Reflections at Castlefield Gallery New Art Spaces: Chester

12 September 2023 — 3 October 2023

Window display at Castlefield Gallery New Art Spaces: Chester, Grosvenor Shopping Centre, St Michael’s Square
12 September – 3 October 2023

Open Eye Gallery exterior wall and cafe area
29 September – 23 December 2023

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on all of us, transforming the way we live, work and socialise. Open Eye Gallery and Chester and Cheshire West Council are working with residents and communities from across the borough to reflect on this time and preserve their thoughts for future generations in a project called Covid-19 Reflections.

Artists and photographers have been working with communities to capture their experiences in four themes. For the ‘lost voices’ theme, Open Eye Gallery commissioned photographers Ciara Leeming, Sam Ivin and Tadgh Devlin to work with groups whose stories are seldom heard.

Ciara Leeming has been working with Gypsy and Traveller women and girls. She worked with seven contributors – mainly within their homes, and, in one case, in a school. Over copious cups of tea, they discussed their experiences. They looked at family photos, made portraits, developed captions from recordings of their conversations and produced a project zine bringing all of the individual stories together.

Meanwhile, using portraiture, staged imagery, video and audio recordings, photographer Tadhg Devlin has captured the diversity of experiences and views on life for those living rurally during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Whilst some felt particularly isolated in their setting, others felt their industries were protected through initiatives like the furlough scheme. The project has resulted in two artworks: a photographic series co-designed and produced with young people from Malpas, mirroring their day-to-day experiences of lockdown, and a video piece representing a range of collective rural voices.

Sam Ivin works closely with adult and young unpaid carers, meeting with people through supporting charities Carers Trust and Chesire Young Carers to deliver a series of initial participatory photography workshops.

Sam has been returning to meet with individuals from the groups to capture beautiful portraits, each decorated with key quotes from the participant, reflecting their experience over this time.

The work will also do a tour for a final one-day event on 23 October at the Theatre Porto in Ellesmere Port.

Image: Ciara Leeming, Sian.