Press release

Sex in the Afternoon: Wellcome Collection announces sexology literature tour

Four internationally renowned writers - including London’s first Young Poet Laureate, the current Forward Prize holder, and the former inaugural Poet in Residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company - are taking part in a literature tour that will bring sexology-themed writing to venues across Britain.

Malika Booker, Kei Miller, Warsan Shire and Rachel Mars have been selected for their work inspired by the study of sex and human sexual behaviour, all bringing their diverse experiences and backgrounds to the topic. Forming part of Wellcome Collection’s Sexology Season, the tour – titled ‘Sex in the Afternoon’ from a new poem by Warsan Shire – will see each of the four writers reading their work alongside local guests and spoken word artists.

The tour begins at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow as part of Aye Write festival, and will come to venues in Manchester (Contact) and Leeds (West Yorkshire Playhouse), with a flagship event at London’s Southbank Centre in July. The events will also be attended by a sexologist and will include question-and-answer sessions, encouraging frank and open debate and discussion between the audience, artist and scientist.

The aim of the literature tour is to bring the themes and issues explored throughout the Sexology Season to different audiences, through poetry, including the diverse communities around each of the participating venues.

Elizabeth Lynch, producer of the Wellcome Collection Sexology Season, said: “People have long expressed their sexuality and desires through poetry and spoken word, but it is a new and exciting thing to be working on a project that combines the science of sex research with the art of literature. The results will be thrilling and we cannot wait to hear them performed live in these creative spaces across the country.”

Kei Miller, poet, academic and winner of the 2014 Forward Prize, added: “I think, for me, poetry is at its best when it reveals secrets and tells truths; especially those truths that are hidden not in darkness but in the plain light of our everyday lives. Maybe that's why I keep returning to this theme of sex and sexuality, because it seems to represent an aspect of us that is simultaneously luminous and shrouded in darkness. That's the kind of thing that really turns me on as a writer.”

Poet Malika Booker, who has recently been awarded the Cultural Fellowship in the School of English at Leeds University, also commented: “Sex, and the study of it, is a fascinating topic for poetry. So much of what we say when we talk or write about sex is raunchy or clichéd, and yet most real conversations and experiences remain taboo and behind closed doors. The 'Sex in the Afternoon' literature tour is a unique chance to explore these taboos frankly, in dialogue with amazingly diverse writers, and from creative and scientific perspectives.”

The 'Sex in the Afternoon' tour dates:

  • Mitchell Library, Glasgow, 18 April
  • Southbank Centre, London, 26 July
  • Contact, Manchester, 23 September
  • West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, 12 October

'Sex in the Afternoon' is part of an eclectic national season linking events taking place inside and outside of Wellcome Collection’s London exhibition 'The Institute of Sexology'. The Sexology Season has included three programmes in Manchester, Brighton and Glasgow, incorporating live performance, films, salons, archives, talks and literature events.

Further information, including films featuring all four writers reading their response to sexology work, and talking about what inspired them during the process of writing, is available on Wellcome Collection's website.