Monday, 7 March 2011

Used to say I’m running away but I never actually got round to it

This collection of street art made by young carers in Warrington asks questions about how we care for each other as humans – and if the cost of caring is the freedom to be yourself.

A group of 8-11 year old carers collaborated with arts organisation arthur+martha at Warrington Art Gallery to create these subtle self-portraits, combining graffiti, poetry, collage, paints, ink. They name friends, fears, cares and freedoms – some of them buried, some of them harshly written across a face or inscribed in the heart. The pieces have been placed in Warrington’s indoor market, a familiar hangout for young people dodging rain and boredom.

Kitty and self portrait

Kitty Bland’s two pieces contrast a curled up introvert with a jumping skyrocket of a girl. Ryan’s firework-minded thinker is held to earth by a chair, his head in the exploding stars. 

Ryan and self portrait

Len’s basketballer is a teamplayer, but strives for individual glories. Lauren’s cross-legged image looks at us full in the face, while her eyes are masked and with her free hand she texts a message elsewhere. Luke Hall’s laconic bystander shimmers within his outline, can’t be pinned down – but at his centre is a ‘fireheart’.

Luke's Fireheart

Complementing the figures are self-portraits as training shoes – half-drawn, half-written customised trainers that give fragments of the makers’ lives and interests. But the shoes are also a means of escape – they are literally the method needed to run away. Some of them carry fragments of fearfulness or anger, and have been hacked to pieces. Others are joyous celebrations of the artists. On one set of training shoes is written the title of the show, a passing comment made by one of the young carers -  ‘Used to say I’m running away but I never actually got round to it.’

Used to say I'm running away...

At the information desk in the market, poems bottled like pickles can be requested – they describe emotions as trapped animals, wriggling to get out.
This exhibition was commissioned by Warrington Art Gallery as a response by local young people to the street artist ELBOW-TOE whose work has recently been exhibited in the gallery. ELBOW-TOE said of the collection 'These are awesome!' Warrington Young Carers partnered the project, which was directed by artist Lois Blackburn and poet Philip Davenport, arthur+martha. 

Kitty's customised trainers

Derek Dick, Museum Operations & Development Manager at Warrington Museum and Art Gallery  said 'I am so pleased with the responses and the work that everyone has put in. This group has really benefited from the whole experiences. It does put life into perspective.' You can view photos of work in progress and the final installation at

Thanks again for all of those people who volunteered their time and help, particular thanks to Derek, Sarah, Louise and Melanie, and all those from the Warrington Youth Federation. We are grateful to the parents and children at Hayfield Primary School, who kindly donated so many trainers, as materials for customization. 

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