‘Blackpool is a town alive with personality’

New curator at the Grundy Art Gallery, Richard Parry.
New curator at the Grundy Art Gallery, Richard Parry.
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Richard Parry, curator at the Grundy Art Gallery, begins a fortnightly column.

I first visited the Grundy around a year ago. I remember thinking immediately what an extraordinary setting for art this was: the beautiful Edwardian gallery with its generously proportioned spaces and unusual heating columns.

I was drawn to its history – the gallery’s collection and that busts of its two founders still stand proudly astride the entrance. But what really struck me about the place was the town itself, and why this made sense as a place for making and showing art.

Blackpool is a town alive with personality. It has invented itself.

It has constructed its identity from the sand up: where else would think of building an enormous tower but then also add a ballroom and a Circus too? This is without even mentioning the giant entertainment castle fantasy-land that is the Winter Gardens, or the magic of the Illuminations or the Pleasure Beach.

This spirit of invention, of being given space to explore, discover and author who you are, is exactly why art, and contemporary art, is so exciting for me in Blackpool.

Contemporary art is about asking the questions: what is art? What is culture? What is a collection and what is a gallery? It’s about having a space for re-imagining the limits we set ourselves: of who we are, what we can do and how we can see the world around us with fresh eyes.