Duncan Craig

The founder of Survivors Manchester, for male victims of sexual abuse, explains why he's searching for the city's best buskers

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Research indicates that one in six men will have unwanted sexual experiences, including abuse and assault before the age of 18, but with such a silence around the sexual abuse of males, it’s likely that the truth is even harder to deal with.

As a survivor myself, I know how incredibly important it is to be seen and heard, and have an outlet to communicate thoughts and feelings, whether that’s in a group or one on one, but that isn’t just about talking. It’s about expressing yourself in a healing way – say, through music.

Did you know that on average male survivors can take in excess of 20 years to talk about what happened? Imagine all of the things that he can do to keep that locked up inside – the drugs, the alcohol, the self-harm and suicide attempts, the over-working and making sure you’re never still enough to think. Then there’s the depression and anxiety, the post-traumatic stress symptoms, and not forgetting the issues with trust that means most relationships range from difficult to near impossible, along with the obvious difficulty with authority.

Since launching the Survivors Manchester in 2009, we have worked hard to break the silence that surrounds the sexual violation of boys and men. All of the team are committed to speaking up, with many talking about their own experiences or those of their family and friends. We all agree that by creating spaces to communicate and by recognising that healing is unique to the individual, boys and men affected by sexual abuse can take back the power and control of their lives and decide what the future looks like.

We’re inviting men to write their own story, publish your poem or show your drawings or photographs

Telling your story and breaking the silence can be difficult and at times extremely painful, whether that’s for the first or twentieth time. There are hundreds of languages in the world, hundreds of thousands of accents, and millions of words. We see billions of images in a lifetime and absorb the world in whatever way we can. Communication happens in so many ways. From talking face to face, to speaking down the phone, through words in a book, to pictures hanging on the wall, from text in an email, to film on the screen, the list is endless really.

I know it’s not always easy to just talk. Believe me, I’ve been there. Which is why we’re inviting men to write their own story, publish your poem or show your drawings or photographs. This is the space where you get to break your silence in whatever medium you’re comfortable with and for others to hear, or see, what you have to say.

Children learn through creative play, creative discovery and creative thinking and there is an idea that if that creativity is interrupted through abuse, then this stifles the child or young person’s development. Therefore, any creative engagement as an adult can help the person re-start a process of moving forward.

Here at Survivors Manchester, we have seen first hand just how beneficial it can be to put pen to paper, paint brush to canvas, or pencil to a scrap of paper to doodle. We’d love Big Issue North readers to have a go, so if you want to send your work to us, we’ll put it up in our gallery. We’d be proud to do so! Email your submission to

Standing up to break the silence creatively is a huge part of our new campaign that we are launching on 19 November at the Printworks – Manchester’s Got Busker Talent.

Thanks to our good friends at, we have brought the #1BlueString initiative to the UK and here to our home city of Manchester (the home of music, right?!) and are asking people to nominate their favourite busker as part of an awareness campaign to support the one in six men who have had unwanted sexual experiences.

An inspiring creative idea, realised by, the #1BlueString global campaign asks guitarists at all levels to replace one of their six strings with a blue string and, in doing so, raise awareness of this alarming statistic and show solidarity with those affected.

Send us a video or link of your favourite local buskers along with the performer’s name and contact details

You only have to walk down Market Street to know that our city and the surrounding suburbs are absolutely packed full of musical talent and we want to celebrate this and do what we do best here – stand together and stand tall. Remember, this is Manchester and we do things differently here.

So I’m asking all my fellow Mancunians – send us a video or link of your favourite local buskers along with the performer’s name and contact details, or of yourself for that matter, to Survivors Manchester via Twitter or Facebook as an audition for the live event on 19 November at the Printworks and a chance to be crowned Manchester’s best busker.

All entrants will be reviewed and the finalists will be invited to perform at a live final at the Printworks on International Men’s Day, 19 November. The overall winner will also pick up a £500 voucher.

All nominations must be received by 10 November so good luck – we hope to hear your entry soon so you can help us break the silence.

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