A mother walking slightly ahead of her son. She is smiling at him, while he looks a bit disgruntled. They are walking on a road in front of a bricked wall, painted red, with two patches of lighter red coloured paint. She is stylishly dressed in a long skirt and loose jacket, with fabulous pink, wedged heeled sandals. The boy is wearing a bright red t shirt, denim shorts and dark trainers.

Polly Braden | Holding the Baby

Saturday, 19th February 2022 to Sunday, 29th May 2022, 11:00 to 18:00
Exact end date to be confirmed

image:  Barbeline and Elijah, Holding the Baby, London 2021, Polly Braden. Courtesy of the artist


Holding the Baby is an exhibition of new photographic work by artist Polly Braden, creating a portrait of the strength and resilience of single parent families facing austerity.

Inspired by a United Nations report by poverty expert Philip Alston in 2019, which stated that single parents have been hardest hit by austerity measures in the UK, Braden began an extensive participatory project. The resulting photographic portraits and interviews highlight the lived experience, challenges and strength of single parents facing austerity.

With help from charities, law firms, community hubs, and arts and women’s organisations, Braden has been working with a number of single parents (several based in Bristol) over the last two years, including Fran, Jahanara, Charmaine, Aaron, Barbeline, Caroline, Gemma, Carike and their families to represent each of their stories.

The collaborative photographs (some taken by the parents themselves, once the camera was set up, during lockdown) encapsulate the families’ sense of adventure, optimism, creativity, ambition and resilience that transcends, the often difficult, situations faced.

Journalist Sally Williams has interviewed the parents and excerpts from these conversations are displayed alongside the photographs, whilst writer Claire-Louise Bennett has created a word collage with a wider group of single parents, sharing their reflections on ‘the favourite thing in their home.’ These are accompanied by often difficult to read data from statistician Rob Minto who has looked at what it means to be a single parent in the UK today.

The original exhibition concept has been curated by Sinéad McCarthy at Museum of the Home where the exhibition opens on the 12 June 2021. The show will tour to Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool, in October 2021, and Arnolfini in 2022.

The project has collaborated with selected public institutions, including The Idea Store, Whitechapel, The Hive, Shropshire, Liverpool Libraries, and Baraka Community Cafe, Bristol, where a pop-up version of the exhibition will also take place.

The project has received funding from Arts Council England and Grain and Behind the Door (a campaign in partnership with the London Homelessness Collective) and has been supported by:

Gingerbread, a charity supporting single parent families to live secure, happy and fulfilling lives, offering information, support and advice about contact, maintenance and benefits.

CPAG (Child Poverty Action Group) who work on behalf of the more than one in four children in the UK growing up in poverty.

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