Protest of Identity

Protest of Identity

A new arts project in Sefton challenges young people to use photography and fashion as a tool for championing social and environmental rights, and explores how images can be used to agitate.

Open Eye Gallery has been working with long-standing collaborators New Beginnings youth group, The Atkinson (Southport) and two new artists in residence, Ocean Farini and Sally Gilford on Protest of Identity. Together they worked to produce their own series of fashion items which has culminated in a public exhibition at The Atkinson (1-29 October 2022)

For this new project, a group of young people called New Beginnings who are from in and around Bootle, came together to talk and create in a space they knew well. Originally formed before the start of the COVID outbreak, the New Beginnings youth group decided to focus on a previous exhibition at The Atkinson, Westwood, as the starting point to explore the role of fashion and photography in society today.

The exhibition celebrated the design work of Vivienne Westwood, one of the last independent global fashion companies in the world. Westwood continues to capture the imagination and raise awareness of environmental and human rights issues through her work.

However, lockdown brought many challenges for the group and eventually the original youth group moved on – opening up the opportunity for a new group of young people to begin exploring the project Protest of identity.

Protest of identity is all about exploring the potential of the politics of textiles and clothes, how we can use them as tools for expression and change, as well as questioning when these things blur the lines between fashion, sculpture, and political statement. What is possible when we use them as a medium for our own private protests for things that matter to us?

Sally Gilford, artist, said:

“Working on this commission with Open Eye Gallery has been a brilliant opportunity to connect with SPACE in Bootle and gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a young person navigating their own personal journey in the world today.

Through the exploration of contemporary issues that are relevant to them, we have used a variety of hands-on, creative processes and techniques to translate ideas and conversations into a bold manifesto.

The group have been open in sharing their fears, anxieties and hopes which has led to discussions around the profound impact of social media on body image, identity, and mental health. Yet through all of the many complexities and challenges that these young people face, there is a sense of resilience, strength, and courage that we feel has informed an honest and impactful body of work.

Our hope is that this exhibition fosters a sense of connection and understanding for young people visiting The Atkinson and beyond.”

Sue Logie, Youth worker for the New Beginnings youth group, said:

“I’m excited that we as an organisation and group get to work alongside the Open Eye Gallery team and The Atkinson again, this will be our 4th project with Open Eye Gallery!

It has been great to see the young people growing and being passionate about what they want to raise awareness about, to see their creativity again. Coming together and looking at working in a different way than we ever have before and to work with two really exciting artists”

Sefton New Beginnings, a group of young people dedicated to tackling youth social issues, have taken on the challenge of creating their own photography, fashion garments and a public programme of events. Through these, they have sought to highlight these issues whilst also having explored positive solutions to current environmental and human rights for the next generation, questioning what role can fashion and photography play for our future?

Artist Ocean Farini said:

‘’This commission with the Open Eye Gallery and SPACE Bootle has been an amazing chance to share and explore ideas around fashion, expression, protest and all the things in-between. It’s been really interesting to be in conversation about things that are so relevant to this group of young people RIGHT NOW – issues or images that are impacting them in the media, the use & changing nature of language around bodies and identity. It’s also been eye opening to see how little some things have changed when it comes to the same old rhetoric around body image – the pressure & pursuit of ‘perfection’. I’m optimistic that the work and conversations that the young people have started, made, designed in these sessions will reflect, speak and SHOUT about some of these personal ‘Protests of Identity’. I hope their accessible DIY feel & honest statements will resonate with other young people going through this wild ride of navigating youth identity & expression in 2022.’’

Protest of Identity is a project partnership between Open Eye Gallery and The Atkinson and is supported by Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Access and Participation Fund.


Ocean Farini

Ocean’s practice works in and around themes of class, value, home and humour. Through a mash-up of photography, clothes and collage, she seeks to question and offer an alternative to mainstream representations of what’s ‘normal’; exploring truths about our ideas of success, gender and happiness.

Sally Gilford

Sally is an artist, maker & creative producer specialising in print. She creates bold, vibrant designs inspired by humans and nature and is interested in creating site specific work celebrating heritage and identity.

Working with researchers from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Matrix Research at The University of Manchester, she explores connections between art and science, creating distinctive responses to original images of scientific research. Her fabric designs incorporate both hand printed and digital processes.

As an educator and socially engaged practitioner, Sally has worked for over 10 years across a diverse range of settings including internationally recognised galleries, museums, cultural organisations and in schools. Through her work as a practitioner and producer, she facilitates the exploration of multi disciplinary art forms to encourage self-expression; creative experimentation and process led artistic collaboration.

She teaches a programme of workshops and public courses from her studio at Islington Mill in Salford where she co-founded screen print specialists One69A in 2009 and Salford Makers in 2017.



We work to create, share and champion photography as a way to communicate, collaborate and learn.

We’re actively rethinking what a contemporary gallery can be. We produce exhibitions, long-term social collaborative projects, publications, festivals, and university courses — locally and worldwide. We welcome over 85,000 visitors to our gallery every year, over 200,000 to projects in other venues, and many more to our online spaces. We proactively take risks to spark crucial conversations and enable creative expression.

We’re taking a lead on socially engaged photography nationally. Bringing different voices, photographers and communities together, we establish projects where the collaborative process is just as important as the final product.

As much as possible, our staff, space, online channels and networks are open and free for people to use. Our open processes and platforms make it easy to contribute to and co-author our programme.

Photography is a tremendously powerful way of bringing different cultures into conversation together. We work with local residents and international partners to support representation, empathy and inclusivity.


Paul Hamlyn Foundation was established by Paul Hamlyn in 1987. Upon his death in 2001, he left most of his estate to the Foundation, creating one of the largest independent grant-making foundations in the UK. Our mission is to help people overcome disadvantage and lack of opportunity, so that they can realise their potential and enjoy fulfilling and creative lives. We have a particular interest in supporting young people and a strong belief in the importance of the arts.


Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.


The Atkinson is Southport’s home for music, theatre, art, literature and history. We offer an exciting and varied destination for families, cultural tourists and arts enthusiasts alike, with a full day and night time offer. Significant investment has been made in refurbishing our stunning 19th century buildings to create a welcoming and accessible multi art-form venue with a strong contemporary feel. Our traditional Theatre and dynamic Studio space present an outstanding programme of music, comedy and performing arts from some of the UK’s foremost musicians, actors, performers and companies. The Atkinson is also home to an impressive collection holding over 3,500 artworks and over 25,000 pieces of social history, which are displayed on rotation across our museum and galleries. The regularly changing exhibition programme presents work from our collection as well as contemporary art, family friendly and thematic exhibitions delivered in partnership with other cultural organisations.


New Beginnings is an LGBT youth group which caters for 11 to 19 year olds. The group aims to provide a safe space for young people to socialise and learn life skills. Open Eye Gallery and New Beginnings have worked together on collaborative photography projects for a number of years.


Posted on 1 October 2022 under Exhibition

Share your comments