A touring exhibition of multi-media contemporary and historic art will visit three venues in the north of England. The exhibition promotes an important story, that of the Altounyan children, an Anglo-Armenian family from Aleppo, Syria who were the catalyst, inspiration and models for the iconic children’s book Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. He later denied their involvement, so their subsequent iterations in film and TV have been ‘quintessentially English’, their multi-ethnic background forgotten.
Contemporary works in paint, digital prints on aluminium, textworks, bookworks, objects, audio and film will be shown. A collection of extraordinary historic portraits will also give a snapshot of family characters that appear in the book Swallows and Armenians. From the Guzelian family collection these paintings are by three artists from the family: WG Collingwood, Dora Altounyan and Mavis (Titty) Guzelian.
An audiobook narrated by Persia Babayan-Taylor, daughter of the artist, can be previewed in this exhibition and will be available to download through audible.com. A professional and versatile actor-musician, Persia also co-directed Swallows and Armenians & Us! (2019) at Theatre by the Lake, Keswick.
An artist's talk and Circle of Life dance event dedicated to survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in recognition of the work done by the Altounyan Hospital and family in Aleppo to help to save lives, will be led by Shakeh Major Tchilingirian, a renowned dance artist. These events will accompany the exhibition at each venue:
19th Feb-15th March - The Old Fire Station, Carlisle, Cumbria CA3 8QP. Talk and circle dance on Sat 7th March, 2pm. Open Wed-Sat 10am-4pm; Sun 12-4pm.
1st April-31st May - The Maritime Centre, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, NE64 6DB. Talk and circle dance Sat 25th April 2pm. Open Mon-Sat 10am-5pm; Sun 11-5pm. (Please call +44 1670 811951 before you travel, as the room is also used for other events).
4th June-18th July - Queen's Hall Arts Centre, Hexham NE46 3LS. Talk and circle dance Sat 6th June 7pm. Open Mon-Fri 10am-5pm; Sat 10-4pm.
Swallows and Armenians is also a book of short stories that brings the family's language, food, culture and characters to life. It explores their relationship with Arthur Ransome evidenced through diary extracts and letters from public archives, conversations with family members and collection curators. The book is available online from: www.karenbabayan.com