Nous sommes toujours là is a podcast that looks at what Montreal’s older sex workers know about its built environment. It is part of La Ville Extraordinaire, a multifaceted research project that looks more generally at what Montreal’s seniors know about our remarkable city.  This project was led by the equally remarkable Dr. Cynthia Hammond of COHDS.

Nous sommes toujours là’s collaborative community partner in this project was Stella, l’amie de Maimie, Montreal’s sex worker rights organization, internationally renowned for its creative community outreach. We chose the podcast format because it provides a space for voices that have been “voiced over” in the media for so long, while offering the privacy sex workers might need when discussing issues that touch them which remain stigmatized and criminalized. Unlike so much media about sex work produced by non-sex workers, which focuses on scandal and corruption, we sought to record our histories and knowledge of Montreal’s built environment, what we remember about the strolls, stages, clubs and parlours we worked on and  in, many long gone and so often viewed through through the lens of immorality in the public record. Of course we are not naïve. We know that any conversation with our community about “taking up space” means talking about how we are criminally legislated in it. But this was not the focus. Our lives exist beyond the images and reports of us being arrested, victimized, or framed as vectors of disease. What transpired were fascinating conversations about Montreal,  as seen through the eyes of the women who contribute so greatly to its international reputation as a “city of sin” but are so rarely recorded speaking firsthand on this.

The image I am sharing is of a towel produced by Stella for the organization’s 25th anniversary celebration. I will leave it to your imagination as to why towels are important to sex workers! Also featured are the matchbooks we produced for our community podcast launch. Matchbooks are vital to sex workers, or they were, “back in the day”. We used them to light our cigarettes when we could smoke in the club, of course, and importantly, to count our dances when we were doing table dances for clients. You can hear all about this in the “Nicole” episode of the podcast!