Fremantle Biennale 2023

In August of 2023 I received an email from an Australia based sound artist called Rebecca Riggs-Bennett asking for assistance on a project she was working on with her mum Rachel Riggs for the Fremantle Biennale 2023.

Both Rebecca and Rachel are Lancashire born and bred and moved to Western Australia in 2010. Rachel had completed her masters in fine art at UCLan, predominantly focusing on research into Horrockses textile industry and cotton mills. Their new project together planned to look at another part of Lancashire’s history – the Lancashire Cotton Famine and the deportation of Lancashire women to Walyalup (Fremantle), Australia in 1863.

They’d seen a video I’d created about Helmshore cotton mill in Lancashire and asked if I could assist them with some original recordings of the sounds of the machines. It was an honour to assist them and these sounds are now layered into an audio visual artwork they created for the Fremantle Biennale 2023 called ‘So Once You Were Here They Had You’ .

Fremantle Biennale 2024
Fremantle Biennale 2024


The beautifully produced project can be viewed here on YouTube.

Close to the submerged remnants of the Fremantle Long Jetty, an immersive re-telling of arrival and separation will unfold.

‘So once you were here they had you’ is an experiential audio-visual poem to the 50 young cotton-weaver women who arrived on the shores of Walyalup, journeying by ship from Lancashire over 110 days and nights in 1863. Created by electronic music composer Rebecca Riggs-Bennett and video artist Elham Eshraghian-Haakansson, this work takes place across Bathers Beach, re-tracing the steps of the women and the many others of the “Bride Ship” era.

So once you were here they had you is a reflective honouring of the time swept experiences of these women. Cross with us into an immersive, at times ghostly, real and imagined narrative of migration, loss and departure. – R. Riggs.

A promotional image for 'So Once You Were Here They Had You' // credit Elham Eshraghian-Haakansson
A promotional image for ‘So Once You Were Here They Had You’ // credit Elham Eshraghian-Haakansson

Original research, dramaturgy & collaboration: Rachel Riggs
Animator: Jarrad Russell
Dramaturgy & Co-Designer: Rachel Riggs
Narration: Angeliki Georga & Phoebe Georga
Featuring poetry of the Lancashire cotton famine (1861-1865) by University of Exeter and audio recordings by Catherine Hill and Helmshore Mill.

For further information on the project please visit Rebecca’s website.

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