So I’m Ms January: Why I shall be life-modelling at the Feminist Library, and how come single breasted women are invisible, even to each other.

via Stories of Women ~ with Claire

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The Intimate Tour of Breasts – next stop, Birmingham! (and a few poetry links)




September, and a new development for the Intimate Tour of Breasts: I have been invited to create a Birmingham version of my walking tour as part of the exquisite Birmingham Still Walking festival, and also pre-empting the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery’s forthcoming exhibition, Coming Out: Sexuality, Gender, and Identity, which opens in December. My walk takes place on Saturday 16th September, 12.45pm (with a second outing next Spring, dates tbc), I’ve discovered some really exciting Birmingham legends and landmarks. Here’s the blurb:

Artist, writer and breast cancer survivor, Claire Collison is your tour guide on this three-hour walk exploring multicultural mythologies surrounding breasts, and looking at their commodification throughout history to the present day – from religious martyrs to political activists, fine art to Page 3, nipple slip to slippery nipple. Engaging in conversations and activities en route, you will be unraveling the implications of all this on how women feel about their own breasts. This Birmingham Intimate Tour of Breasts is second in a series which began 2016 as part of the Walking Women festival in London.

An Intimate Tour of Breasts is supported by Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and pre-empts the exhibition Coming Out: Sexuality, Gender and Identity opening on Saturday 2nd December. This major exhibition will feature over 80 modern and contemporary artworks by internationally renowned artists who explore themes of gender, sexuality and identity in art.

Booking and further info can be found here –

In other news, I apologise for being so completely rubbish at the regular upkeep of a blog (how do people do it?) so I am belatedly sharing this, a podcast of me reading my poem, The Ladies’ Pond, which was awarded second prize in the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine 2017. In an interview explaining how I came to write it, I said:

“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I became acutely aware of the invisibility of other women who had chosen not to have reconstructive surgery. This invisibility not only signalled the pressure I was under to conform, it also meant I had no tangible evidence of women survivors. The Ladies’ Pond is both an institution and a secret – a natural oasis, hidden away on Hampstead Heath in London, where women swim year round. The chance encounter with an old woman that I describe in the poem really happened, thirty years ago, but it was only on my birthday, days before my own surgery, that I remembered her. I sometimes wonder now if she was a ghost from my future, come to reassure me all would be well.”–/2017-hippocrates-prize-for/readings-by-2017-hippocrate/2017-open-award-winner.html

And, while I’m at it, here are a few links to where poetry of mine can be found online…

Bare Fiction

(Keeping Borzoi was Highly Commended in the Bare Fiction Prize for Poetry 2016, as chosen by Helen Mort.)

The Compass Magazine

The Flambard Prize 2016


That’s plenty for now. If you’re in Birmingham, maybe see you on the 16th!

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Kylie triolet

Photos taken from ‘An Intimate Tour of Breasts’ part of Walking Women festival, Somerset House, July 16 (credit: Clare Qualmann)

After reading Penny Rutterford’s write-up of my walk: An Intimate Tour of Breasts in the Huffington Post blog , as Penny begins and ends with Kylie, I thought I’d share a poem I wrote about Kylie (a triolet, no less, which is, IMHO, a thankless form).

When I was told I would be having chemotherapy, I was desperately seeking some positives – role models, or even women who hadn’t died. Enter Kylie. I found an interview with her, in which she described her trips to swim in the ocean between chemo sessions. Armed with this, I informed my surgeon and consultant that I too would be swimming between my chemo sessions in the lido, ‘like what Kylie did.’ They didn’t contradict me. When it came to it, on my very first chemo, unable to locate a vein after seven attempts, I was given a Pic-Line, which, on the positive side, meant no more needles for either taking things out or putting them in – a boon for the needle-phobe. On the downside, it meant I had to keep dry for the entire hot summer. Not so lucky.

I later heard Kylie on Desert Island Discs, where she spoke of the responsibility of being a role model for other women with breast cancer. It is a tough and unasked for role, and I think she has handled it with dignity and sensitivity.

Kylie (I should be so)

I looped your song inside my head

and held your legend to my breast –

in order to soak up the dread

I looped your song inside my head.

Lucky, you chirruped; Lucky, I said.

They tapped my vein, you know the rest.

I looped your song inside my head

and held your legend to my breast.


An Intimate Tour of Breasts is available as a guided walk – in London, or other venues by commission. Please contact me for further details, or if you would like to book.

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The Contents of Kylie’s Bra

Penny Rutterford came on my ‘Intimate Tour of Breasts’, which she writes about in her blog. So much of what Penny says here chimes with my own experiences (I have my own Kylie poem – a triolet, no less! – she is strangely there, lodged in our collective psyche)

Great Things about Cancer

Recently I have been preoccupied with what Kylie Minogue keeps in her bra. I suspect I am not alone, although my motives may be different to most. You see, until I lost a breast to cancer, I had only a passing interest in other women’s tits – because I had a pair of my own.  And tits are everywhere. There’s even a new dating programme where partners are chosen from the gradual revelation of each naked body part. I am pleased that breasts of all shapes and sizes are celebrated and admired. However, around 60,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, not all of those will have had mastectomies or surgery, but many will. Yet until I faced my own treatment I had never seen a mastectomy scar, a prosthesis, “softie” or reconstructed boob.  So, on any street in any town, a small proportion of…

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Walking art and Women: making ourselves visible

Walking Women article in AN

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An intimate tour of breasts

As part of Walking Women at Somerset House, I shall be tour guide on ‘An intimate tour of breasts‘, a three-hour walk taking in high street and high art, tea rooms and fitting rooms. We will be exploring the mythologies and commodification of breasts throughout history to the present day. Engaging in conversations and activities en route, we will be attempting to unravel the implications of this on how we feel about our own breasts.

Wednesday July 13th 11am – 2pm

walking women programme'hmm  what to wear?'Hmm.. What to wear? 2016
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Magic, Miniatures, Moaning, and much more

Spring ’16 WTC saw us learning how to complain in Gordon Square, and considering the finer distinctions between nudity and nakedness at the National Portrait Gallery. Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence was a treat, and produced some great writing. We experimented with Chinese circus and dabbled in opera with Rose English at Camden Arts Centre, and were spellbound by John Dee at the Royal College of Physicians in Regent’s Park. Our final outing was to the exquisite Qureshi miniatures in Barbican’s Curve Gallery. We celebrated our final read through back at Mary Ward with equally exquisite miniature cupcakes, courtesy of Rocio (thanks, Rocio!)

Prompts, background info and writing produced by participants to all six outings are up –

NOW BOOKING: Our next adventure will be ART & TEXT: Creating the City running over three Fridays, starts June 24th 2016. It would be lovely to see you!

Meanwhile, here’s a record in 20 miniatures of my walk back from the Barbican to Mary Ward –

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