St Georges Hall - Liverpool - 2018
St Georges Hall
For DaDaFest International, 2018, Simon McKeown, artist and Director of the Invalid Carriage Register, took two Invalid Carriages to Liverpool, U.K. One found pride of place in the historic St. George’s Hall in the city centre.
Tucked away in the basement of St. George's Hall, Liverpool, is a stone-floored gallery space made up of 4 rooms with a broad connecting corridor. In November 2018, artist Simon McKeown filled the majority of this space with an exhibition of images, photographs, film and an art installation. A significant proportion of this material had not previously been on public display.
In one particular room, Simon recreated a 1960’s living room, complete with china cabinet and garish wallpaper. Two articulated, life-sized steel figures were posed with tablets instead of faces. Images flickered across the screens. An extraordinary invalid carriage called the Argson Electric was placed in the centre with a bright red swathe draped across the footboard. A digital projection magically appeared on the visor attached to its pram-style hood. Visitors were prevented from entering by a barrier across the doorway.
The Argson had made its way from North Yorkshire in the back of a van. It had to be wheeled down the cobbled service road at the back of St. George's Hall by a group of 6 burly volunteers, on the promise of a pint. They had to deftly and gently negotiate the vehicle up and down a series of steps, too. As humorous as this might sound, it was a very nerve wracking experience for transporting and installing these vehicles. They are rare and historically important. The fact they can so easily be picked up with the engine still intact also hints at how lightweight and vulnerable they were. But it was worth it.
In the few days that Simon and his volunteers spent on site, a number of people came forward with stories of disabled friends and family members who used invalid carriages. They were also reminded that a whole generation have grown up without ever knowing what an invalid carriage is. A young woman who was one of the first visitors to the St. George’s Hall exhibition summed it up.
She said, “That is s-o-o-o cool!”