An artist and director of circus theatre who moved to Ramsgate this year is on a mission to share the realities – good and bad – of going through menopause in an exhibition of photography and interviews.
Catrin Osborne, who is also a teacher at Union Yoga in Ramsgate, will tour the UK next year with exhibition “This Is What The Menopause Looks Like.”
The tour, which will include venues in Ramsgate and Whitstable, aims to begin conversations with women going through menopause, to lessen the stigma around it, celebrate women going through it and educate those around them so that they can offer the right support.
It will feature photos and stories from five women in each of ten places across the country, which will then also be used as venues on the tour. Catrin has already collected 24 of these and is continuing her interviews this year.
The project is an expansion of an exhibition originally held in 2019 which was prompted by Catrin experiencing a difficult, early menopause in addition to undiagnosed ADHD.
Catrin said: “I was 45 when I started getting symptoms. I’m 49 this month and still going through it. After eventually finding the right treatment, I decided to put an advert on social media seeking women to interview and photograph.
“I travelled around the UK talking to, photographing and interviewing women about their experiences. This culminated in a small exhibition as part of a night called Bad Fruit at Chats Palace in Hackney in September 2019 featuring two portraits and an interview of each person. The people I photographed and interviewed were from Whitstable, London, Leeds, Bristol and Bolton.
“During the third lockdown I decided to apply for funding from Arts Council England and reach out to venues around the country to see if I could expand and tour the exhibition. I got a great response and around ten venues came back to me saying they were interested.
“I ran a Crowdfunder campaign to raise awareness about the project and for match funding. This has brought about a crowd of supporters who will come and see the exhibition around the UK. After a long wait I found out a few weeks ago that I was successful with my funding application from the Arts Council.”
Catrin is now collating her photos and interviews ready for the tour which will include shows at Hold Creative Space and Eats and Beats in Ramsgate, The Hot Tin in Faversham, The Horsebridge Arts Centre in Whitstable, Tactile Bosch in Cardiff, Ridley Road Social Club in Dalston, London, Nelson’s Wine Bar in Todmorden, Touchstones gallery in Rochdale, Theatre Deli in Sheffield, Broken Arrowz Gallery in Brighton and Silk Mill in Frome.
At each venue there will be an opening night with a writer or a musician/singer/performer who is going through menopause involved.
Catrin is also giving a talk at The Arnolfini in Bristol and one of the people she photographed is running a writing workshop about the menopause and organising a spoken word night at the same venue.
Catrin will also be part of a round table discussion at University of Kent about how neuro diversity is often not diagnosed in women- she identifies as dyslexic and ADHD.
She said: “I want to change the typical negative way we imagine menopausal women, it is always someone a bit grey and depressing. All my pictures are brightly coloured and of women in happy places. Every interview had the truth that it can be difficult but also looks at the positives. People do not care so much about what others think of them as they get older and are often re-finding themselves. One woman was a competitive swimmer when she was younger and got back into that. For me, I started writing because I couldn’t sleep and I wrote a novel!”
The project is running under Osborne and What, a community arts organisation run by Catrin and husband Simon, who is also a disability advisor.
They direct, design and produce circus theatre shows and collaborate with other companies and youth community groups. Simon also uses his working knowledge to make sure everything they do is fully accessible to all.
The pair have been taking part in the Ramsgate Festival of Sound in Beyond the Vale and, upcoming, Busk at Dusk – they are most likely to be spotted on stilts!
The couple moved from London to Ramsgate in May after initially thinking they would find a property in Margate.
Catrin said: “We had been coming down for short breaks for around seven years and thought we would move to Margate but it was really hard to find somewhere to rent.
“Amie, who owns Union Yoga, said Ramsgate was nice. We looked and thought it was amazing, lots of creatives, dog walkers and swimmers and the closest of the towns to London – everything we wanted. We are really glad we moved here.”
Catrin, who was one of the circus performers at the Olympic opening ‘Mary Poppins’ show in London in 2012, is also using her experience to run a 6 week course at Union Yoga for women going through menopause.
She said: “It is a nice course, we talk about menopause and explore ways we can work with our bodies and different ways to help.”
Find out more about the project on the Osborne and What website here
That last photo put me off. Keep politics out of art!
I’m 40 and have been peri-menopausal for a few years so it’s great to see this being talked about. Friends my age aren’t really thinking about menopause but I’m lucky that I’ll be going through this in a society that is beginning to speak more openly about it. I’m a bit nervous about the challenges it can bring but also open-minded as my mum didn’t suffer too much when she went through it at 45. For me it’s quite exciting as I’ve suffered a lot with my mental health for a few days each month since I was a teenager and I’ve been free of that for the past few months which feels amazing. I feel free now after nearly 30 years of pre-menstrual dysphoria, which can make me acutely depressed and sometimes suicidal for a day or two then it just lifts and I’m back to normal. Our bodies our bloody amazing though and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
peter checksfield, I doubt you will be going through the menopause, so it doesn’t really matter one way or the other if you are put off, but even if you are menopausal, please know that politics affects EVERY area of our lives!
I shan’t attend the course myself as my experience of the menopause has been entirely negative and I should not want to put people in the frame of mind to worry.
I’m really glad it is being talked about now, as it was something hidden away until recently. It wasn’t something women wanted anyone to know about themselves and no-one wanted to hear about it – way too much information!
Please be aware it is not a laughing matter; people, female people, can even lose their jobs and that’s when they are not being made the butt of jokes, mostly by men who frequently have no idea how debilitating the whole thing is. For some women it can be a glorious release, but for others it is a life sentence. Some women go through the menopause without really noticing much, some take four or five years to go through and out the other side. Some unlucky ones are stuck with the most unpleasant symptoms for twelve or more years.
Good Luck with your venture, Catrin!
ANY politically-inclined photos will automatically alienate a significant amount of people… and would they have included someone with (say) “Vote for Farage” banners to balance things out? I somehow doubt it, despite him being of far more relevance to the people of Ramsgate.
Of course the male menopause is also a very real thing, even if the symptoms are generally less common or severe:
Er, Peter, I don’t think you read the page you helpfully linked to. It states the male menopause is an unhelpful and misleading term. Quoted here from the page you link to: “Is there such a thing as a ‘male menopause’?
The “male menopause” (sometimes called the andropause) is an unhelpful term sometimes used in the media.
This label is misleading because it suggests the symptoms are the result of a sudden drop in testosterone in middle age, similar to what occurs in the female menopause. This is not true.
Although testosterone levels fall as men age, the decline is steady at less than 2% a year from around the age of 30 to 40, and this is unlikely to cause any problems in itself.
A testosterone deficiency that develops later in life, also known as late-onset hypogonadism, can sometimes be responsible for these symptoms, but in many cases the symptoms are nothing to do with hormones.”
Whether or not the term is “unhelpful” is immaterial. As I already said, symptoms are generally rarer and/or less common in males, but they certainly do still go through changes (or at least I did anyway).
To clarify, I SUPPORT anything that highlights awareness of the menopause in women – which is why I’m critical of including photos that will almost certainly alienate some people.
A quick look at Catrin Osborne’s Twitter feed reveals that she’s left-leaning politically – which is fine. It would just make more sense if she kept this away from something that is clearly important to her and many other women (for what its worth, I’ve written 9 books, yet you wouldn’t know from reading them what my political views are, as I feel it would be counter-productive).
“rarer and/or less common”? I really should proof-read my messages before posting!