my blackburn alleyways
Alleyways fascinate me. They provide visible but often unseen and underused portals between different worlds, swallowing you in at one end and spitting you out at the other where you have to briefly pause to recognise exactly where you are in a delicious disorientation.
They’re an intriguing insight into the character of a place, unaltered in years, bearing witness to the changes taking place around them. Cobbles and blocked in coal holes and windows leave tantalising hints of times and lives past. The discarded detritus of today drags us back into the present.
Visually they captivate me. Rhythmically disappearing to a single point in regular straight lines. Both ends never quite revealed at the same time. Unexpected colour accents delight and surprise. Views are framed and revealed.
You might argue that to begin to know the alleyways is to begin know a place. A certain familiarity with somewhere develops when you’re able to traverse it using hidden routes. The details we discover create a new set of landmarks and language that can only be used with those we have shared the experience with creating intimacy and connection.
During the course of my residency at The Making Rooms I worked with young people from Blackburn as part of a programme we call The Bakery. The Bakery engages young people as they begin to make important choices about career options and works with them to develop and explore their creative skills by engaging in real-world artist led projects.
Together we explored the alleyways through Whalley Range and Bank Top and photographed our discoveries and a LOT of wheely bins. The group edited these photos to create a set of images with the vanishing point at the dead centre of the square frame. This format attempts to encourage you to overlay the images in your mind, observe the identifying and unifying features of each location, and so build a sense of the character of Blackburn.
Everything I Know In Blackburn - Residency 2018
I know Blackburn almost entirely by chance. Many sets of unlikely circumstances colluded to first bring me here in 2010. But really, isn’t that usually the way? It’s all but impossible to predict what events or encounters will become significant. I suppose they all are in one way or another.
To me, Blackburn is massively important. I’ve had the privilege to deliver a project in or around the town most years since my first, chance visit, and very many of these have marked significant way points in the development of my career as an artist.
In a way, my career and relationship with Blackburn have developed in tandem. Back in 2010 I knew little of both Blackburn and being an artist. The town gave me my first big breaks and, although of course can’t say that I know everything about either Blackburn or being an artist, I have got to know a little about both, as my relationships with both have become more secure.
Much of my knowledge of the town has come from working with people to explore the places they live, work and visit - examining and re-connecting with the often-familiar, and producing something which expresses our joint response to this process.
This residency has been a rare and really valuable opportunity to turn the same approach on myself and explore the chances that led me here, both in terms of being in Blackburn and, more generally, in what I do, perhaps who I am.
The process has been reflective and invigorating. I have emerged with a renewed sense of purpose and connection to the core of my practice. I have been reminded of the good fortune I have had as a result of the circumstances, encounters, chances and people which and who have inadvertently conspired to bring me here.