Peter Dench, 2016
Following Wolves PhotoFest 2016 I decided to pursue curation and community arts as a direction for my MA by Research in Art & Design. This involved researching, planning and outreach to make 2017's event bigger, better and more accessible to the local community.
The project focused around positive place identity in the Wolverhampton community and involved collaboration with Media students at Wednesfield High and many local artists. A social media exhibition ran for 3 months in the build up to the launch, and our favourite entries were selected and printed for the main exhibition.
The launch - made possible by our friends at Corrupt Vodka and a Creative Black Country Open Access Award - took place at Newhampton Arts Centre on 7th July and included live music, vodka bar, dance performances and games station. The exhibition included a wide range of imagery produced by local artists and students that documented the many positive things that Wolverhampton has to offer.
The launch saw performances from 14 year harpist old Anya Bradshaw, Dan O'Connor, Infusion Emporium dance company, Bangford, The Kitchen Collective and a very special performance from U.F.O feat. Reckless. We also had a purpose-built vodka bar, hand built by the folks at Corrupt, and a games console station kindly provided by Simon Clark. Resident artists were invited to open their studios for the evening to give visitors a taste of what happens at the Newhampton Arts Centre.
Plans for 2018's event include a printed publication (an extension of the one below) and I'm looking for more people to take part. If you are a photographer, performer or local business please get in touch. PhotoFest also has a Facebook page and Instagram account.
Below is an excerpt from our very own publication The PhotoFest Digest (kindly funded by the University of Wolverhampton) outlining the motivations behind the project. You can see the publication in its entirety above.
PhotoFest organiser Sarah Zacharek says "the motivation behind this endeavour stems from my experiences as a student in the city. Originally from Shrewsbury, I applied to the University of Wolverhampton as it was the closest place to commute to. Friends mocked not only my choice of destination but also my choice of course, as photography of course is 'just taking pretty pictures'. As my love for the university and the course grew, so did the amount of time I spent in Wolverhampton and I eventually decided to move here for my final year. I got involved in the local arts community and became increasingly frustrated with the 'news' articles claiming Wolverhampton to be miserable, uncultured and a bad place to live-that's not the Wolverhampton I knew!
With plans underway for 2017's festival several people told me that in order for PhotoFest to grow and become an internationally recognised event I would need to wine and dine the right people. That's not what I'm about, and I don't think that's what Wolverhampton is about either. I'm for inclusivity, not exclusivity, as art - particularly photography with its expressive and therapeutic qualities - should be available to everybody! As such, the emphasis now is on the local community and working together to show the world what Wolverhampton is really about. I want to show people that photographs don't have to just be 'pretty pictures'. They can also be powerful and moving, they can tell a story, document cultures and make people see things (Wolverhampton!) from a whole new perspective.
Changing Wolverhampton's reputation starts with changing the opinions of those who live here. I think if you're told your city is rubbish for so long you will start to believe it! So this exhibition is open to everybody. Submissions are free, and encouraged from those with all levels of experience. There is no snobbery. Some of our contributors are professionals with 30+ years of experience, others are hobbyists; all are equals. The event runs from 7-9 July at Newhampton Arts Centre, with the launch on 7th. There will be live music, dance performances a vodka bar (purpose built by local business Corrupt Vodka), and games console station, all showcasing local talent. It's really just about bringing the people together and highlighting everything we have to celebrate as a city."
The launch took place on 7th July and the exhibition continued over the weekend.