The Age Of Love: Festival of The Mind


The Age of Love: Festival of the Mind at The Art House.

The Age of Love is a collaboration between Dr Sharron Hinchliff, Reader at the University of Sheffield, and Sheffield’s very own Pete McKee who is known for his distinctive style and evocative images. It opens at The Art House on 20th September and runs through to 30th September.

The Age of Love is part of Festival of the Mind which is a celebration of the University of Sheffield’s world-class research. It showcases collaborative projects by academics from the University and artists from Sheffield’s creative industries.
We spoke to Sharron:

Art House: What is the exhibition about?

Sharron: The aim of our exhibition is to present a visualisation that encourages people to think about intimacy and sexuality in relation to older adults. We know that relationships are central to life, and one of the most important ones we have is that with our intimate other. But stereotypes about older age can interfere with sexual expression and enjoyment; they can also prevent older adults from receiving appropriate help for a sexual concern.

Art House: Why should people visit it?

Sharron: As well as to view Pete’s fantastic artwork, there is an important underlying message: that the sexual rights of older adults should be taken seriously. I’ve carried out research in this area since 2001 and come across many instances where the sexual rights of older adults are not being met due to lack of awareness, absence of resources, and restrictive social attitudes such as ageism. Ageism is one of the biggest challenges in the UK and there is evidence that it can badly affect our health and well-being. Ageism tends to be ingrained and hard to shift, and many argue that it is the most socially tolerated form of discrimination. Sexual expression and activity are predominantly connected with young people, so this area is tends to find itself subject to ageism.






Art House: Is it just an exhibition about older people for older people?

Sharron: Because we want to raise awareness about the sexual rights of older adults, the exhibition is suitable for young adults to the oldest old. A large part of this work requires us to make efforts to change social attitudes towards older age, so collective action is required. Small steps matter, and we can all make a difference.

Art House: Not a lot of psychology research ends up represented by artwork – why did that seem a good choice for this subject?

Sharron: This is a growth area and we’re seeing more and more collaborative projects between psychologists and artists. It’s a great way to communicate and engage with the public. The Age of Love exhibition promises artwork which allows entry into the taboo, enabling conversations to be had minus the embarrassment that is associated with this sensitive topic. By doing it in this way, we aim to make the invisible visible, and get people talking about the sexual rights of older adults.

Art House: And why Pete McKee? What made his style the best choice to accompany it?

Sharron: Pete’s style meant that he was the perfect creative partner for my research. The thing I love about Pete’s work is that you can identify with it on so many levels: the depiction of everyday life, the way he captures the feeling of the moment, the subtle humour. It was a real privilege to work with Pete on this hugely important topic. I’ve been working in this area for years, and Pete has long created art that depicts close, interpersonal relationships so it’s a great match!

Art House: Do you think that art / artists have a role to play in raising / changing awareness of these issues?

Sharron: Artists play an important role in helping to raise awareness of topics such as this. Their creative projects can be very powerful, and encourage us to think about issues in a different way to the written word, including academic publications. It’s great to see collaboration between academics and artists and that’s why I love the whole ethos behind the Festival of the Mind.

Sharron’s new book (covering this topic in more depth) Addressing the sexual rights of older people: Theory, Policy and Practice is out now. You can get 20% off at Routledge with the code FLR40.