This year’s Blackpool Pride Festival will, for the first time, feature a contemporary art and archive exhibition as part of the programme. The exhibition is funded by LeftCoast and curated by artist and curator Garth Gratrix. Combining newly commissioned contemporary visual art with archive material provided by the community it hopes to add an extra cultural dimension to Blackpool’s annual celebration of all things LGBT.

The exhibition includes work from artist Paul Harfleet’s Pansy Project which marks the locations of homophobic abuse across the country with a single pansy at each site. Earlier in the month Paul came to Blackpool to create new work at locations sourced using social media from members of the local LGBT community. He planted the pansies at the locations whilst also attempting to capture the unique and often spectacular architecture of Blackpool. Perhaps one of the most poignant is the pansy planted for Malcolm Benfold who died as a result of brutal homophobic attack on Middle Walk (Blackpool) in 2007.

The Pansy Project“We’re here…” Curator, Garth Gratrix, said:

“Paul’s work is global and to have him on board is an exciting opportunity to showcase LGBT in a new way and to new potential audiences. After having my own pansy planted from an experience near to The Tate modern, London; I became empowered in the belief that one pansy really can make a difference. Whether physically, emotionally, mentally or politically; it instils change in hearts and minds alike through a quiet yet direct call to arms.”

“As a local artist and producer born and bred in Blackpool, I am inspired to be working with LeftCoast and Blackpool Pride on this exhibition. It is encouraging to see a space as part of pride that can not only pay respects to aspects of LGBT history, but also acknowledge LGBT people that are simply living their lives as professional creative.”

Artist Jez Dolan also features as part of the exhibition with his work around the historic LGBT language of Polari. Using a range of media from printmaking to photography, performance and installation, Jez researches LGBT identities, histories, heritage and personal archives to explore the traces left behind by people’s events and experiences.

Bringing a playful visual twist to the exhibition is artist and creative vagabond, Harry Clayton-Wright, who has produced new work for Blackpool Pride Festival. Harry’s work explores the realms where mass consumption and ‘the arts’ collide. High energy and sublimely ridiculous outbursts in turn become highly considered public installations and performances that resonate with an audience both in person and through millions of YouTube viewers. He said:

“I’m so excited to be creating a new piece of work for Blackpool Pride. Growing up as a LGBT artist and performer in Blackpool has been a truly wonderful experience and is completely reflected in my work. I always feel that when I perform my shows around the country, the reason they are so well received is that the spirit of Blackpool and seaside entertainment shines through”

LeftCoast’s Artistic Director, Michael Trainor, said:

“We’re really excited to be supporting Blackpool Pride Festival in adding this new element to weekend. The LGBT resident community and visitors alike both bring complex and enriching facets to the town which is one of the reasons why Blackpool is so fascinating.  The exhibition promises to be a great opportunity to take a look back at the archive materials from the LGBT community in Blackpool and to bring acclaimed artists and their unique perspectives to the area to show their work”.

Situated in the newly refurbished Derham Lounge in the world famous Blackpool Winter Gardens the exhibition will open for a private view (although everyone is welcome!) on the 11 June from 6-8pm. The exhibition will also be open free to the public daily from 11am to 5pm from 12 – 17 June. 

For more information visit the Facebook event.

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