Making Memories at the Ashton Memorial: Lancaster students hold charity art exhibition

In an exhibition that promises to highlight the differences between ‘living’ and ‘existing’, a faceless baby made from a ripped up library book, reaching out into the middle distance, is a slightly alarming centrepiece.

The Mechanical Man, prominently positioned in the middle of Lancaster University Making Memories society’s LIFE: An Exhibition, accurately manages to reflect the striving for identity and sense of place that the other pieces on show also depict.

LIFE: An Exhibition took place at the Ashton Memorial in Williamson Park last weekend, and featured work by second year art student Joel Chan (creator of the eerie Mechanical Man) and local amateur photographer Chris Pilcher.

Held by Lancaster’s Making Memories society, the exhibition sought to show difference between living and existing, and used juxtaposition of photography and drawing in an attempt to “play on ideas of personhood and what it means to be a human, highlighting the difference between our perceptions of strangers and the real lives they have.”

It was the illness of Chris Pilcher’s wife Elaine and her sad death in January this year that inspired the formation of the Making Memories charity, after family friend Gail Neville, who works in recruitment at Lancaster, found that there was no charity in existence that set out to support the children of terminally ill adults.

With Elaine’s nine-year-old son Harry in mind, Making Memories was set up last year with the purpose of providing lifelong memories for children who are about to lose their parents. It wasn’t long before student groups were established (at Lancaster and elsewhere) in order to bolster the charity’s efforts in fundraising and awareness.

In order to establish itself fully, Making Memories needs a sustainable annual income of £5,000 — and around £4,000 has been raised by the charity so far.

The LIFE exhibition, which was attended by the Mayor, pushed the charity closer to its target — as well as keeping Gail’s promise to Elaine to hold an exhibition of Chris’s work, in order to ensure he continued with his photography after her death.

The Ashton Memorial, built between 1907 and 1909 as a monument to the wife of a prominent local industrialist, served as a fitting venue in which to hold the exhibition.

Chris’s photography makes full use of the local area, focusing mostly on the coastlines of Blackpool and Cleveleys and instilling a clear sense a sense of calm.

Joel, who hails from Doncaster but has Hong Kong heritage, uses questions of identity (what makes a piece of art Chinese? Is it the materials used, the image created, or the artists themselves?) in his art. The weekend was the first time his work had taken centre stage in an exhibition.

The juxtaposition of both artists’ work offered new insights into each, which would probably never have come to light had they been exhibited on their own — Blackpool pier, for example, when placed within a context of Chinese ‘identity’ pieces and those using calligraphy as a primary focus, begins to look unexpectedly eastern.

Lancaster Making Memories group’s President, Mathew Gillings, says: “Everyone knows someone who has unfortunately been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and many of us have seen first-hand the huge impact it has on families. We aim to create a positive memory that will act as a legacy for the young child; something that will stay with them forever. I think it’s an incredibly important task, and being part of that process is an honour.”

Aside from the LIFE exhibition, Making Memories is also encouraging students to get involved in the 1 in 100 challenge — an initiative in which students raise a minimum of £70 in any way they like. Fundraising ideas so far have included a Valentine’s Day afternoon tea, and a ‘Zumba-thon’ in March, which raised over £300.

To find out more about Making Memories visit the website here, or follow the society on twitter @M_MemoriesLU

LIFE: An Exhibition will be showing in Morecambe and Cleveleys over the summer.

Originally published at