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The Motorway Service Station as a Destination in its Own Right, a photographic response to Simon Armitage’s poetry pamphlet of the same name, makes is second appearance this month. After debuting at Bank Street Arts in 2013, the show crosses the Pennines for a run at Edge Hill University’s Arts Centre.

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The show is a slightly different version from the one that appeared at Bank Street Arts, where the photographers invited to take part were given the title of Simon’s pamphlet and asked to respond however they saw fit. Some chose to work using the title alone as a starting point, navigating maps of their own design, whilst others explored further the connections they’d made with Simon’s poems. Simon Carruthers, Jessa Fairbrother, Richard Chivers, David Barnes, Sam Mellish, Tribble and Mancenido, Roy Bayfield, Si Barber are those taking part. The Drive, featuring sound artist Ian Baxter and Simon Armitage reading from his poem ‘Gymnasium’, is also being screened at various points around the campus.

The Motorway Service Station as a Destination in its Own Right runs from 2nd June until 27th June.

See also: Service stations the focus for Ormskirk exhibition // #tmssaadiior

On either side of the Pennines

The November 2013 exhibitions of The Big Society and Here, again at Edge Hill University in Lancashire represented the first in a series of informal exchanges between curators, associates and creatives at the university and Bank Street Arts in Sheffield, featuring photography, text, poetry, design, sound and performance. There’s no (obvious) connecting thread between the shows in a conceptual sense, but rather than being straightforward facsimiles of  their South Yorkshire/ West Lancashire incarnation, each exhibition will be expanded, constricted, chopped, changed, and tinkered with according to the vagaries of whim and circumstance. After their show at Edge Hill in October and November, Helen Newall and Mark Edward’s Dying Swans will be the first to make the trip Eastwards to Bank Street for an exhibition this September. Plans are also underway for it to be followed by The Unforgotten Coat, a collaboration between Clare Heney, Carl Hunter and writer Frank Cottrell Boyce, based on his acclaimed children’s book.  

Ahead of this, following his show at Bank Street Arts in early 2013, Jim Mortram’s Small Town Inertia opens at Edge Hill on 3rd March for a 4 week run in the university’s Arts Centre. Jim’s tireless work on the project- subject of this recent feature in The Guardian- has meant that much new work has been generated since last year, so the Edge Hill show will feature photographs that weren’t included in the Bank Street selection. On June 2nd, The Motorway Service Station as a Destination in its Own Right, a series of photographic responses to Simon Armitage’s volume of poems of the same name, crosses the Pennines for its second exhibition. As well as featuring the work of an extremely eclectic group of photographers, the show also includes Simon reading from his poem Gymnasium, accompanied by sound artist and Bank Street resident Ian Baxter

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See also: full programme of events for spring and summer 2014 at Edge Hill’s Arts Centre // Current and forthcoming events and exhibitions at Bank Street Arts

Building The Big Society in 2 minutes and 31 seconds

…or at least some of it: the full show consists of 30-odd of Si Barber’s photographs which will be at Edge Hill University’s Arts Centre until Fri 13th December. There’s more info about the exhibition here.

See also: more new work by Si

Here, again in winter

Here, again , the collaboration with Angelina Ayers and Thomas Mann, is at the Arts Centre in Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, Lancashire, this November and December. The show will be in the same venue as Si Barber’s The Big Society (more or less- it’s actually in the space just above it). Both open on Mon 18th Nov and run until Fri 13th Dec.

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Here, again is also available as an ebook for iPad and iPhone that can be downloaded for free. You’ll need to have the iBooks app on your device. You can then download Here, again through this link.

Another 35 reasons: more scenes from The Big Society

A year is a long time in politics, two a lifetime in documentary photography. Since Si Barber’s The Big Society exhibited at Bank Street Arts in 2011, the coalition government’s grandiloquent and much-trumpeted vision of the same name (‘a froth concealing the reality beneath‘) seems to have quietly faded from prominence. Instead of signalling the winding down of Si’s work, it’s provided him with further motivation to push on into the fringes of David Cameron’s Britain, pointing his camera towards the chasm between political rhetoric and everyday experience. Bureaucratic nitwittery, sentimental attitudes towards the military, weird and malevolent patriotism, and the draining ubiquity of consumer culture, are among the themes in a body of work that’s consistent with the traditions of British documentary photography, but also has something of the ragged urgency and immediacy of war photography. Provocative, angry, yet warm and affectionate, The Big Society takes its cues as much from Tony Ray-Jones‘ sweetly bemused view of Englishness as Paul Graham‘s burning indignation at unsympathetic and ineffectual governance:

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The Big Society hops across The Pennines in November for an exhibition at the Arts Centre in Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, Lancashire. It’ll feature 35 photographs from the entire project so far. On Thurs 12th Dec from 11-1 Si will be at Edge Hill’s Creative Edge Lecture Theatre to talk about the project. The session is open to all. If you’d like to know more, contact me at andrewdconroy[at]yahoo[dot]co[dot]uk.

See also: The Big Society in Vice magazine // This rather odd piece in The Daily Mail, featuring some irked reader comments  // Si on Twitter

The Drive… with Simon Armitage and Ian Baxter

My contribution to the exhibition The Motorway Service Station as a Destination in its Own Right taking place at Bank Street Arts. The soundtrack features a reading by Simon Armitage and drones by Ian Baxter. View in HD here.

The Motorway Service Station as a Destination in its Own Right opens at Bank Street Arts om 14th May and runs until 30th June.

The Motorway Service Station as a Destination in its Own Right

Just the title of Simon Armitage’s 2011 poetry pamphlet The Motorway Service Station as a Destination in its Own Right is enough to conjure a sequence of images flashing through the mind’s eye: the motorway signage, the layout of the car parks, the caffeine bleariness, the piercing neon of the petrol forecourts, the relentless drone of the road… but how often do we think of motorway service stations as destinations… and how often as destinations in their own right?

John Clark thought that all this might provide the basis for a photography project and a couple of years ago asked me if I was interested in contributing to and curating an exhibition. With the blessing of Simon and Peter Sansom of The Poetry Business, we invited a group of photographers to respond to Simon’s eleven word title: The Motorway Service Station as a Destination in its Own Right. Some chose to work using the title alone as a starting point, navigating maps of their own design, while others explored connections they’d made with Simon’s original poems…

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Si BarberDavid Barnes, Andy Brown, Simon Carruthers, Richard Chivers, Alex Currie, Jessa Fairbrother, Sam Mellish, Andrew Robinson, and Tribble and Mancenido are those taking part. My own contribution, The Drive, features a soundtrack by Simon Armitage and Ian Baxter.

The Motorway Service Station as a Destination in its Own Right opens at Bank Street Arts on Tuesday 14th May and runs until 30th June, partly coinciding with Sheffield Poetry Festival, which runs from 1st- 8th June. There’ll be an event to mark the show and which is part of the Poetry Festival’s programme, between 17-1930 on Saturday 1st June.

A Facebook page, featuring interviews from the participants, is here.

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