Artworks created as part of a ground-breaking photography programme – the first of its kind to be delivered within a social care setting – went on display at a unique exhibition at Liverpool’s Watch Factory.
Entitled RESIDENCE, the showcase was unveiled during a special launch event at the extra care facility in Prescott where social care charity Community Integrated Care supports people to live their best lives possible.
The event was the culmination of an innovative nine-month photographer-in-residence programme designed to inspire creativity and encourage discussion between the residents and others in their community and is the result of a collaboration between Community Integrated Care and one of the UK’s leading photography spaces, Open Eye Gallery and the ‘Young at Art’ initiative, an arts programme working with those aged over 60 across the Liverpool City Region.
Artists Sam Batley and Marge Bradshaw were appointed photographers in residence at The Watch Factory in February and have since worked with people supported there to set up a Photography Club and engage in a range of creative projects which will be unveiled for the first time in the upcoming exhibition.
Originally the home of the Lancashire Watch Company, the factory is a significant part of Prescot’s local history and was converted into an extra-care scheme in 2018. Some of the people who are supported at the service remember the original factory and had relatives who used to work there, so the building represents the very fabric of the community for those who reside in it today.
The group have been looking into the area’s past, their personal connections to it and also their role as ‘watch factory custodians’ of the space today, all through experimenting with different photographic styles and creative endeavours including creative writing, film and digital photography, camera-less photography (creating lumen prints and cyanotypes) and mixed media collage.
The series of works produced will be exhibited both as a temporary installation within the public-facing spaces of the ground floor, alongside more permanent framed works situated throughout the building as a legacy to the project and for future generations of the Watch Factory to enjoy.
Open Eye Gallery is also excited to announce that they will be supporting the group to continue running the project as a self-sustained Photography Club for Watch Factory residents, as well as people from their local neighbourhood.
Service Leader at the Watch Factory, Susan Widlof, said:
“We’re really excited to see the exhibition come to life and to share the amazing artwork that the people we support have created. The programme has had an incredible impact on the group. It’s given them the opportunity to get creative and learn new skills, and they have really found a sense of community within the sessions.
“We’d like to say a huge thank you to Marge, Sam and our partners at Open Eye Gallery for this fantastic experience and we’re excited for the journey to continue.”
Marie, one of the people who attends the Photography Club, said:
“I’ve really enjoyed coming to the Photography Club. I’ve learnt how an image can tell that story and coming along to the sessions has made me become more aware of my surroundings and my local areas – such as nature and architecture. It’s also got my brain working and made me use my imagination. I’m really proud to have taken part in something that will be long-lasting and a legacy at the Watch Factory and am looking forward to the exhibition.”
Marge Bradshaw said:
“It’s been a privilege to work with the Photography Club over the last few months. I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved together and can’t wait for everyone to see the exhibition. We set off with two main outcomes – for members of the group to enjoy themselves, and to help them connect (or reconnect) with one another after the lockdowns. If they learned something new in the process, then that was a bonus. I think we’ve achieved all of those things and more!
She continued, “Perhaps what I’m most proud of is that we’ve delivered an inclusive project – where labels are left at the door and everyone has been able to participate no matter what their need, ability or background. I can’t wait to see what the group does next!”
Fellow Photographer in Residence, Sam Batley said:
“Developing the Photography Club and working with the people supported at the Watch Factory has been a really beautiful experience – getting to know the participants and hearing their stories has truly been wonderful. The work they have produced is a testament to their efforts, showing up, taking part and learning new things each week. I think they’ve all gained so much out of it, and forged some new friendships in the process.”