There can be a degree of blissful ignorance that surrounds the sex trade, seeing it as a bit of ‘nudge nudge, wink wink’ fun. After all, isn’t what happens between consenting adults their own choice? Sadly though, the reality is often very different. The sex trade in the UK can be nothing less than slavery for many of the women involved. They are (very literally) the life blood of people trafficking which, alongside drugs and arms, is one of the big 3 criminal enterprises of our times. We wanted to challenge these misconceptions and disinterest, and challenge people to see the reality.
Given the way sex workers are often dehumanised, we wanted to show that sex trafficking has a human face: in our case this was Elena, a real woman the Helen Bamber Foundation helped.
Working closely with Foundation patron Emma Thompson, and harnessing the power of social media, we developed and managed a multimedia experience that brought Elena’s story to life in a very real and visceral way. This combined protest marches, a major art installation (including contributions from the likes of Anish Kapoor) and a series of on-line films (one staring Emma herself). These showed Elena’s journey from freedom to slavery…and back again, with the help of the Helen Bamber Foundation.
Driven by the film featuring Emma, which was shown in Body Shop stores and picked up by news channels around the world, our efforts generated £21m in free worldwide publicity for the sex trafficking issue. Our initial staging of The Journey art installation in Trafalgar Square had nearly 20,000 visitors, with many more signing an anti-sex trafficking petition. The Journey has since run in Vienna, New York, Madrid and The Hague with similar effect.