This week has been quite exhilarating. I’ve packed more community media projects into one week than I have done for ages. It started off on Monday when I was helping Ian Davies at Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery to hang the new exhibition. I love the process of managing the turn-over of an exhibition. I arrived at the gallery at 10am, only to find that Ian had been there since 6.30am. He’d taken down the previous exhibition and had hung half of the images of the next exhibition. So my role was to make tea and to assist in the hanging of the second-half of the exhibition. Then in the evening was the opening for the work of Chris Hanrahan, and his street photography. Despite a very heavy rain storm the opening was really well attended. After vacuum cleaning the gallery, and when the preview got underway, I spent time getting people to sign a board with messages for Chris about what they thought of his images and exhibition. Eventually I got home for 9pm, exhausted but feeling really great about how the volunteers at the gallery had been able to pull together to create such a successful exhibition.
On Tuesday morning, after a refreshing swim, I got to the regular Citizen’s Eye Community News Cafe run by John Coster. There was a really good attendance, with loads of people chatting with each other about their community media projects over a coffee. These sessions are a very welcome way to keep in contact with the network of community media activist in Leicester and are refreshing because they are open to all. After popping back home because I’d forgotten some leads it was off to BBC Leicester for the Community Media Hub sessions. It’s a real achievement that John has been able to network with BBC Leicester to provide a regular venue for the community media hub sessions. This has enabled Mike Lane and myself to start a small test project of audio-drama mentoring workshops using the BBC Leicester studios to work from. At the same time I was due to deliver a presentation on podcasting to the hub participants. I really enjoyed sharing my experience of making audio reports and recordings for podcasts. The hour went by in a whirl.
On Wednesday Ian Davies and I travelled to Manchester to network with some community media groups and art galleries. We chatted with Hwa Young Jung of the Manchester Digital Lab about how they have developed a grassroots network of tech and creative media groups in Manchester. This was inspirational stuff. There’s no one throwing money at the projects, but the sense that this was being built from the ground-up was palpable. Later we chatted with Cormac Lawler about his work with Radio Regen and the challenges that are being faced by community media groups as funding from local authorities has dried-up. Our last stop in Manchester was at the Corner House, which is one of my favourite arts venues. We chatted with Marisa Draper, who was very welcoming and supportive of what Ian is developing in Leicester.
After a short hop on the train to Liverpool we headed for the University of Liverpool halls of residence – which are great places to find cheap rooms for summer-time visits. After a bite to eat I showed Ian two of my favourite bars, the Kazimier Gardens and the Roscoe Head. But there was no late night partying, because the pair of us where knackered. The next morning things went a little awry, as our contact for a later visit was pushed back to the afternoon. However, we used the time to look at some of the contemporary galleries that Liverpool has to offer. Unfortunately the galleries in FACT don’t open until 12pm, so we went for a tea at the Bluecoat Gallery. It was lucky that we where in that spot at that time. A chap fell down a couple of steps and cut a gash in his hand on a broken cup. Ian’s A&E nursing training kicked-in and he was able to offer immediate assistance. So our inconvenience came to good use in the end.
Next on the trail was Tate Liverpool in the Albert Dock. It’s amazing how much Liverpool has changed in recent years, with loads of tourists wandering about looking very relaxed and very engaged with the city. The Pier Head is a great place to chill out and take street photographs before we paid our visit to the Open Eye Gallery, where we chatted with Jill Carruthers about her experience of promoting and co-ordinating the work of up-and-coming photographers.
Looking back on the week, then it’s been pretty hectic, with lots of travelling, lots of thinking and a lots of talking. I jet hope I can make sense of it all when I sit down to figure out what it’s all about.