The acclaimed Sunny Bank Mills Art Gallery at Farsley in West Yorkshire is hosting an inspiring exhibition exploring the frontiers of parenthood during lockdown.

Lullabies In Lockdown, which runs until the end of the month, is a group exhibition showcasing the work of several local, national and international artists who became parents during the Covid pandemic.

The show explores how illustration can be used to make topics accessible: to document, share, unite and advocate for those having lived an experience. It intends to uncover quieter or untold stories around navigating parenthood during the pandemic as well as celebrate the tender moments, precious times and lives of the babies who stayed at home.

It has been curated by illustrator and Leeds-based creative academic Beth Duggleby, who had originally exhibited at Sunny Bank Mills three years ago, before the birth of her daughter Bonnie. The show that Beth has created is one of stories of parenthood, or birth, of babies born and lost, of adoption and of children some people chose not to have.

The show is part of a larger creative research project for Beth in which she explores how illustration can be used to make topics accessible.

Explaining the inspiration behind the exhibition, Beth said: “If you draw prolifically and are interested in telling stories, then it’s unlikely you wouldn’t draw and write about the event that probably consumes you at the time. Especially in the pandemic.

“I was led by curiosity. What else had people been making? What other sketches, poems, images and stories had the illustrators been producing during their isolation? I was also curious to see how jobbing illustrators – who maybe don’t talk about their lives so much – had translated their own lived experience and through which different methods.

“The exhibition is a celebration of being able to bring people back into a room and back together. It is interesting bringing toddlers into a gallery, of course. But it’s been great; I’ve never seen so many babies and families in a gallery.”

Beth approached a number of artists with whose work she was already familiar. However, it was important to open up the conversation to as broad an audience as possible. So an open call was posted on Curator Space, which led to further exhibitors, the majority of whom were birthing mothers.
Jane Kay, Curator and Arts Director at Sunny Bank Mills, who has collaborated with Beth in hosting the exhibition added: “We designed an engagement programme for this exhibition which we are delighted to say is supported by funding from Leeds Inspired. This has enabled us to deliver workshops, including family ones in half term, and events at an affordable price for all, supporting both the artists that deliver them and the general public to access them at a time when it is needed more than ever.”

Beth and the gallery also used some of this funding to commission Steph Jefferies, a local artist and former studio holder at the mill, to design a play space within the gallery. This incorporated play into the gallery, including fitting a Wendy house doorway and window frame directly into the exhibition walls, together with a range of activity boxes and soft play furnishings, inspired by stories in the show. Steph has also done work for the acclaimed Hepworth and Tetley galleries.

Lullabies In Lockdown is part of an overall exhibition called Vessel, which is an imaginative investigation into the form and function of vessels through 2D and 3D visual art and craft, events and discussion.
Lullabies In Lockdown features work from Nele Anders, Jenna Lee Alldread, Ruth Batham, Pia Bramley, Lizzie Bhushan, Charlotte Dryden-Kelsey, Beth Duggleby, Isabel Greenberg, Jessika Green, Matthew Hodson, Kim Jihyun, Lorna Johnstone, Sabba Khan, Benjamin Mills, Kate Pankhurst, Bryony Pritchard, Alice Socal, Joanna Spicer and Lilly Williams.

A full programme of workshops and talks on the themes of the exhibition have been running throughout October and closing events at the end of the month will include an artist Q&A, a meet and greet for parents and a musical evening of contemporary lullabies.

Lullabies In Lockdown runs until Sunday October 30 at the Sunny Bank Mills Art Gallery in Farsley, near Leeds LS28 5UJ. Opening times: Tuesday-Saturday 10-4, Sunday 12-4. Closed on Mondays. Entry is free.