An opportunity to curate.

My first major opportunity to curate an exhibition outside of college has reunited me with Matthew Shaul of the Departure Lounge. 

The first time I met with Matthew, the son-in-law of artist books legend Clive Phillpott, was in a disused retail unit in High Town Road, Luton.  I was on the way home after a day in the Payroll department of the Alexon office (now the UoB School of Art & Design) when my eye was struck by the lights being on in a normally vacant space.  The activity going on was not 'retail', necessarily.  It was a photography exhibition, the first Departure Lounge venture, I believe.  Needless to say I have followed Matthew's exhibitions closely, as they have transformed the Luton cultural skyline over the last decade. 

Recently Matthew asked me to put together a show, knowing that I have a long-term interest in the town, which focuses on Luton in the 1970s.  He has given me a chance to devise the structure and title of a show, bearing in mind that the exhibition will be launched in tandem with another exhibition in the Hat Factory by the British photographer John Myers.

I am working on the show and reporting back to Matthew and his assistant Sammy.  Both are based at the University in Hatfield.


I am looking back at the 1970s in Luton, and appealing to the wider community to share their memories and artefacts for inclusion in the show "The 1970s Were Here".  Here is one of me and my brother, at home in 1975.


I have been sourcing the 'core' of the show, partly by plundering my own memorabilia from the seventies, but also my parents house. They seem to have kept many of the typical items from this decade.  Once this essential skeleton of a show is established we will be inviting the Luton public at large to bring in their photographs, postcards, objects and relics with a view to recording them for inclusion alongside the existing elements.  In this way the exhibition will change and grow and broaden, like an unofficial record of the town.  


The above image of a dog (left) appears on the cover of my diary, which ran from 14th March to 17th May 1977.  It will feature in the exhibition.  

It is an interesting paradox that this current blog is somehow mirroring my old-style pencil-written diary, the former of which was never intended to be shared.  With digital technology it now seems like an easier choice, considering the resonance of the hand-written. 

The 1970s wallpapers featured above were originally on my parents' walls, but now find a purpose in lining shelves in kitchen cupboards.  To my great delight, I found these on a recent visit to the folks.  

Finding the work of Luton photographer Gwyn Williams has been a happy surprise in the curating of this show.  His work, which was brought to my attention by his sister and brother-in-law, chimes with my own art practice.  He saw a town that was changing quickly and felt compelled to record in some form.

I re-visited the gallery on Friday to measure walls and windows.  I am getting a rough idea where major exhibits will be positioned, and deciding on the content, size and optimum settings for 4 large adhesive banners that will face out onto Bute Street.  Part of the function of this exhibition is to run alongside the Hat Factory exhibition by John Myers, to compliment it, and to draw attention to the Gateway Gallery inside the Hat Factory, which is currently situated at the rear of the building.  

This Friday I am focusing on the labelling of the show, still not entirely finalised, but well on the way.  By labelling I mean the wall-mounted tags adjacent to the core artefacts.  I am also awaiting a final word of clearance with regard to parking a 1979 Vauxhall Viva outside the front door for the duration of the opening event.

At this stage, 10th February, there remain 18 days until the shows open.