Who maps the history of a place?

Who validates the history and stories of a place?

What are the untold stories?

What is your story?

‘Place’ was an exhibition that used the processes of mapping and narrating to tell the story of Barrow’s streets. The histories, memories and collective experiences of individuals who have lived and worked in Barrow were presented through the lens of art.

By turning the spotlight onto the lives of working people beyond the shipyard, the exhibition engaged with themes such as leisure, shopping culture and the everyday experiences of those employed in sectors such as banks, shops and hair salons. It highlighted stories of ‘women’s work’, often less present in the historical record, and the vital contributions women have made to Barrow’s economy and culture.

The starting point for this exhibition was the ‘Re:discover Barrow – Lost Shops’ cultural programme (2019-2024). It was co-produced by Barrow’s cultural consortium – Art Gene, Full of Noises, Signal Film and Media and Theatre Factory – with local residents, and delivered in partnership with Westmorland and Furness Council.

Drawing inspiration directly from people’s stories, the works produced (many of which featured in this exhibition) used film, sound, visual arts and performance to capture the histories and memories of Duke Street and Cornwallis Street. Functioning as a microcosm of the wider town, the works formed a collective narrative that have meaning for Barrow’s local community now, and which will be preserved in Barrow’s archive for the future.

Building upon these works, Place, invited us to reflect on whose stories are acknowledged and considered worthy of being told? Through presenting various approaches to mapping and narrating the story of a place, the exhibition prompted reflection and dialogue around our own sense of place and how we choose to represent our surroundings and experiences. What stories would we tell? Which buildings would take centre stage in our own story telling?

Beyond Barrow, the narratives and experiences resonated with the landscapes of other industrial northern towns and high streets and their changing purpose over time. Central to the exhibition was the recognition that the true value of a place lies in its people and their stories. Validating these stories is an essential element in placemaking. To envision the future, we might say, we must first look back.

Featured artists: Artfly (Chris and Jennie Dennett), Colin Aldred, Enid Milligan, John Hall,  Kate Davis, Maddi Nicholson, Matthew Culley, Sarah Hardacre.

Click here to read more about the works on show.


















In a reflective essay for contemporary visual arts magazine, Corridor 8, Harpreet Kaur responded to exhibition in her role as an Art Gene trustee.

Read Harpreet’s article here https://corridor8.co.uk/article/place-mattersfinding-home
















The Re:discover Barrow Lost Shops catalogue

The ’Re:discover Barrow Lost Shops’ catalogue by Art Gene marked the culmination of this project. Beautifully designed by work-form, the catalogue showcases the remarkable artworks produced during the ‘Re:discover Barrow – Lost Shops’ cultural programme.

To view the catalogue click here














The catalogue was funded by UK Government, Historic England, Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with support from Westmorland and Furness Council.

Thanks to BarrowFull, Cumbria Archives, Full of Noises, Artfly, John Hall, Signal Film & Media, Theatre Factory and The Dock Museum for their contributions.

Special thanks to Helen Houston, Rory Wood, Michael Quinn, Susan Benson, the shop owners and people of Barrow, without whom this project would not have been possible.

About the Re:discover Barrow – Lost Shops cultural programme (2019-2024)

Duke Street and Cornwallis Street in Barrow-in-Furness make up one of 60 High Street Heritage Action Zones designated by Historic England across the country. In 2019, Barrow Borough Council (since April 2023, Westmorland and Furness Council) secured £1.1m government funding through Historic England for the Re:discover Barrow project, which aimed to revitalise the heritage, retail and cultural offer for the town.

As part of this, a cultural programme led by Art Gene, working alongside fellow arts organisations Full of Noises, Signal Film & Media and Theatre Factory, and in partnership with Westmorland and Furness Council and Barrow Archives Centre, engaged local communities to hear their experiences of Duke Street and Cornwallis Street. Over four years, Re:discover Barrow – Lost Shops produced artistic responses to those stories, with select works featured in the exhibition.

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