A historic photography exhibition, capturing the essence of the local community, is on display in Prescot town centre.
The exhibition is the culmination of two years’ work by Prescot photographer in residence, Tony Mallon. Tony was appointed as Prescot’s photographer in residence in July 2021, as part of the Picturing England’s High Streets cultural programme which is part of the national cultural programme for High Street Heritage Action Zones.
Prescot was one of only six places in the country to be selected to take part in the national project where photographers engaged with local communities to create a contemporary portrait of the high street. The images produced will become part of the Historic England Archive.
Since 2021, Tony has worked with local Prescot residents to reimagine the high street and create a temporary portrait of the area. He initially ran a series of photography and memory fairs inviting people to share their own personal photographs and memories of the area. Tony then set up a Prescot Photography Club which met every Saturday to explore the high street using photography and portraiture.
The photography club has co-produced the work that is now on display in shop fronts on Eccleston Street and in Shakespeare North Playhouse.
An exhibition of the work will also be on display later this Autumn at Open eye Gallery, who have co-commissioned the project.
Councillor Tony Brennan, Knowsley’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development commented:
“This is a really special project for Prescot and one which has played an important part in capturing the town’s cultural history over the last couple of years. It’s great to see that so many local residents and businesses have taken part and that all of the hard work is now on display for everyone to enjoy. And the fact that the work is being displayed in Shakespeare North Playhouse, our landmark culture venue which wasn’t even built when Tony started his work, is even more special.”
Tony Mallon commented:
“At the beginning of my residency, I explored Prescot Town Centre’s rich history with its residents through a series of Photography and Memory Fairs. People’s archival photographs and stories revealed how much the ‘High Street’ has played an important and fond role in their lives – their first kiss, watching television for the first time through a shop window or looking forward to your pick and mix sweets on a Saturday.
In 2022, I established a weekly photography club at Prescot Church Hall which gave local residents the opportunity to develop their photographic skills and contribute to documenting their ‘High Street’ using portraiture and street photography. The weekly photography walks have revealed for many Prescot’s rich and hidden history. The participant’s have highlighted that the ‘High Street’ should still be the beating heart of our town centres and have been enthusiastic about capturing a slice of social history – photographing shoppers, shop/business owners and their staff and the buildings/spaces they frequent most days to shop and socialise.
I’m so proud by the quality of work that has been produced and how the participants have embraced capturing their town centre. This collaboration and co-produced work has shown how the ‘High Street’ has evolved yet still gives a sense of identity and pride. A place that was, still is and should be for future generations it’s beating heart”.
Tony is a Merseyside-based photographic artist who was brought up in Knowsley and attended an art foundation course in Prescot. He has 25 years’ experience of delivering socially-engaged art projects, including a recent three-year project in Kirkby. He has a passion and a desire to connect and collaborate with people who are usually excluded from participating in and producing art. His work also focuses on people and place, and how communities define themselves.
See Tony’s website with examples of his work here www.digitintherib.co.uk
‘Picturing High Streets’ is a three-year project that delivered six photographer-in-residence programmes at six high street locations across England, as well as artist mentoring and a digital nationwide mass participation project. The high streets cultural programme is the widest-reaching, community-led arts and heritage programme in the public realm that has ever been organised, led by Historic England in partnership with Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The £7.4 million Cultural Programme is part of the broader £95 million High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) initiative, of which Prescot is part of. The Cultural Programme will be one of the biggest ever community-led arts and heritage programme in the public realm.
About the Prescot High Street Heritage Action Zone
Prescot was selected as one of the 68 high streets to benefit from the High Streets Heritage Action Zone project in 2020. The £3.1 million heritage-led regeneration programme will see major investment from the Council and Historic England into a number of key projects in Prescot town centre. In addition, Prescot will see a series of cultural events as part of the HSHAZ Cultural Programme Local Grants, as delivered by the recently established Prescot Cultural Consortium, led by The Shakespeare North Playhouse.
About Open Eye Gallery
Founded in 1977, Open Eye Gallery is an independent charity and photography gallery based in Liverpool. One of the UK’s leading photography spaces, it is the only gallery dedicated to photography and related media in the North West of England and works at a local and global level. Open Eye Gallery believes photography is for everyone, informing our present and inspiring positive futures. Open Eye Gallery works with people to explore photography’s unique ability to connect, to tell stories, to inquire, to reflect on humanity’s past and present, and to celebrate its diversity and creativity. www.openeye.org.uk @openeyegallery
To find out what is happening in your area and get involved, please follow @HistoricEngland @Prescot_HAZ_THI #HistoricHighStreets #PicturingPrescot and visit: www.HistoricEngland.org.uk/HighStreetCulture
Please take a few minutes to tell us about your experience taking part in a community activity. Your feedback will help Historic England plan its future community engagement activities.