Artist Talk: Ellie Harrison

30 June 2020 / 18:30-20:30

Part of the Castlefield Gallery Associates programme of monthly events

Continuing our 2020 Castlefield Gallery Associates theme of Worldbuilding, artist and activist Ellie Harrison will talk about her work which seeks to make visible the connections between social, environmental and economic injustices in our world and to actively address them. The array of strategies and techniques that she has used include data visualisation, aerobics, writing, broadcasting, a workathon for the self-employed, roller derby and political campaigning.

Since launching the Bring Back British Rail campaign in 2009 – to popularise the idea of bringing our public transport networks back into public ownership – Harrison has had an interest in the relationship between art and activism, which she often sees as antithetical. In 2015, she began work to establish the Radical Renewable Art + Activism Fund – a dedicated funding stream to support and encourage more politicised practice, which has now evolved into the local pilot project: Glasgow Community Energy.

In 2010, Harrison became the first visual artist to publish an Environmental Policy. In 2016, she slashed her carbon footprint for transport to zero and made headlines with her ‘controversial’ project The Glasgow Effect. A real-life experiment in ‘thinking globally and acting locally’, for the whole calendar year she refused to leave Glasgow’s city limits, or use any vehicles except her bike. Her first book The Glasgow Effect: A Tale of Class, Capitalism & Carbon Footprint was inspired by the 2016 project and published by Luath Press in November 2019. The final part of the book chimes with the Worldbuilding theme by sketching out a manifesto for ‘The Sustainable City of the Future’, in which we can all live happy, healthy and creative lives.

In 2019, Harrison worked with Manchester Art Gallery on a new commission for their summer exhibition about crowds and protest: Get Together & Get Things Done. In an upbeat and optimistic attempt to synthesise her art and activism, she created Bus Regulation: The Musical in collaboration with the Better Buses for Greater Manchester campaign. Inspired by the 1980s hit musical Starlight Express, this celebratory piece of agitprop makes the case for re-regulating Greater Manchester’s buses and was premiered at the gallery in 28 September 2019.

More recently, Harrison has written a short essay Artist as Active Citizen – reflecting her 2016 Glasgow Effect project – to kick off A-N’s year-long research project Artists Make Change.

Free to members of Castlefield Gallery Associates; £3 (plus fees) to non-members.
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Photo credit (Bus Regulation: The Musical): Andrew Brooks