Print from Shy Bairns Believe It Or Not, currently exhibiting at The Grundy gallery in Blackpool. A3, metallic silver risograph printed on slate colorplan. Edition of 200.
In March of 2024, Shy Bairns were asked to investigate a suspected supernatural phenomenon that occurred in Blackpool in 2020. We have spent the last year exploring the events in the lead up to the disappearance of Johnny Highland in 2020. Through investigations into his digital footprint, belongings and correspondence we have been able to piece together some of the details, which we now present in an installation of our research hosted by The Grundy. The material in this installation is presented in its original condition. In our line of work we do not draw final conclusions, but aim to explore and detangle the overlapping truths in order to gauge a deeper understanding of the complex circumstances that lead to paranormal happenings.
In 2020, COVID-19 struck and galleries across the world had to be closed down. During that time, they sat empty, waiting, vulnerable. Only a reduced number of staff members were allowed access to these spaces during shortened hours. The Grundy was one such institution.
The Grundy’s curator, Johnny Highland, spent time at the gallery during lockdown to work on online programming and future projects. Sometime between the 17th and 23rd April 2020, Highland disappeared. In early 2021, the gallery issued a press release stating that Highland had taken early retirement and moved abroad. Now under new management, The Grundy reopened the case in 2024, hiring a number of specialists to investigate.
In the lead up to the events of that April, we have found that Highland was carrying out his own investigation. Previously overlooked, his research forms the basis of our examination into the events surrounding his disappearance. Highland’s collections and documentations of bizarre happenings around the gallery implies this story is more complicated than was initially suggested.
Prior to The Grundy commissioning professional investigators, a number of locals became interested in the case of the missing curator. A few amateur investigations took place but no public conclusions were made and the research went unreported and undocumented. As part of our inquiry, and keen to use the knowledge of these local experts, we have gathered material from two of these investigations. They provide a deeper context to the happenings of 2020, and give us more evidence on which to base our ideas.
We would like to thank The Grundy for funding this research. Thanks also to Maggie B. and Jack [Redacted] for loaning their personal investigative materials.
(!) All claims are disputed by The Grundy and may not be based on fact.