Exhibition explores the untold stories of teenage girls in 1960s Britain

Teenage Kicks, a captivating new art exhibition based on University of Manchester research, unveils the vibrant and dynamic lives of eight young women who navigated the turbulent cultural landscape of 1960s Britain.

The exhibition will run until Saturday 18 May at Glasgow Women’s Library online.

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

During this period, societal norms shifted dramatically, affecting all’aspects of young women’s lives, and heralding greater acknowledgement that women were equal to men. This transformation was evidenced in a surge in female enrolment into further and higher education, women’s active participation in trade unions, and their inroads into a wide range of careers. Meanwhile, personal life was being reconfigured by the contraceptive pill and increased accessibility of divorce.

The stories of the eight young women have been brought to life through the detailed illustrations of Edinburgh-based Candice Purwin. Her illustrations explore their everyday lives as they navigate school, work and relationships against the backdrop of a Britain undergoing huge social and political change.

How these large societal changes impact on individual lives is a key theme of the work: while many of the girls leave school with more qualifications than earlier generations, they do not all’have the same chance of a good career, financial security or family planning. Often, family responsibilities, societal expectations or difficult relationships with partners or parents mean that teenage dreams are cancelled, or put on hold.

At the heart of Teenage Kicks lies a poignant exploration of aspiration as a catalyst for redefining young femininity. During this era, girls were encouraged to embrace opportunities for exploration and self-discovery, yet these newfound freedoms often came with inherent risks. Teenage Kicks combines data from our interviews with women now in their seventies and eighties with Candice Purwin’s insightful illustrations. It’s been great to see these stories come to life and we can’t wait for people to come along and visit.

Candice Purwin, the illustrator, animator and graphic novelist behind the Teenage Kicks exhibition, said: "Illustrating Teenage Kicks gave me a rare and unique opportunity to bring to life a deeply transformative period of British history for women and girls. The stories these eight women shared with us are rich in detail and experiences that deconstruct the teenage girl stereotype we are usually shown. I’m excited for the exhibition to bring this history to a wider audience and that we get to share the work in such an iconic space."

Caroline Gausden, Development worker for Curating and Engagement at Glasgow Women’s Library, added: "Our mission at Glasgow Women’s Library is to celebrate the lives and achievements of women and champion their contribution to society, so Teenage Kicks is a great addition to our busy programme. This generation of women, has played - and is playing - a huge part in how Britain has changed since the Second World War. We hope that visitors of all’ages enjoy the exhibition, whether or not they remember the sixties themselves!"

There will be a workshop linked to the exhibition at Glasgow Women’s Library on 18 April 2024.

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