I created the artwork ‘Henry’s jumper’ in response to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Archers’ Domestic Violence storyline. The aim of the jumper is to hi-light the issues that face children in families where there is domestic abuse. “Domestic abuse is any type of controlling, bullying, threatening or violent behaviour between people in a relationship. But it isn’t just physical violence – domestic abuse includes emotional, physical, sexual, financial or psychological abuse“. (NSPCC) One in five children have witnessed domestic abuse.In the programme Henry witnesses his mother (Helen), stab his abusive stepfather (Rob). I know how traumatic this could be for a young boy, as I saw my dad try to stab my mother when I was a child.
The jumper is positioned on the railing as a lost item. Often children and their feelings get forgotten when there is the trauma of domestic abuse in the family. They are frequently physically, emotionally and psychologically abandoned. The two jumpers shown at the beginning of the film where actual forgotten items that had been positioned on the railings to be claimed by their owners.
Instead of leaving this artwork out in the street like my previous Archers artwork I created a short video which really is the artwork.
The bunny on the jumper depicts Henry’s toy, Thomas. Rob made Henry throw his beloved toy in the bin as a punishment. I gave the bunny no facial features to show that this is not actually Thomas, but Henry’s memory of him, and no one can take that away.
The name tag symbolises property; children can be seen as possessions and feel that they have to choose between parents.
The ‘Hand Wash Only’ label – refers to how children who live with domestic violence should be treated with care by family and professionals.
Henry’s name is written in Red to denote blood. Helen was very upset at Henry having his toy taken away, and is seen as a woman with blood on her hands. I can imagine her knitting this jumper in prison for Henry as a comfort for him (if they will trust her with knitting needles).
I made the jumper size age 5 years, Henry’s age. The colour blue was chosen as it’s associated with boys – Rob would not entertain Henry wearing Pink. I love the juxtaposition of the top of the jumper which is reminiscent of a ‘Thomas The Tank Engine‘ sweater, and the bottom with the vivid graphic of the bunny – I don’t think Rob would approve 😀
Susan Waters the Director of Cotton Roots, and her team print and supply ‘The Helen Archer Rescue Fund’ merchandise at cost. All money raised by the sale of t-shirts and tea towels will be added to the total of the Helen Archer’s Rescue Fund and go to support the work of Refuge.org.uk. The fund was started by devoted fan Paul Trueman.