“As humans we need real life connection.” Girl Gang Manchester on Everything I Knew, I Felt
Get set for a Girl Gang Manchester takeover of The Lowry in Salford. The collective is curating the sixth Edit in The Lowry Galleries, the Everything I Know, I Felt exhibition. The Edits series gives artists and performers a space to develop previously unexplored ideas in a gallery setting.
Northern Soul talks to Megan Marie Griffith, artistic director and executive producer of Girl Gang Manchester, about the upcoming exhibition which celebrates the emotional experiences of womxn and explores collaboration, confidence and community.
Northern Soul: Tell us about Girl Gang Manchester and how it started.
Megan Marie Griffith: We’re a group of artists, activists, academics and party instigators. We produce accessible, fun and meaningful events including immersive film screenings, creative club nights, exhibitions socials and online projects. Girl Gang started in Sheffield in 2015 and was founded by my best friend of 20 years, Ellie Ragdale, and Vanessa Longley who met and felt Sheffield was a bit of a boy’s club creatively. They launched a manifesto which centred on developing meaningful events for women in the city. They kicked off with an immersive screening of Mean Girls which sold out in days and established the collective as something with a life beyond this event.
Having been involved as a co-producer for Girl Gang Sheffield since the start, I founded Girl Gang Manchester in 2016, also launching with a sell-out screening of Mean Girls for Wonder Women Festival. The collective has grown organically through a group of friends and collaborators with Kaz Scattergood moving from Sheffield to Leeds in 2017 and launching a Girl Gang there, too. Girl Gang Manchester is made up of existing friendships and people who started as strangers wanting to get involved and are now part of our core team of friends and collaborators. Long may it continue to blossom. We host participatory and inclusive workshops and parties that are all about skill-sharing and learning. When you come to one of our events, you’re joining our gang.
MMG: We were approached by The Lowry after we hosted an immersive screening of the 90s classic film Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion at the arts centre. Julia Fawcett, the chief executive of The Lowry, invited me in for a meeting in 2018 to discuss an immersive female artist-led exhibition for creatives who don’t normally exhibit. From this, we secured a three-week platform to exhibit at The Lowry and that coupled with a grant from the Arts Council enabled us to curate a programme of brilliant artists and share our vision with the wider community.
I’d had the title in my head for a while and as Girl Gang is all about living authentically and being emotional, I thought, ‘why don’t we explore women’s emotions?’ I feel generally in society we’re getting worse at developing people skills and conveying feelings and connecting, so we wanted to create an exhibition that taps into expressing emotions. We have always been influenced by the intensity of teenage life and wanted to showcase pieces which reflected that passion. Remember how strongly you felt about music, and love in those teen years? Those are the kind of raw emotions we want to tap into with this exhibition plus many, many, others.
NS: What’s the theme of the exhibition?
MMG: The exhibition will include a range of work that will encourage visitors to reflect on and debate the perception of womxn’s emotions within society. It’s experimental and insists in three forms – work made by the core Girl Gang team, projects we’ve commissioned to collaborate with our wider creative community, and artists with existing work we’ve approached to feature. It’s all made by womxn in their 20s and 30s but aimed at people of all ages and gender identities. It’s all about emotional lives. There’s a bit of swearing but it’s generally appropriate for all ages.
We wanted to develop an exhibition that drags people off the internet and into real life. Our aim is to create a community. We want to get people in a room to make real connections. People can come and look around, start discussions and interact with others. We feel you can trick yourself into believing you’re more connected than you are because we’re all so busy on social media. As humans we need real life connection. The exhibition reflects our events. It’s creative, interactive, centred around the audience’s experience, encourages personal reflection and connection between viewers.
MMG: It’s an experiential event and a step in a different direction for The Lowry. Considering it’s an exhibition and within a gallery setting, it is so much more than art on walls. Come down with family or friends to explore a diverse range of experiences and perspectives.
The exhibition includes 22 different artists and 20 different projects, many of which are multifaceted, participatory or installation pieces. We’ve got everything from a film about hormones, to an interactive exhibit where you can bring items to smash, in a cathartic way, which explores when things don’t go to plan, a ‘fake it till you make it’ piece about our online personas developed by poet Jackie Hagan, and a red tent which explores womxn’s spaces, stories and the colour red.
We wanted to create a dedicated area for reflection, debate and discussion which felt different from other exhibitions. Our aim is to appeal to a new audience. From the get-go, we’ve set out a statement of intent and, as you enter the exhibition, you’ll see The Cloakroom by Jenny Gaskell which begins by asking you to check in any literal or ‘light emotional’ baggage.
NS: We hear you’re hosting a launch party. How do we get an invite?
MMG: Our opening party on March 13 is different from most other exhibition launches and the public can sign-up for free tickets. The event will be ambitious with live performance panels, drinks, a DJ and various theatrical happenings throughout the night. We’re at The Lowry for three-and-a-half weeks and we’re excited to be able to call this creative space home for longer than we’re used to. You can check out Facebook for updates.
NS: What other events can we expect from Girl Gang Manchester in 2020?
MMG: We’re looking forward to collaborating with the NHS on a project at Manchester Communications Academy which is all about developing self-confidence for teenagers. Plus, we’re planning some big theatre projects including an all-female Shakespeare play and, of course, speed mating which takes place every few months.
Edit 06 Girl Gang Manchester: Everything I know, I Felt opens on March 14, 2020 with an opening event on March 13. The Edit will run until April 5, 2020. For more information, click here.
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