke on the importance of holding an event like this in Norwich. “It’s completely tragic that some people don’t feel safe on the streets of Norwich; everyone should feel safe and empowered, and part of a community that supports them.
“Until that happens, we’re going to need to do events like these and talk about some of the things that have happened to us.”