A transformer robot created from a Ford Fiesta by Jarman Award winner, Hetain Patel, will feature in a show-stopping exhibition exploring Covid culture.

This weekend, Wigan Council will open the second year of the borough’s five-year plan, The Fire Within, which celebrates local, regional and international artists and sees part of the town’s shopping centre, The Galleries, transformed into a performance and cultural venue.

The exhibition will embrace technology, creating a digital world for visitors to experience.

Called ‘We Will Always Be Together’, the show will be unveiled on 19 September and Hetain Patel will display his impressive transformer robot, which he created with his Dad using his first car.

This will be the first time the robot will be showcased in the north of England.

Hetain said: “Right at the heart of my work is accessibility, especially to those who are intimidated by galleries and museums. When I think about where I grew up in Westhougton and nearby places like Wigan, I wouldn’t ordinarily think of them as hubs for contemporary art, which is why I felt so inspired when I heard about The Fire Within and how supportive the council has been of the work.

“The robot was a project I thought of initially to spend more time with my Dad – it was about connecting, which is a key theme of The Fire Within show.

“I like to explore fairness, freedom, equality and marginalised identity in my art, and that’s what the transformer embodies.

“Using my first car was symbolic freedom – it was the first time I was truly independent. And, although I’ve always been a fan of transformers, robots are outside of race and ethnicity, so it was another way to exercise freedom.

“Creativity is a really human trait. We display creativity every day, even if art isn’t involved. The Fire

Within encourages this and it’s amazing to be involved in such an inspirational energy for Wigan.”

The exhibition will cover six formerly vacant shopping units and will explore social media and the computer age. Historic influencers from the region will also be celebrated in an ICONS room, including LGBTQ rights activist and founder of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, Allan Horsfall.

The installation has been curated by international artists and Wigan Borough residents Al Holmes and Al Taylor, who have been key in making the borough’s cultural manifesto a reality.

This will be the third installation they have delivered on behalf of the council since May 2019.

They said: “The digital age has created spectacular Hollywood superhero visions which have inspired superfans around the world.

“Hetain’s work explores superhero fantasies in extraordinary waysIn his Jarman Award winning film, The Jump – which will play at the show – he becomes Spiderman in his Grandma’s living room, applying the awe-inspiring slow-motion techniques of a Marvel movie to capture our imaginations about his own family heritage.

“This show is going to be a wonderful homecoming for Hetain who is now a celebrated international art star and we are really excited to welcome him and families to come and see an amazing collection of his work in Wigan.”

The exhibition will be officially open to the public from Thursday 24th September but closed tours will take place at a low-key launch event on Saturday 19th September due Covid-19 restrictions. Members of the public can preview the exhibition early for two hours between 1pm and 3pm on Saturday 19th September.

Following the opening, visitors will be expected to wear face masks and to social distance when in the space. Hand sanitising stations and one-way systems will be in place.

Speaking about the decision to open up the gallery to the public again, Councillor Chris Ready, cabinet member for culture and communities said: “For the last couple of years, our teams have been working really closely with the borough’s cultural organisations, freelance artists and other creative professionals in order to create a 5-year plan that will bring arts and culture to the forefront of people’s minds.

“Our focus last year was on bringing people together and transforming the previously vacant shopping units into a ground-breaking social space.

“Due to the pandemic, our approach has had to change this year. Our second theme was always going to be Digital Wigan and with the current climate, this focus is actually more important and relatable than we ever would have thought.

“This new exhibition will explore how technology has the power to bring people together in many ways. And, we have a lot of exciting art works and artists being featured. You don’t want to miss it!”


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