Lancaster researcher’s art exhibition a hit at Edinburgh Fringe

Dr Leighanne Higgins speaks to the audience at the launch of the Marketplace and I at the Edinburgh Fringe. She is stood in front of exhibits, with arms gesturing as she talks.

A Lancaster University academic’s art exhibition, bringing together works from individuals and groups with different types of disability, proved a big success at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Hundreds of visitors flocked to enjoy The Marketplace & I: Commercial Experiences of Disability Explored Through Art at the Whitespace Gallery as part of the world’s biggest arts festival, one that attracts artists, musicians, comedians and dramatists from around the globe.

Curated by Dr Leighanne Higgins, from Lancaster University Management School’s Department of Marketing, The Marketplace & I includes paintings, dance routines, sculptures and a vast array of other artworks depicting disabled people’s experiences of the commercial world.

The show, funded by the Marketing Trust, was shortlisted for Neurodiverse Review’s Visually Impaired Excellence Award, following a four-star review from the group. It was one of four finalists, from more than 200 disabled-led shows. The award was won by Pippa Cleary, the composer of Rob Madge’s autobiographical musical tale My Son’s a Queer.

Dr Higgins said: “It was an amazing honour to be shortlisted for the Neurodiverse Review Award. To be included in the top four from among hundreds of eligible shows and performances is a wonderful accolade, and highlights that the exhibition is a leader in disability arts and inclusion.

“We never expected to be shortlisted, it is brilliant to see how the outputs of a university research project can be recognised with such an honour at the Fringe.”

Neurodiverse Review’s review of the show said: “[Dr Higgins’] curated exhibition, has, with sense of foresight, let disabled people themselves design, create and set their own agenda.

“The Marketplace and I is an essential collection of artwork from our community.”

All the works in The Marketplace & I have been created as a result of Dr Higgins’ research project exploring the experiences of people with a disability, their parents and carers, across retail, hospitality, tourism and care services.

Dr Higgins has been working closely with people living with disability as well as disability support groups and charities from the North West of England, East Anglia, Hertfordshire, Wales and other areas since the project began in 2019.

Among the works on display in Edinburgh were those by Piccadilly Support Services, from Lancaster, who work to provide support for people with autism, and Unique Kidz & Co, from Morecambe, who work with disabled children and young people to provide play and social activities.

Among the 400-plus visitors and 100-plus tours during the Fringe, Dr Higgins welcomed Jeremy Balfour, Scottish Conservative and Unionist MSP for the Lothian Region.

The works have previously been displayed in Lancaster at the Bay Health Festival. The Covid-19 pandemic meant the Fringe exhibition had been delayed for two years.

The next chance to see The Marketplace & I will be at the Lancaster University Library Festival, which takes place on September 23rd and 24th. The artworks will also be on display at the North Lancashire Business Expo, at Lancaster and Morecambe College, on September 30th.

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