Bedford

Empty Shops Project - We Are Bedford - Reportage by Shaun Armstrong

MG_4449.jpg

We Are Bedford was a community of local volunteers working together to make a difference to physical spaces. Hustled along by founders Kayte Judge and Erica Roffe, two people passionate about making the most of their home town of Bedford, this was to be done by transforming unused buildings into vibrant hubs of artistic activity by thinking creatively and being proactive; values I was delighted to support through artistic, documenting photography. Their first event, The Castle Quay Weekender, was held on 19-20 March 2011 and saw a fairly recently redeveloped, but under-occupied, area in the heart of the proposed cultural area of the town, transformed by artists, musicians and performers. It attracted over 2000 visitors! A real success and a demonstration to many people of what could be achieved “in the public domain” if you put your mind and a lot of hard work in.

That We Are Bedford event and its outcomes helped the founders generate funding from the RSA that led to further events and activities during 2011, spin-off groups and critical acclaim…plus through no coincidence all the units being let 1 year later.

See what is was all about below. This was quite an early bit of street /performance for me and there's post production elements I would be better now, with  a little more experience under my belt, but you get the vibe :)

Behind the Scenes Museum Photography at Bedford Gallery by Shaun Armstrong

chagbm-46.jpg
CHAGBM 44

Recently, as part of the national Britain loves Wikipedia event, I had the rare opportunity of being allowed into the fascinating store-rooms of the Cecil Higgins and Bedford  Museum and to see their new "Clocking In" exhibition being assembled in the adjacent, new Bedford Gallery space, all with the view of taking behind the scenes photos! I think the idea was to take formal museum pics but that's not my preferred style so here's my take on what I saw....

I first popped into the new Bedford Gallery in 2009 when they had an exhibition of Abram Games posters (a number of which I saw on display at my time at Bletchley Park) mixed up with memorabilia from the Festival of Britain, which helped explain the logo I'd seen on the village sign outside my home for many years! The whole building and mix of projects is a mish-mash of spaces that, with ongoing rounds of funding are being regenerated as part of the Cultural Quarter (a long job I suspect) but the Gallery is airy and modern as I saw with friends at a Creative Bedfordshire networking event in January displaying the work of Edward Bawden.

Anyhoo, in following their news via Twitter they shared details of the Wikipedia competition and so off I went. They had two sessions allocated but it was only me and one other guy (who was much more in tune with the basis of the competition I think - I just wanted to be nosy, explore and get creative!) so, always under the guidance and approval of the curators, we were led through doors and up stairs into various rooms packed with all sorts of objet in cabinets that were as much artefacts as the contents - all variety of small and ancient items tagged and arranged in order amongst various bits of wrapping and packing materials. Not quite the Area 51 storage warehouse in Indiana Jones but plenty of dark and long unexplored corners and spaces, including a section of cabinets full of birds and other unfortunate creatures who had gone the way of the stuffer! Ended up in what I think was the ancient, old world collections and here time was spent and ran out so no stuffed weasel pics! :(

Media_httpshaunarmstr_jpohd

After this we were whisked away to the Gallery to see the new Clocking In exhibition being put together and I did my best not to get in the way...wanted interesting angles and studies rather than the usual records and well, you can see all the images on my Flickr site.

"Clocking In" tells the story of working lives in and around Bedfordshire and opens on 27 February 2010 running until 23 May 2010.