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From football to art classes: How local survivor groups provide a safe haven

Publication: Greater Govanhill

Local groups like The Survivor Arts Community and The Cathkin Blazes have been running projects geared towards survivors, with the aim of providing a safe space to socialise, create and play.

Glasgow is one of the highest ranking in terms of domestic abuse incident rates, with 147 incidents of abuse reported between 2021 and 2022, according to a report by the Scottish Government.

The same report found that incidents of sexual assault had increased by 29 percent with over 5,000 assaults recorded in 2022. The fact is, abuse is something a number of people have experienced and the resulting trauma is something survivors can carry with them for a long time, if not a lifetime.

Image courtesy of The Survivor Arts Community

Eloise Birtwhistle, Founder and Director of The Survivor Arts Community, spoke of the impact that trauma from abuse can have on individuals: “Everyone is different, but It’s quite common for survivors to experience impacts on their financial wellbeing. A lot of survivors will even feel lonely or isolated. There are lots of mental health implications to being a survivor.”

The Survivor Arts and The Cathkin Blazes are local non-profit organisations geared towards breaking down some of those barriers that survivors might face through free and accessible group activities.

“Everyone knows how prolific sexual assault and violence is but there’s something about these survivor oriented groups that makes you feel like perhaps some of the stigma around being a victim of sexual assault is instead being placed on the perpetrators. I think it makes me feel quite optimistic because it’s like people aren’t ashamed anymore,” says Yasmine Rahemetulla, Co-Chair and Founder of The Cathkin Blazes.

Both organisations support survivors not through therapy, or group conversations centred around sharing their trauma, but through building a caring community by connecting others through sport and art.

Image courtesy of The Survivor Arts Community.

The Survivor Arts Community delivers writing classes, art classes and philosophy discussion groups for survivors of abuse exclusively. During these events support workers are on call for anyone who wishes to speak to someone or who needs support.

Eloise from Survivor Arts said: “A lot of research suggests forming connections again with other people is one of the most helpful things for survival and for healing. So it’s been important for us to put on group sessions and hopefully people might be able to meet one another, connect with each other and just feel good about themselves at no cost.”

“Using your creative practice to work through something or not, gives you a sense of connectivity to the world around you. It’s that sense of community you get when you’re connecting with other creative people. That’s why we started the Survivor Arts”

The Cathkin Blazes originally started out as a local self-identifying women and non-binary people’s football team after the pandemic. The founder of the Blazes felt that there were no safe spaces for women and non-binary people who just wanted to play football. They soon started developing their survivor oriented sessions with support workers and LGBTQ+ reps on stand-by, adopting the same ethos as Survivor Arts.

Read More: Cathkin Blazes: Football for Fun — Greater Govanhill

Cathkin Blazes | Photo by @alexander_hoyles

Yasmine told Greater Govanhill: “We just wanted the Cathkin Blazes football sessions for survivors to be an uplifting experience for people. Exercise can really release you from the isolation and pain you feel after having your body violated. We want our survivor sessions to be the opposite of that in the sense that you’re choosing exactly what you want to do with your body.”

“Our main aim is to connect as a community. Every six months we’ll have a general meeting and that way people can tell us what they want from us. Some people have suggested working more with Roma groups and also with people who are in the asylum system. So those are things we’d like to do in the future.”

The Cathkin Blazes are now a registered charity, meaning they can apply for grants to further support those who sign-up. They also managed to raise £2000 for the Ubuntu women’s shelter in Glasgow, after creating a special Christmas jersey in partnership with Tenants for their Community Champions initiative. Along with their football sessions they also host a book club, an annual birthday party for the Blazes and other social events for their close-knit network of sign-ups and supporters.

The Survivor Arts Community has lots of upcoming sessions and events both for their own sign-ups and for the public. Their winter survivor choir season is set to kick off on 2 November. Later this month, for Book Week Scotland, an open mic night will be held by Survivor Arts at Glasgow Zine Library. They will also be hosting an ‘honours based abuse’ exhibition launch in the zine library on November, which will be open thereafter.

Survivor-oriented groups like The Survivor Arts Community and The Cathkin Blazes are making a real difference in the lives of survivors of abuse in Govanhill. By providing a safe space for survivors to socialise, create, and play, these groups are helping to build a strong sense of community and support. They are also empowering survivors to take control of their lives and heal from their trauma.

If you or someone you know is a survivor of abuse, consider reaching out to these groups for support by visiting them online at or at @cathkin.blazes on Instagram for more information.

Next: Edinburgh community councils review

by Alan McIntosh, Broughton Spurtle