31st August - 30th September 2019, The Hive, Church Street, Blackpool
In a major coup for Blackpool, Arrested ReDevelopment is currently staging the Royal Photographic Society's exhibition "Representation On The Line : (Un)framing Our Identities" which features the works of the RPS Hundred Heroines - 100 female photographers. It premiered in London a couple of months ago to great acclaim. What perhaps raised some eyebrows is the fact that seven of the photographers all live in and around Blackpool and the Fylde Coast, so it was only natural that the exhibition would be staged in the heart of Blackpool. I'm good pals with most, and know Dawn Mander and Kate Yates very well - they've been mentors for me as a photographer since I relocated here last year and have huge love and respect for them. They're part of Arrested ReDevelopment who recently opened a new gallery space in Blackpool called appropriately "It's A Gallery" and they're tirelessly working away to show what Blackpool truly has to offer in the world of Art and Photography, all the while promoting Blackpool in a positive light.
They spent most of August working away upstairs in the Hive, an artisan coffee shop on Church Street conveniently placed between the two theatres in Blackpool town centre. It's a place I frequent regularly, proving to be a popular hub for local creatives. ReArrested Development have been hosting monthly exhibitions on the cafe walls, but this project is of an epic scale. There are two upper floors which have not been used before which are in a rough and ready state. Much work throughout August went into transforming it into a space to contain this important exhibition and it opened with a fanfare on Saturday 31st August.
I paid a visit on Monday 2nd September where I explored the first level. It was so engrossing I spent over an hour just on that level. I did head up to the second level but felt so overwhelmed and emotionally drained by what I'd seen, it was impossible for me to digest any more and give the work a fair viewing, hence a second visit was vital. It is very very rare I visit an exhibition and become so engaged... I tend to walk through them, look at what catches my eye then move on. Utterly impossible in the case of this one as everywhere one looks there is something completely different to draw you in.
So, today (6th September) I returned to take in the second level which again took over an hour to take in and was impressed all over again. Though I am a photographer, I don't feel I am qualified in any way to be a "critic" so am not going to attempt to indulge nor highlight any photographer over others. Let's just say we are presented with works/stories by 100 female photographers covering the widest range. As a collective whole it is amusing, whimsical, poignant, disturbing, insightful, thought-provoking, confrontational, social... and all points in between. Each photographer explains their work and themselves via placards to help give better insight and context.
Then there's the setting itself. Barely decorated, the two floors are almost like a shell. With some time and refurbishment these will be valuable spaces but in it's current raw state, it proves perfect for this exhibition. Dawn told me they had removed carpets from some sections which I felt was an inspired decision... it all adds to the vibe giving it an extra sense of occasion and power.
As you can probably tell, I'm not really the best reviewer hence why I'm being factual and giving a general idea of this event. What I can offer is I was spellbound, finding it extraordinary and breathtaking in it's scope and inspiration. I saw some visitors comments and have spoken to fellow creatives who have visited and the overall consensus is, you HAVE to pay more than one visit and allow for at least an hour each time. It's a stunning collection of work and fantastic to see something like this staged here in Blackpool.
Hats off to all involved. This runs until 30th September so at present you still have three weeks in which to catch this and trust me, it is well worthy of your time and will make an indelible impression upon you.
Baz (6th September 2019)
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