Picturing High Streets exhibition – Chester

There’s something quite nice about giving a project some breathing space before it gets shared with the world. It’s not been down to me, but work made by people who attended my workshops at Cafe 71 in Chester last year has finally been exhibited in the city centre in a public realm show (my favourite kind of exhibition I think because it gets in front of a non-art audience).

This was one of my first socially engaged commissions – last year I ran nine sessions at the mental health space as part of Historic England’s Picturing High Streets initiative. I was very lucky to be given this opportunity by project managers at Open Eye Gallery and Photoworks, as it was a real spring board to several other projects since then. The project saw me purely work as a facilitator – I made no work myself but designed the sessions, which aimed to tease out people’s feelings about Chester city centre, particularly the area of the Rows (incidentally a place I spent many Saturday afternoons as a teenager).

The group made photos and these led to discussions but in my personal view, their most interesting work was collages which combined images from the Historic England archive with photos from magazines. The work looks fabulous printed large – unfortunately the summer holidays have meant that I haven’t been able to see it myself but I’ve been sent some lovely photos by Open Eye Gallery and I know some participants have visited too.

Images by Rob Battersby.