Manchester International Festival: Joan Hargreaves project

Manchester's Unsung Heroines event
Manchester’s Unsung Heroines event at Halle St Peter’s
Today I was lucky enough to take part in the Manchester International Festival 2017, helping to create Wikipedia pages for Northern women whose achievements deserve recognition but who currently have low digital profiles.

As part of the ‘Unsung Manchester Heroines‘ event, I was tasked with producing a Wikipedia entry for artist Joan Hargreaves, working live on stage during a panel discussion. Joan painted beautiful portraits, landscapes and still-lifes, but the story of her life appears to have gone largely unrecorded.

An internet search turned up two wafer-thin biographies, with conflicting information about her date and place of birth. There were some bald details about where she studied and exhibited. And that was all. A visit to Manchester Central Library on my way to the event turned up not one mention of her in their catalogue.

However, one source offers a striking glance at this shadowy figure – an online gallery of her paintings, held in a special collection by the Manchester Metropolitan University.

There’s no accompanying biography, no added information about artworks. Just the paintings and their titles. They are enough to confirm she’s well worth discovering and remembering. One of them, teasingly, is titled ‘the unknown woman’.

My challenge is to turn her into ‘the known woman’. Here is my first draft of the Wikipedia entry. In the coming days I hope to expand this after getting in touch with the Manchester Art Gallery, the Whitworth Art Gallery (where she exhibited) and MMU.

Joan Hargreaves
1921–2007
Joan Hargreaves was an English artist best known for vibrant portraits and figures, as well as landscapes and still-lifes. She was born in Lancashire and studied at the Manchester School of Art and the Royal College of Art from 1946 to 1949.

She was a member of the Manchester Society of Modern Painters in the 1950s and exhibited with them at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. She has also exhibited her work in London.

Forty-seven of her paintings are held in a special collection belonging to Manchester Metropolitan University.

Unsung Manchester Heroines was organised by Future Everything. Panelists were Ashleigh Talbot, Martha Chastney Smith and Joeli Brearley of Pregnant Then Screwed. The host was Natalie Kane and the producer was Callum Kirkwood. The Manchester International Festival runs until 16 July 2017 and you can find information on events here.

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