Two Edinburgh students have started a tribute to Sarah Everard called ‘Sarah’s Tree’
The tree is on Jawbone Walk in the Meadows
Two Edinburgh University students have started an Edinburgh tribute to Sarah Everard called “Sarah’s Tree.”
It’s a tree on Jawbone Walk in the Meadows where people could lay flowers, tie ribbons, and reflect on issues of sexual harassment and violence against women and girls.
After in-person vigils in Edinburgh were cancelled and replaced with online ones, Martha Reilly and Imogen Luczyc-Wyhowska – two University of Edinburgh fourth years – decided they wanted a way to pay their respects to women like Sarah Everard.
The kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard in South London has struck a chord with many. 97 per cent of UK women have experienced sexual harassment. Social media sites have been flooded in the past few days with stories of catcalling, unwanted sexual advances, and women being followed whilst out after dark.
The tree is roughly half way down Jawbone Walk between Marchmont and George Square. It is already covered in ribbons and flowers despite only being there for less than two days.
The Edinburgh Tab spoke to Martha and Imogen to find out the significance of Sarah’s Tree and what they hoped to achieve.
What prompted you to create Sarah’s Tree?
“We started this project late on Saturday afternoon, 13th March, when we realised we couldn’t attend an in-person vigil for Sarah Everard and became frustrated with the limits of online activism. We wanted to create a public community space because it’s so important that people feel connected to each other in these isolating times.
“It’s also been really traumatising for a lot of people seeing all the content flooding in on social media from Clapham Common, and we could all do with an ‘out’ from that. People have said that in tying their ribbons it feels like a small act of reclamation, and a personal way to grieve for Sarah.”
Why did you choose Jawbone Walk on The Meadows?
“We chose Jawbone Walk on the Meadows because it links the University of Edinburgh with one of the largest student areas in the city. As women students, we are consistently told that the Meadows are not a safe space to walk through alone or in the dark.
“Also, right now, we’re taking part in talks to improve public safety in the Meadows, including advocating for better lighting and CCTV in the area. We know technological fixes won’t uproot the more insidious causes of gender-based violence, but this is something tangible that we can address right now.”
What do you hope to achieve by creating this tree?
“This is about showing care for someone who was unjustly murdered, but also about showing care for ourselves and each other in isolating times.
“Sarah’s Tree has enabled us to publicly mourn and come together in solidarity with anyone who’s ever felt unsafe within their own communities. That’s why we say ‘our parks, our bodies’. We deserve to exist in them free from the threat of violence.”
Why did you choose to fundraise for Shakti Women’s Aid?
“They provide support to Black and minority ethnic survivors of domestic abuse. We think the best way to honour Sarah’s memory is to tackle gender-based violence wherever we see it. But people of colour experience overlapping barriers in accessing the services they need, and specialised services (like those that offer support across linguistic barriers) are repeatedly subject to cuts.”
How does Sarah’s Tree link up to the wider movement across Scotland and the UK?
“We are supporting the establishment of Sarah’s Trees beyond Edinburgh, starting with London, Manchester, Newcastle and Copenhagen. Our partners will choose trees within areas known to be unsafe for women and marginalised people. Funds gathered from all of these ‘solidari-trees’ will go to a charity local to that area.”
What has the response from students been so far?
“We’ve had an incredible response from students so far which we think is evocative of the fact that we need more opportunities like this to come together. Events like Sarah Everard’s murder shatter communities. Sometimes we need to create our own spaces to heal from that.”
You can follow Sarah’s Tree on Instagram: @sarahs_tree. And you can donate to their fundraiser for Shakti Women’s Aid here.
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