North London Food & Culture

Santa’s Wife’s Grotto: York Way’s art installation of ‘feminist joy’

New art collective Sisterland has just launched an alternative festive project in an ex-barber shop

Been up on York Way recently? A new feminist art collective have been working night and day in recent months building an art grotto of “feminist joy” in an ex-barber shop, right at the top of Camden Mews. And it’s handily near the awesome Halfcut Market, no less (read our review here), should you fancy a glass afterwards.

So what’s it all about? “We started by imagining what would happen if Santa’s wife woke up one day and decided to build a grotto of her own, realising she’s had enough of being somebody’s sidekick,” says co-founder Eleanor Cartwright. “On Saturday, we welcomed our first visitors and invited them to enter the fantasy portal to discover the untold story inside of themselves.”

If you’re worried this all might be a tad pretentious, Cartwright reassures us it’s a “pop-up, grassroots creative project offering an immersive experience but with a serious point to make.”

Enter the cave. Photo: Saffy Paget

The voyage of discovery starts via “a stunning walk-through festive vagina”, she says. “You make your way through a magical cave (pictured above), into an inner secret chamber to spend around ten minutes listening to the soundscape. Visitors are invited to bring their “chosen family” and consider their own artistic response – whether that’s writing an alternative letter to Santa or creating their own imagery.


The all-female team behind the grotto includes Naomi Feld, designer and prop maker, Taïr Almor, ceramicist, artist and designer, Jo Walker Bates, artist and designer. And not forgetting, the woman behind the beard, “an icon in the making”, they say.

Inside the Grotto. Photo: Saffy Paget

A full programme of events includes meeting Father Butchmas, tarot readings, and artist-led workshops for ages 16+ (from creating a glitter clitoris bauble to festive badge making). Brighton-based artist Lydia Reeves is taking over the grotto on December 7th and 8th to run body casting sessions which encourage female body acceptance and celebrate “vulva variety”.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but we all know by now how much of the work is done by women while a bloke in a beard sits around merrily taking the credit,” says Cartwright. “So this year join Santa’s wife leaving the North Pole to start a new community.”

A Grotto of Her Own is a fundraising kickstarter to run a permanent centre for feminist art and thought in London. 10% of grotto proceeds will go to Nia, a local charity who deliver services to end violence against women and children.

Saturday 25th November – Saturday 6th January. A Grotto of Her Own, 167 York Way, London N7 9LN. Grotto entry is £6. Workshops start at £12 including grotto entry. Fridays 3-9pm, Saturdays & Sundays 12-6pm. Follow @AGrottoOfHerOwn

Main Image credit: @patheticgirl63 Saffy Paget. Sisterland is a brand new and experimental space for women to think and create.

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The award-winning print and online title Kentishtowner was founded in 2010 and is part of London Belongs To Me, a citywide network of travel guides for locals. For more info on what we write about and why, see our About section.