Thousands have flocked to Blackpool exhibition brought to resort from London

Empty rooms above a Blackpool coffee shop are not where you might expect to find the work of internationally acclaimed photographers.

Friday, 25th October 2019, 5:40 pm
Some of the photographers at the exhibition

But over the past few weeks, thousands of people have climbed the stairs from The Hive on Church Street to be met by an exhibition of images shot around the globe.

Contributors - who are all women - include an American female trucker, a Unicef ambassador and 10 Blackpool-based photographers.

It is estimated around 12,000 people have visited the Royal Photographic Society show since it opened at the end of August.

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Work on display above The Hive

Blackpool Mayor Coun Amy Cross is among those to have supported the exhibition, inviting some of the photographers to display work at the Mayor's Parlour in the town hall.

Now as the event draws to a close at the end of October, it is hoped to build on its success by holding further prestigious displays and even creating a permanent gallery above The Hive.

Called 'Representation on the line: unframing our identities', the show came to Blackpool from Chelsea in London, and was curated by a group of Blackpool women including Dawn Mander, Libby Nightingale and Kate Yates.

Libby said: "What we wanted to do was take art out of traditional galleries and make it more accessible, and to show you can put on a great exhibition without needing a £20,000 Arts Council grant.

The show included Q&A sessions

"We prepared all the gallery space ourselves and having the photographs unframed keeps the cost down and makes displaying work easier, particularly for women photographers who haven't got a lot of disposable income."

The group hopes the event has put Blackpool on the arts map - with many photographers having travelled from London to view it.

Material has interpreted everything from dark topics such as self-harming among teenagers and HIV in young African women, to Libby's light-hearted 'Visible Mother' images and Kate's vibrant punk rockers from Blackpool's Rebellion Festival.

Dawn said: "We've also had talks from really well known photographers, and we even Skyped one of our exhibitors who is a truck driver in America.

Some of the photographs also went on display at Blackpool Town Hall

"She was driving across Nevada, but was able to stop and answer questions from here in Blackpool which was amazing."

Libby added: "It has brought a whole new audience to Blackpool, and they are all photographers who have Instagram-ed it to death."

Among those who displayed work were award-winners such as Unicef ambassador Carol Allen-Storey and Carolyn Mendelsohn, a two-time winner of the Portrait of Britain prize.

Kate said: "Such a big and prestigious exhibition would usually never have moved out of London, but Blackpool was so well represented in the show, we wanted to bring it here."

Coun Cross said she decided to invite the group to the Mayor's parlour to highlight the resort's growing art scene.

She said: "The artists involved in Hive and the Royal Photographic Society exhibition are an eclectic and inspiring set of people.

"Many of them have amazing stories about what art has meant to them and how it has improved their lives.

"The art they produce varies in concept and style but ultimately they all have the same aim, to promote art and artists within Blackpool.

"I am proud to know and support them and I look forward to supporting their next exhibition and their work going forward."

Some pieces of work from the exhibition have been donated to be auctioned in aid of the Mayor's charities.

Jon Parks, who owns The Hive along with David Worsfold, said they now hope to create permanent gallery space in the top floor of the building.

He said: "It's another dimension to the business and towards making The Hive a destination.

"The plan is to have a business lounge with art on display, and we are also in talks with the Royal Photographic Society to have further exhibitions.

"We are trying to do something different. If this was in Manchester, it would be the usual thing, but here in Blackpool it's a bit different."