Thumbs Up

24 January 2020 — 8 March 2020

Artists: Michael Beard, Frances Disley, Harry Meadley, and Leslie Thompson

Castlefield Gallery and Venture Arts present Thumbs Up. The gallery will be reimagined by the four artists
as a place of research and learning, conversation and exchange.
Responding to the physical spaces of the gallery the artists have developed the scale, materials, and methods of their work over a seven month
development period during which they worked alongside eachother using Studio 53 at Venture Arts.

Working closely with the University of Salford has also expanded the project to
incorporate expert advice on topics including; botany, energy efficiency, psychology, and
horticulture in the development of new work for the exhibition.

The audience will activate the space and encounter works in new and unexpected ways. The artists
have been working alongside each other and this time has helped them to find corresponding themes in their work  such as
connections in popular culture, travel, movement, and use of colour. These meeting points will
shape way the works interact in the gallery, creating a welcoming and enveloping intervention in the
depths of winter.

Thumbs Up marks the latest development in a partnership between Castlefield Gallery and Venture
Arts. One strand of the collaboration, alongside the Whitworth, was recognised by the 2019
Manchester Culture Awards winning the award for Inspiring Innovation. Both organisations are
deeply invested in offering sustainable residency and professional development opportunities for
early-career and learning-disabled artists in the North, and committed to improving inclusion and
accessibility in the arts. Following the exhibition a selection of work developed by each of the artists
will enter into the permanent collection of the University of Salford Art Collection.


The Thumbs Up programme included an artist-led tour and a panel discussion on Saturday 1 February 2020.

Panel discussion

Artists Frances Disley and Harry Meadley, took part in a panel discussion with academic and technical experts from the University of Salford who have advised and contributed to the development of the exhibition; Dr Catherine Thompson, Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology, Michael Lomas, Lecturer in Environmental Psychology, and Professor Philip James, Professor of Ecology. Please find below a Soundcloud link to a recording of their discussion.

Dr Catherine Thompson
Catherine is a Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology. Catherine’s research focuses on visual cognition and her main areas of interest include how viewers focus their attention effectively and the factors that influence what captures their interest. More recently Catherine has been investigating “cognitive enhancement” and “cognitive restoration”; the concepts that it is possible to improve mental processing and performance using exercise and by engaging with natural environments.

Dr Mike Lomas
Mike is interested in the individual experiences of attachment to place and mental health, in the context of neighbourhood regeneration. His current research seeks to develop a greater understanding of the relationships between people and place during periods of change, and the impact this may have on psychological well-being.

Michael is a lecturer in psychology at the University of Salford. He is also currently completing his PhD with Sustainable Housing and Urban Studies Unit, where he has also contributed to several projects as a research assistant.

Professor Phillip James
Phillip has developed an expertise in ecosystem ecology and urban ecology. In addition to his teaching and research activities he leads the Ecosystems and Environment Research Centre within the School of Environment and Life Sciences, investigating how the processes of natural variability and man-made change work. The Centre’s research helps partners to deliver responsible environmental management for multiple benefits such as conserving wildlife, understanding the consequences of environment and climate change, and recognising the opportunities offered by urbanisation.

The discussion offers a unique insight into the experimentation, research and process behind the new exhibition Thumbs Up, in consideration of the insight and expertise they have drawn on to influence the work they have produced and the methodologies and theories that have shaped the exhibition presentation.

Venture Arts is a progressive visual arts organisation based in Hulme, Manchester which strives for
learning disabled people to engage with and be recognised in art and culture. The organisation work
alongside artists to create and show new visual artwork. They would like to see a cultural landscape
where people with learning disabilities reach their potential as artists, curators, critics, audiences,
participants and advocates. Venture Arts showcase the work of its artists locally, nationally and
internationally. Venture Arts is part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio and is a Cultural Partner of
Manchester City Council 2018-22.

University of Salford Art Collection contains almost 700 works of modern and contemporary art,
and exists for the benefit of students, staff and the public. It is accessible in key buildings across the
University of Salford campus, and is loaned to other arts organisations and museums. The collection
is distinctive in that it has an active acquisitions policy focused on three collecting strands: ‘About
the Digital’, ‘From the North’, and ‘Chinese Contemporary Art’. Most acquisitions are developed through strategic partnerships with external exhibition and commissioning collaborators such as Open Eye Gallery, Castlefield Gallery, Salford Museum and Art Gallery and AND Festival.

Commissioned by

      University of Salford Art Collection    

with special thanks to Castlefield Gallery Commissioning Patrons

Curated and produced by


Supported by


Castlefield Gallery Exhibition Supporters

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