The Bystander Effect by Alison Lowry

Golden Thread Gallery are delighted to announce Alison Lowry ’ s upcoming exhibition in the Project Space, The Bystander Effect .
The culmination of two years of research, The Bystander Effect examines the role that we, as a society, had in allowing an ‘ architecture of containment ’ to develop in Northern Ireland. Here, ‘architecture of containment’ describes the physical infrastructure and systems used to incarcerate women and children in eighteenth and nineteenth century Ireland, including industrial schools, Children’s ‘homes’, Mother and Baby Institutions and Magdalene Laundries.

Within these religious and state run institutions, women and children were hidden in plain sight, ostracized and ‘othered’ by society. The ‘shame’ that the unmarried mother brought to her family (and the complicit) wider community meant that after delivering her baby in secret, the mother was frequently coerced into signing her baby to be adopted or placed into a children’s home.

Attempting to exhume this recent past and its subsequent intergenerational trauma, Alison Lowry examines the recently published report ‘Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries in Northern Ireland’. In The Bystander Effect a sculptural piece of found objects questions whether survivors of these institutions will ever get the justice they deserve, whilst suspended sculptural objects, video and sound explore the ongoing suffering of the birth mothers.

The focal point of the exhibition is an interactive installation of glass and ceramic objects and a documented performance. This installation engages with the research of Forensic Archeologist, Toni Maguire, who spent four years working in the Bog Meadows in Milltown Cemetery in Belfast, and conservatively estimates that 36,000 babies and children are buried there in unmarked graves. According to church records the burials took place between the 1930s and 1990s. Interred in the Bog Meadows are stillborn babies, who were considered unsuitable for burial in consecrated ground, and children from various children’s homes in Belfast, at least some of whom would have been transferred from Mother and Baby Homes in Northern Ireland. In response, Lowry staged a peaceful protest at the gates of Milltown Cemetery creating the performance They all had names .

About the artist:
Alison Lowry is a glass artist living and working from her studio, ‘ Schoolhouse Glass ’ in Saintfield, Northern Ireland.
In 2009, Lowry graduated from the University of Ulster with a degree in Art and Design. She has won numerous awards including first place in the category, ‘ Glass Art ’ at the Royal Dublin Show in 2015 and 2009, the Silver medal at the Royal Ulster Arts Club ’ s Annual Exhibition in 2010, the Warm Glass Prize in 2010, 2011 and 2017.

Lowry exhibits both locally and internationally and her work is held in several public collections; the National Museum of Ireland recently acquired the exhibition currently on display at Collins Barracks in Dublin : (A)dressing our hidden truths and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland made a fifth purchase for their collection.
Solo exhibitions include: (A)Dressing Our Hidden Truths , National Museum of Ireland, 2019; The New Wallace Collection , RSpace Lisburn, 2018; (A) Dress , Millennium Court, Portadown, 2017; To Contain: An exploration of the vessel , Framewerk, Belfast, 2016.



The Golden Thread Gallery

84-94 Great Patrick St,




Opens Thursday, 5th of August and runs until the 11th of September.

Tuesday to Friday, 11am to 5pm and Saturday 11am to 4pm.



Advance booking is not required. Please see website for full details of how to plan your visit.


COVID latest: 

Face masks are required. Visitor numbers are restricted to 30 at a time, sanitiser stations and a one-way system will be in place. Please check in at reception on arrival, contact details will be taken for track and trace. 


All events are run independently. Please contact event organiser with questions or for more information.

Contact info and social media links:

028 90 330920




As COVID guidelines may change between now and the time of each event please check back for updated information, or contact the event organiser directly. Stay safe!

Event Details

Start Date: August 5

End Date: August 31

Location: Co. Antrim

Type: Exhibition

Price: Free

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