Rough trade.

Kate Feld

An art exhibition and an opera appearing in Manchester both use art to shine a light on a very dark world: the international sex trade, where an estimated 800,000 women and young girls are trafficked into the EU every year.

The Type Tarts exhibition puts the spotlight on tart cards – the means by which London prostitutes advertise their services; small colourful cards often found stuck in phone boxes. They have developed a cult following as items of accidental art, and have influenced the work of mainstream artists such Ray and Nils Stevenson, known best for their work with the Sex Pistols. The exhibition, developed by Dr. Caroline Archer of Birmingham City University, travels between participating universities and invites students and staff to design their own type tart cards. While the exhibition is focused on the cards’ graphic qualities, the organisers also hope to raise awareness of the plight of trafficked women in the sex industry.

The Salford version of Type Tarts is part of a School of Art and Design Typography event, which will be held at the new University of Salford Media City building from 16-25 February. To view a selection of designs submitted to the exhibition, visit the Create@Salford tumblr page.

Meanwhile, Anya17 is a contemporary opera performed by students at the Royal Northern College of Music with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic’s Ensemble 10/10. It is believed to be the first ever opera about sex trafficking, and tells the intertwined stories of four of the estimated 800,000 women and young girls brought illegally into the EU each year.

The opera has a score by the award-winning composer Adam Gorb and a libretto by Ben Kaye. Kaye previously collaborated on ‘Thoughts Scribbled on a Blank Wall’, which told the story of John McCarthy’s time as a hostage in the Lebanon. It will premiere in Liverpool on 7 March, with the Manchester premiere happening at RNCM two days later. For more information, visit the Anya17 website.

Words: Kate Feld. Images (top to bottom): Lucy Baines as Natalia, courtesy of Anya17; from Type Tarts, courtesy of Salford University.

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