Luca Rutherford's one-woman show celebrates the single moment of noise which allowed her to escape an attackCamilla Greenwell

Content Note: This article contains reference to sexual violence

In a world where women are “underestimated”, “told to shut up” and “afraid to walk home”, how can women make themselves heard? Luca Rutherford’s one-woman show You Heard Me and accompanying public art exhibition You Heard Us address this very question. Interviewing her about the project, it is clear that whilst she is incredibly light-hearted and carefree, she adopts a deliberate and attentive approach to her work.

The challenge Luca has undertaken is complex, and she realises that she is part of something far bigger than herself. She has thought carefully about the focus and methodology of her project, asserting her desire to create a space for women to be not simply heard, but listened to. Hearing is a passive act while listening is intentional. To focus on the art of listening is a bold undertaking, Luca says, as listening is not a skill that can be trained, given listening itself would be a prerequisite for it being taught.

You Heard Me is Luca’s personal story. It is a story of a crucial moment when she was listened to by others. She was attacked by a stranger whilst on a run, the stranger then attempted to rape her. She got away as she screamed. Due to this moment of noise, two people had listened, and Luca created the space and time to get away. Luca was conscious to emphasise that You Heard Me is not simply a retelling of what happened, it is also about what she learned from this moment. She forces us to question the power of our own voice and to consider how we are listening.


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Luca hopes to tell her story with neutrality “because that shared experience with everyone, for whatever reason, right or wrong, gives a validity to what happened, and lets us all understand, digest and distil its profound consequences” However, the tone of the play will be light and humorous as she is mindful not to perpetuate more violence, and this piece of work is not intended to lecture anyone. After all, the art of listening cannot be found in the lecture hall.

It is particularly striking that in You Heard Me, Luca will not use words such as ‘sexism’, ‘patriarchy’, or ‘sexual violence’. Her rationale is that whilst “sometimes language is phenomenal and beautiful, wonderful, it can get in the way of setting up this hierarchy of who knows more.” Anyone who is still figuring out how to use language itself will be labelled stupid or unhelpful. Hence, the art of listening begins with “holding our use of language accountable, un-learning, re-learning and changing it”.

Through concentrating on language, she can create space for women. Creating space is not a physical phenomenon, it is social. It consists in the freedom for all women to express their needs, thoughts, feelings. Luca goes beyond her own experiences with You Heard Us, through which she hopes to “create a platform for as many women as possible.”

You Heard Us is a public art exhibition that will be displayed around the city. It features photographs of ten local Cambridge women, who will “unashamedly, unapologetically take up public space.” Each woman was nominated to take part in this exhibition by local ambassadors. Luca stresses how intersectionality was at the heart of the nomination process. She was faced with the challenge of finding women, both loud and quiet, and ensuring that everyone was equally and authentically listened to, with their own voice. “In a process of providing a platform for other women to be heard and to be listened to, that’s like me standing with them,” Luca reflects. “They are not holding any of my pain or sickness or joy. And I’m not holding any of theirs. We are just existing together.”

“They are not holding any of my pain or sickness or joy. And I’m not holding any of theirs. We are just existing together.”

You Heard Us is a physical manifestation of what Luca aims to do: to advocate the art of listening, creating, and taking up space. Moreover, the art of listening is not only about listening to others, but also listening to oneself. Luca hopes that through taking part in the exhibition, each woman will have “a unique moment of quietly celebrating oneself, because it is a moment where hopefully they’ll just relax and be like “okay here’s me””.

You heard me will be at the Cambridge junction on 8th and 9th March, and You Heard Us will be on display around Cambridge from 24th April onwards.