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Tokens of Motherhood: Shame and Social Attitudes

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The Foundling Museum

40 Brunswick Square

London

WC1N 1AZ

United Kingdom

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Doors: 6.30pm

In celebration of the Foundling Museum’s exhibition Basic Instincts, join us for a journey through time exploring motherhood, shame and changing social attitudes towards family and female sexuality. This performance will bring together contemporary spoken word artists, experts on the historical context of Joseph Highmore’s work, the Foundling Museum, and the voices of past Foundling Hospital pupils to create a unique artistic exploration of mothers’ and children’s stories, past and present.

This collaboration between the Foundling Museum and Poet in the City, brought to you by Poet in the City Producers, is a unique opportunity to gain insight into the emotional and social pressures that pushed women to give up their children in the eighteenth century. We consider parallels with experiences of foster care and motherhood today, and how far changes in social attitudes and the shame surrounding motherhood are often token gestures.

There will be an opportunity to view the exhibition Basic Instincts and reflect on the event after the performance.

Structured around the radical paintings of Joseph Highmore, Basic Instincts explores Georgian attitudes to love, desire and female respectability. Through his work, Highmore shone a light on society's unwillingness to support vulnerable women, reflecting his engagement with the work of the then new Foundling Hospital and its mission to support desperate and abused women by looking after the babies they were unable to care for.

As part of this event we will also be launching our Young People's Manifesto for Live Poetry. Created by the Poet in the City Producers, it outlines their vision for the future.


Poet in the City brings poetry to life beyond books, producing classic and contemporary poetry performances, experiences and conversations taking on major ideas, issues and people. They showcase biopics, use poetry to animate cultural movements and peer into ideas past and present, and create dramatic poetry experiences in major arts venues and unusual spaces. Through their work, Poet in the City has fostered a genuine and growing appetite for accessible, challenging and inspiring poetry performances.

Poet in the City Producers is a talented group of 16-25 year olds changing the way we see poetry today by producing innovative media and live events to promote this age-old art form in the modern world.

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The Foundling Museum

40 Brunswick Square

London

WC1N 1AZ

United Kingdom

View Map

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