Street inspiration

Rachel Day and Gary Nutter promoting a new Streetlife art project called Hidden. Pictured is service user Gary Nutter.
Rachel Day and Gary Nutter promoting a new Streetlife art project called Hidden. Pictured is service user Gary Nutter.
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Undiscovered creative talent in Blackpool is revealed tomorrow – through a very special exhibition linked to a new publication called Hidden.

Prompted by last year’s critically-acclaimed 2011 exhibition Mass Photography: Blackpool though the Camera at the Grundy Art Gallery, Hidden exhibits words and images and poems to show another take on life in Blackpool from the perspective of its young population.

The project is part of specialist Blackpool-based homelessness charity Streetlife’s work to help vulnerable young people develop confidence, and good life prospects.

It has been run in tandem with their creative partner Open Art.

Streetlife chief executive Jane Hugo is delighted with the results and believes Hidden has revealed huge potential.

Jane adds: “The project has encouraged young people to produce some amazing pieces of real meaning.”

Through photography and poetry young people have expressed their artistic abilities – and captured the quirkiness of their Blackpool.

Acclaimed photographer Henry Iddon, who is also based in the resort, and who has photographed the charity’s milestones, guided participants in a series of outdoor workshops.

He explains: “It’s harder than most people think to see what is actually in front of you – most people glance, but don’t look.

“What is wonderful about these images is they show the young people’s ability to look carefully and observe the world around them – the subtle and quirky structures or features that are not given a second glance by those dashing around on their daily grind.”

Henry edited the publication in collaboration with Mark Lester from MARK studio in Manchester, having previously worked with him on an award-winning newspaper style publication for Manchester Literature Festival.

Henry explains: “Photography is a powerful and democratic medium, especially these days with everyone having a camera in their phone, so it’s always great to empower people to use it and express themselves.

“It’s very easy for photographers to photograph people who have had to face challenges in their lives – the photographers may benefit but the subjects rarely do.

“I enjoy giving those people the ability to do it themselves, build confidence and feel they are in control of an aspect of their lives. I always enjoy these projects and look forward to doing more. I took a skateboard down to the Prom so we could get some action shots, which was great fun”.

The pictures produced are under wraps until the official launch tomorrow, at Central Library, attended by Gordon Marsden, Blackpool South MP, and Blackpool Council leader Simon Blackburn.

The display will run until March 30 but free copies of the newspaper Hidden are also available. Words feature alongside photographs to create pull out posters.

Helen Mort, poet in residence at the Wordsworth Trust, helped would-be writers express themselves through poetry.

She adds: “Henry and I had a really inspiring two days in Blackpool at Streetlife.”

As for the young people themselves?

Gemma Taylor, 19, who wrote about freedom to accompany her image of an empty beach, says: “The project kept me occupied and I really enjoyed it. I want to carry on with writing and photography now.”

For Gary Nutter, 23, formerly homeless and helped by Streetlife, it unleashed a creativity he was unaware he had.

Gary admits: “I never considered poetry or photography before. I’m a hands-on person that likes to get involved with new projects. I’m really interested in photography now.

“I’m good at something that I hadn’t realised. Photography opens your eyes and makes you see things differently. We were always on the look out for quirks and unusual details in our surroundings.

“It was great fun. We all had a laugh and bonded because we had to work together.”

Gary turned to Streetlife two years ago when he was homeless. He now lives independently in a housing association flat.

He adds: “Streetlife motivates you to organise housing and work.”

He is still involved with activities at the charity’s base, and last year, joined the team in Wales on a four-day camping holiday, as well as a climbing trip to Snowdonia.

“The activities are so positive. You can later reflect on the memories and the opportunities you had.”

He plans to volunteer for the charity and hopes for funding to organise more outdoor activities.

Hidden was funded by the Big Lottery Fund and the Homes and Communities Agency. Rachel Day, a student on placement with Streetlife, the charity’s link with the young people, concludes: “It’s been inspirational.”