Tuesday, 11 April 2017

A delightfully unexpected encounter with Claire Hignett

Earlier in the year I signed up to participate in a Practice Makes Practice weekend event organised by The NewBridge Project in which NewBridge members could engage with a group of artists from Islington Mill, Salford. Unfortunately the event had to be cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances, but it is due to be rearranged in the future. After doing some research into Islington Mill, I had ear-marked it as a place to visit.

Last week I made a visit to Manchester for a variety of art related events, and ended up spending most of my time in Salford. As I waited for entry into the exhibition at ArtWork Atelier, I got talking to a woman who was also waiting to see the exhibition. It turned out that I was talking to Claire Hignett, an artist with a studio at Islington Mill who had also intended to attend the NewBridge Project/Islington Mill weekend event earlier in the year. Claire kindly offered to show me around Islington Mill (see earlier blog post) http://helenshaddock.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/islington-mill.html and introduce me to her work.

Claire writes,

"I am fascinated by the effect time has on memory. How memories start to fragment and merge with others. How, as we move through time and gather new experiences, our perception of our memories changes. I am particularly intrigued by the way we attach memory to objects and how we keep things that are broken, useless or were cherished by someone else to try and hold on to our memories and to stop them fragmenting any more."

In 2012 Claire began working on a project "to find out more about a group of Basque refugee children who came to Salford following the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War."

In June 1937, 4000 Basque children arrived in Southampton as refugees and were dispersed around the country in “colonies”. One of these colonies was in Salford at Harold’s Memorial Orphanage, now demolished but only five minutes walk from Claire's current home, and they were taught at the Local Quaker Meeting House, now a British Legion building just a little further on. Claire mentioned the children to her friend’s Mum (age 83) and she was delighted to be asked. She remembered being 9 years old and leaving hospital after a bout of mumps. She went with her friends to look at the refugees because “we thought they would be exotic but [we] were dead disappointed because they looked just like us!”

Claire is in the process of preparing for her exhibition at Ordsall Hall from July 18th to 24th September 2017. Her exhibition will be based on the story of the Basque Children in Salford. "Finding stories in old newspapers and talking to people who still remember them, she will create the exhibition to tell this hidden story."

While in her studio at Islington Mill I saw some of the work that she has been developing for the exhibition, and I look forward to going to see the end result in the Summer.

For more about Claire's work visit her website:


and her blog:


Claire is a member of the Islington Mill Art Academy, "a peer-led experiment into alternative modes of art education. Founded in 2007, IMAA emphasises shared responsibility, and its nature changes with its membership, with each member bringing their own ideas and energy. Within IMAA there is no differentiation between professor and pupil, and there are no set courses, but rather a shared propensity to learn and to strive for understanding. The group seek out and utilise the resources which they can find around them, and employ 'art method' towards diverse, and not necessarily artistic, outcomes. Whilst the nature of IMAA is fluid and subject to change, it is always crucial to share ideas, and to embrace the skills and knowledge of members."

For more information about the Islington Mill Art Academy visit:

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