Finale

Retiring is not an option if you are an artist, we continue and continue until our bodies let us. In fact this is not the end of this project perhaps just the beginning or a start of a new chapter



 The series taught me about connection, ownership, a sense of place and my own feelings of connection and loss of connection. It makes me think of community and how people come together to share experience, good and bad.

Who owns the story? The #retiredperformers series began from a personal viewpoint, semi autobiographical with a need to explore elements of class and social structure, a want for Blackpool to be seen as a place that is unique and worthy of respect, a place full of hidden stories, built on the "wakes weeks". A place where my family ended up in the 70's after my grandparents thought it would be a good idea to buy a Guesthouse here (I still have their guest book - but do not remember the building).

I am not sure whether I am looking for a sense of who I am and the town I live in through the participants in the series. My own family splitting when I was 8 years old and a history of heartache and perhaps loss of identity ensuing.

I forgot to ask my grandparents more stories about this. I remember someone telling me we lived next door to a Grumbleweed and the amazing Blackpool Carnival's linger in my memory and some of which still exist on Supa 8. I miss my grandparents.

The #retiredperformers project the story of individuals relationship to performance, not always performers who "made it" - what is success anyway?

The participant's stories varied, some did a few seasons at The Children's Ballet or became Circusettes or a Tiller Girl - explaining backstage experiences or the discipline associated with being a performer. This is their story, created through audios and photographs. I realised I did not want to lead the participants, it became as much a journey for me as the photographer, a shared experience with the participant, I wanted them to be themselves.

How do we retell our stories and keep them authentic?

The #retiredperformers series was born from a number of key elements. A portrait of my husband's great grandmother who was a Tiller Girl we know nothing about. A retired foot juggler I met while photographing a street festival in Blackpool and my Aunt who was a Circusette at Blackpool Tower - her whole life changed after marrying a German Juggler. https://www.bigissuenorth.com/features/2018/09/time-and-tide/

I think a common connection or experience binds us as human beings, attending a music gig, a performance, youth cultures (where are they now)? Popular press and politics seem to seek to divide and sew fear. We have stopped talking to one another - there is isolation attached to social media exclaiming our points of view from behind a screen. Or stories reappropriated to serve a purpose or ending up belonging to an organisation or another person. Another Like me perhaps? I realised the gravity of what I was doing after a short time into the series, the gravitas of being allowed into peoples lives, but with the hope that the series would allow a sense of respect for Blackpool the people that made it so.

A lady approached me at a showing of the #retiredperformers. "Have you read The Lonely City"?

When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her midthirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Increasingly fascinated by the most shameful of experiences, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. Moving from Edward Hopper's Nighthawks to Andy Warhol's Time Capsules, from Henry Darger's hoarding to David Wojnarowicz's AIDS activism, Laing conducts an electric, dazzling investigation into what it means to be alone, illuminating not only the causes of loneliness but also how it might be resisted and redeemed.  View at Amazon

Humane, provocative, and moving, The Lonely City is a celebration of a strange and lovely state, adrift from the larger continent of human experience, but intrinsic to the very act of being alive.

The time might have arrived to really pursue the stories that live in my soul. I think we live in cycles and "what goes around comes around" we visit old ideas, we come across people we have not seen for ages, how do we remember, how do we connect?

Photography is powerful it can allow access it tells a story, it documents, it can alter perceptions, create new perceptions, it captures time.

We must encourage creativity for our children, our friends, our grandparents, the people we meet through shared stories. We must feel confident to tell our own stories, of the places we belong to, the connections we have made from our own point of view to create that connection that we all long for and to tell our stories.

View the Film:   Co Collaboration with Garry Cook. Highlights the area where the #retiredperformers images were placed around Blackpool.


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Reflection

As the deadline fast approaches for this particular round of images I am reflecting on some of the amazing people I have met and the time that they have allowed me to speak with them.

I have learnt that as with any creative pursuit we actually never retire. We shall carry on dancing, photographing, writing, painting, singing and drawing until we are physically unable to. For me this project is a lot about connection and how do people come together? I think there is a human need that is fulfilled within creativity and theatre spaces create that specific "shared experience" that cannot be reached via tv, cinema or social media.

Marshall McLulan predicted the global village and the internet his prediction was that it would bring people together, make the world smaller. But some of my participants do not use technology, it has created "distance" for them, not connection The internet has its pluses for sure but nothing can replace a "coming together" of humans in one place: a concert, a dance, a theatre production an exhibition. These experiences bind us. What happens when we are not around anymore to tell our story. Will technology change our story?

I think my approach to the images as changed as the series has rolled out and I have hidden away a number of traditional portraits which allowed me to try and capture the connection with each sitter. With an ultimate ambition to pay homage to each participant.

At last Nina Bedini the initial person I met and inspiration for the project let me into her home this month to photograph her. I spent the afternoon looking through her personal archives, listening to her stories of how she had met her husband and became that foot juggler. It seems crazy to me that her grandchildren (who I know a little) did not find out that their grandfather and Nina's husband had been in The Rock and Roll Circus until he had gone. Please sit down with your family and dig deep to get those stories of who you are and where you are from - otherwise they disappear into the ether.


A big thank you goes out to the Big Issue this month https://www.bigissuenorth.com/features/2018/09/time-and-tide/  who featured the series and also featured the first female Doctor, Jodie Whittaker on the cover which felt timely and historical. Thanks again to The Big Issue. 


Time and Tide - Big Issue North

Patricia Lemoine stands in front of the weather-beaten railings before Blackpool's North Pier, surveying the imposing 500ft steel structure on the other side of the road. But she's not admiring Blackpool Tower as a feat of engineering or a tourist attraction, but as a landmark of her past ...

www.bigissuenorth.com


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Nowhere to Hide.

There was nowhere to hide from the summer heat in August and it reminded me of the time I worked as a photographer at The Mystique Show Bar at The Pleasure Beach, the song "Too Darn Hot" blasting out at the matinee and evening performance. I loved it, I used to look up at the dancers and think how "otherworldly" it must be? not seeing the light or the sunshine during working hours and wondering how you connect with the Blackpool audiences who always looked so hard to impress.

Blackpool has a history with photographers known fondly as smudges, they would grab your image for a small fee as you promenaded down the seafront in your best clothes and promising you the chance of buying a pristine print later. I did my apprenticeship that summer after graduating in Fine Art with darkroom practice, taking the tourists photograph as they sat down to enjoy the show - "don't take my picture love, you will crack the camera" - I never hear that pun now. It was a seasonal job after graduation - I loved it, but mostly cos I got to soak up the performance atmosphere around the shows on The Pleasure Beach.

I think I would have been known as a smudge if it was the 40's but it was 2001. Now Blackpool does not even have a camera shop.

I spoke to Leslie Melville this month an ex Butlins red coat at The Metropole he did five seasons and worked on cruise ships but he told me he might had been a photographer if he had not become a performer. He told me; "I had worked for the Saidman Brothers who were professional photographers based in Blackpool most early postcards of Blackpool were taken by The Saidman Brothers, The Studio was on Alfred Street, it is still there a big bay window above a barbers shop. I did that for 6 weeks. Maurice used to run the studio at The Gazette he would take me out to photograph gas works and I would be knee deep in mud, testing me to see if I really wanted to be a photographer, I did that most of that winter but I never went back."

Leslie does talks now - Tales of A Travelling Trickster.

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