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Exhibition Review: photography from That Alternative Studio

An exhibition of photography has been curated jointly between That Alternative Studio and HIVEArts. His own camera in hand, David Simper nipped down to the Church Street venue to view the work on display.

The exhibition varied from the usual HIVEArts fare in that I  required a VIP ticket, which was checked on the door or rather the top of the stairs. On entering, the gallery space was more crowded than I’d ever seen and there was quite the buzz. I could see familiar and new faces. This was a joint venture betwen HIVEArts and That Alternative Studio where the six photographers featured here had all worked. The work on display was varied and quite stunning.

The show featured the work of local freelance photographers:

Each had a framed biog mounted to the left of a panel of their work. This work was of extremely high quality and as ever, well curated on the somewhat industrial HIVEArts gallery walls.

I spoke to proprietor of That Alternative Gallery, Sarah Clarke-Lees, and asked what the process to stage the exhibition had been.

“The reason for the exhibition is that I always have my favourite eight art pieces on the studio wall, my favourites from that season. As I put them away I thought it was a shame that they were going in the cupboard. I wanted to thank the photographers who have supported my studio. We’ve put an exhibition on so that everyone can see what has been created and the local talent that’s here in Blackpool.

“I’m very proud of the gallery. I wanted a space for creatives to come and run their freelance businesses from – there’s a studio space downstairs and then hot-desking and office space upstairs.”

Sarah went on to explain how the collaboration with HIVE came about.

“I wanted a space where I could exhibit this work – somewhere central that had a cool vibe to it. I met the HIVEArts team and now I’m on the committee and fully involved. So I hope this will be the first of many collaborations.”

Adam Mousley, another HIVEArts committee member, is also a freelance photographer.

“I’m really appreciative of the opportunity to be part of this exciting project that is the HIVEArts gallery. As Sarah said, this gallery is trying to support local artists, as well as working with those more established, to showcase the amazing talent that Blackpool has to offer. I think we’re really beginning to succeed.”

Gallery curator Kate Yates said she was lost for words at the result but managed to find a few for us.

“It’s a great turnout for a great show. Everybody’s enjoying the company and the artwork, and the canapes are to die for. It’s been a long, long day, but it’s an amazing night that’s a great celebration of local photography and the people within the group.”

As Kate had said, the catering for this evening was exceptional with a constant stream of canapes circulating. This was down to the amazing catering team at the downstairs HIVE cafe. Owner Jon Parks joined the group. “I think it’s amazing. It’s great to see the gallery as full as this and everybody enjoying themselves. The live music, the food, the art – it’s amazing!”

Another talented photographer and HIVEArts stalwart, Dawn Mander, added: “This is what we’ve aimed for all these years. Kate and I have been involved in HIVEArts since 2019, but now it seems to be taking off. We had great help over the summer from all sorts of artists helping to renovate the gallery. We did a relaunch and over the years we did different events and now we’re really getting there. Since that relaunch we haven’t stopped and it’s a gallery that shows all kinds of arts, spoken word, music, everything. Everybody’s welcome!”

Back in the main room, the exhibition remained busy, with new people still entering. The atmosphere was one of joy with lively conversations, apparent reunions and the photographers rightly revelling at their pieces being displayed and admired.

A live music duo added to the vibe, playing a broad range of covers to keep the crowd entertained.

I spotted that the service 6 bus was conveniently due and slipped away to catch it. On the way home I was able to contemplate how I was going to capture such a vibrant event in just a few words.

The exhibition is on show until 18th February 2024. Do try and get down to the Church Street venue to catch it.

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    I have worked in the housing and transport professions for several local authorities, specialising in policy, strategy preparation and bid writing. Having always had an interest in film, the visual arts in general, theatre, music and lterature, I thought it would be good to combine the writing experience with these interests to contribute to altBlackpool. In addition to writing, my hobbies include watercolour and pastel painting, photography, woodwork, cycling and vegetable gardening.

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