ARTISTS have drawn upon the experiences of young offenders and domestic violence perpetrators for a pioneering project exploring what it means to be a man.

The multimedia Men’s Voices exhibition will coincide with Durham Book Festival in the city next month and is the culmination of a major arts project looking at views on masculinity in the North-East.

Bishop Auckland-based arts education company Changing Relations worked with men at Deerbolt Young Offender’s Institute in Barnard Castle, along with attendees of the Barnardo’s Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programme and the Woodlands Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) in Ferryhill. Members of Eldon Lane and Stanley Men’s Crees also took part in the workshops, which included printmaking, creative writing and cross stitch.

The men were also given the chance to record their own testimony of what it means to be a man to form part of a sound installation by Rupert Philbrick, who is curating the exhibition alongside fellow artists Polly Turner and Chris Robinson.

Ms Robinson, a performance poet, said: “Growing up and living in a North-East, former mining village, I have been exposed to many manifestations of masculinity and I have seen how destructive it can be to individuals, families and communities. I was, therefore, delighted to be asked to be part of the artistic team on the Men’s Voices project, exploring the themes of man and masculinity with local groups of men.”

Changing Relations is a community interest company based in Auckland Castle Trust’s Pod Studios in Bishop Auckland Market Place. It produces a range of art-based content to challenge thinking around gender equality, gender norms and healthy relationships.

According to research by the Men’s Health Forum, three quarters of people who kill themselves in Britain are men, with suicide the biggest killer of men under 35. Men also commit 86 per cent of violent crime and are twice as likely to be its victims.

Men’s Voices explores how messages about masculinity have shaped men and boys in the region and whether they have contributed to the health and social challenges faced by men and the other people in their lives.

It is supported by Arts Council England, New Writing North, Durham Book Festival, Empty Shop, Stanley Area Action Partnership, the Durham City AAP Small Grants Scheme, County Durham Community Foundation and Bishop Auckland Councillors: Henry Nicholson, Shirley Quinn, John Lethbridge, Joy Allen, Sam Zair and Tanya Tucker.

The free exhibition runs at Empty Shop’s TESTT gallery, above Durham Bus Station on North Road, from Saturday, October 7, to Sunday, October 15, from noon to 4pm. A special art workshop will also be held at the same venue on Saturday, October 14 from 1pm to 4pm, priced at £5. To book a place, visit

There will also be a panel discussion on whether there is a crisis of masculinity in the post-industrial North-East at Palace Green Library in Durham on Sunday, October 8, at 4.30pm.

Tickets, priced at £8 or £6 for concessions, are available from