Q & A with Megan & Kirsty from Girl Gang Manchester ahead of the opening of their exhibition at The Lowry this week.
Q – Can you tell me a bit more about Girl Gang Manchester?
Megan Marie Griffiths (MMG): Girl Gang Manchester is a fluid collective of artists.
Kirsty Morrissey(KM) : Party instigators.
KM : Academics.
MMG: And we exists to produce an event series of fun and meaningful events which bring people together to skill share, learn…
KM: Collaborate, make new friends.
MMG: Be the best version of themselves over debates, discussions, and dance floors. So, so far we have done…
KM: oh it’s hard to summarize. But we have done immersive film screenings,
MMG : Exhibitions,
KM: We’ve got speed mating. Which is one of our big events that allows people to make new friends in this kind of setting, which can be lonely.
MMG: We also do workshops. We do creative club nights, which have included everything from a Mother’s Day Disco with women from age 20 to 80 on the dance floor. To a slumber party with a bra-less midnight pillow fight.
KM: We had See My Selfie, which was a project we ran over several years. But started with a month long, online community projects where we had women sending in their selfies and response provocations. And we’ll be reviving that as part of the exhibition.
MMG: We’ve done all sorts. It’s basically mad things we dream about and somehow make happen through a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, and laughter. A lot of glue guns and cutting and sticking in each other’s living rooms.
Q – How did you come up with the concept for your Edit. Exhibition?
MMG: So the Edit is quite unique in that they don’t give you any brief. It is an artist lead exhibition series. Which is the dream really.
KM: Yeah. It’s quite rare that people come and say like have this amazing space.
MMG: Do what you want. So we were like, sweet! But then also that is quite scary. We are all about a good name. I just had a project name rattling around in my brain for a while. Which is Everything I know, I’ve felt. Originally which I thought would be a piece of theatre. And we kind of kept on coming back to that. Yeah the more we thought about it, the more it seemed to exemplify what we do as a collective. Which is about empowering people that have self-knowledge. That their feelings are valid, and through recognizing your own feelings you can interact with the world in a healthier way. And like encouraging people to be really open and unashamed, with their heart on their sleeves with their passions and frustrations, and to reach out to other people to connect. So we thought a lot of what we do actually comes back to how powerful feelings are and how we can kind of utilize them.
KM: And then when we approached with that theme, it quickly came back and was like oh I’ve got this thing I’d love to do around that. So it felt like something a lot of people were interested in exploring.
Q – Tell us about the artists who are involved with the exhibition, how did you come to work with them?
KM: We’re really excited that we’ve got so many really exciting artists as part of the exhibition with us. Girl Gang is definitely more than us. And it’s a really big fluid collective of women in Manchester. And a lot of the people who are involved in the exhibition are people who have worked with us on previous projects. As a DIY collective we’ve not generally had funding, and any of those perks before. And we’ve really built this community based on like there being so many talented, generous women who’ve given us all their time and skills. So we’re really excited when we got like this big opportunity. That we could like involved those women again.
MMG: So I think curatorially it’s been important to us to reflect the diversity of different art forms existing in like the Manchester scene, and different identities and life experiences. So we’ve tried to curate with that in mind as well. But yeah most of the artists that are part of the exhibition are people who have worked with us already, previously.
Q – How important was it that your work is inclusive?
KM: We’re a collective and we’ve got many voices that are a part of our group. And it was really important for this exhibition to represent that. We’ve got our own lived experiences but we really wanted to make sure that this exhibition represented a range of women in Manchester. And their identities, and their backgrounds, and their lived experiences. Especially if they’ve done such a personal theme of emotion.
MMG: Yeah, there was no way we could cover that within our own lives. And I think not only does that exist in the curating of which artists we’re presenting. A lot of the pieces that we’re presenting, that we’re making and the artists are making actually have widened up to the whole Girl Gang community. So we’ve done Survey Monkeys and people have donated clothes. And people have donated items that are going to be part of our teenage bedroom instillation. It really is like a reflective of like Manchester, and women in Manchester, beyond just artists as well. So yeah it was really important for us to be inclusive in terms of the programing, and in terms of who we want to attract to the exhibition. We wanted to reach people beyond those who just go to all galleries and exhibitions. We want it to feel quite different.
KM: We’ve got some brilliant young women from 42nd street who are doing the tent cover during the exhibition and really making the space their own. That was another important point for us. Is that once the exhibitions up and running we’re still trying to get more people involved.
MMG: We’re trying to be as inclusive as possible in terms of how people interact with the exhibition. So for example if there is something that is very text heavy, they’ll be an audio version of that as well. Everything’s going be wheelchair accessible of course. But also again trying to attract people beyond the “art world”. Everything will be very participatory and fun and we’re really trying to have something for everyone.
Q – Why should people go and see the exhibition?
MMG: People should come to our exhibition because it’s not really going to feel like an exhibition. Well it’s going to feel like more than an exhibition we hope. A lot of it is very interactive. We’ll be asking you about how you feel and what you think. But there’s also a lot of space to just feel and respond emotionally. We hope that it will provoke discussion and not just be people walking around looking at art on walls. A lot of is immersive booths, experiences for one or two people at a time. There will be a red tent that is built that you can go inside, a shoes off experience
KM: Everything you could ever want at an exhibition, we’ve got it! And if you think you’re someone who maybe thinks that like these sorts of places aren’t for you. Or that art on a wall exhibitions aren’t your sort of thing. Then that’s not what this is. So don’t let that put you off. But also if you think, maybe you’ve seen it all before…
MMG: You haven’t!
KM: You haven’t. We really hope that we’re saying something new or saying it in new ways.
MMG: We are potentially opening the exhibition with Carly Rae Jepsen lyrics and Mean Girls quotes, so you know it will be quite pop cultural. And also there will be surrounding events programs so if you don’t want to just come and walk around a gallery space. You want to come to do something, there’s activities and live performances, music and drinks.
Q – Can we expect some Girl Gang-esque parties?
MMG: Yes we’re really pleased to be doing a whole program of events around our exhibitions. Never one to under work ourselves. So we’re going to have a really amazing launch party. And generally, launch parties for exhibitions are private views, not here my friends! We’re opening it up to the public, and there is going be a DJ, panel discussions, live performances of poetry and dance.
KM: All the discussions when we’re planning the party have been like how loud can we make the music before it becomes like completely destructive? So I think it’s a party first, then launch. And we’re really excited that we’ll have almost all of the artists who’ve made their pieces there. So you can chat with them about the art and what it is. But also a lot of their taking what is a self-guided, or static piece most of the time and bringing it to life during the party. So it’ll be like turbo charged!