The University of Manchester

Exhibition delves into the hidden tales of teenage girls in 1960s Britain

Teenage Kicks, a fascinating new art exhibition inspired by University of Manchester research, reveals the vibrant and dynamic lives of eight young women who navigated the tumultuous cultural landscape of 1960s Britain.

The exhibition will be on display until Saturday 18th May at Glasgow Women’s Library and online.

The inspiration behind Teenage Kicks stems from research conducted by Penny Tinkler, Professor of Sociology and History at The University of Manchester, whose work illuminates the youth experiences of women born between 1939 and 1952 in Britain.

During this era, societal norms underwent significant shifts, impacting all facets of young women’s lives and signalling greater recognition of women’s equality with men. This transformation was evidenced by a rise in female enrolment in further and higher education, women’s active involvement in trade unions, and their advancement into a variety of careers. Additionally, personal life was reshaped by the contraceptive pill and easier access to divorce.

The stories of these eight young women are vividly depicted through the intricate illustrations of Edinburgh-based artist Candice Purwin. Her artwork delves into their daily lives as they navigate school, work, and relationships amidst a backdrop of a changing Britain undergoing significant social and political upheaval.

The exhibition explores how these sweeping societal changes impacted individual lives, highlighting disparities in career opportunities, financial security, and family planning. Many faced obstacles such as family responsibilities, societal expectations, or challenging relationships that hindered the fulfilment of their teenage aspirations.

Reflecting on the project, Candice Purwin, the illustrator, animator, and graphic novelist behind Teenage Kicks, remarked: “Illustrating Teenage Kicks provided me with a unique opportunity to bring to life a transformative period in British history for women and girls. The stories shared by these eight women are rich in detail and experiences that challenge the stereotypes of teenage girls we often see. I am thrilled for the exhibition to share this history with a wider audience in such an iconic setting.”

Caroline Gausden, Development worker for Curating and Engagement at Glasgow Women’s Library, added: “At Glasgow Women’s Library, our mission is to celebrate the lives and accomplishments of women and champion their contributions to society, making Teenage Kicks a valuable addition to our diverse programme. This generation of women has played – and continues to play – a significant role in shaping Britain since the Second World War. We hope visitors of all ages enjoy the exhibition, regardless of whether they recall the sixties themselves!”

A workshop linked to the exhibition will be held at Glasgow Women’s Library on 18th April 2024.

Teenage Kicks is part of the University of Manchester’s Girlhood and Later Life project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

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