Wednesday, March 9

Format Festival in Derby, UK. Part 1: Thursday

I’m currently nursing a couple of very sore feet from just having spent 5 days walking around the excellent Format photography festival in Derby (plus some other parts of the East Midlands).

The theme for this year’s festival is street photography, “Right Here, Right Now: Exposures from the Public Realm”. Headline names include Bruce Gilden, Joel Meyerowitz, Miss Aniela, and an In-Public group show in which some of my humble photos are featured. The festival runs from 4 March until 3 April 2011.

As a sometimes journalist and writer, I was mindful of my responsibilities and took some notes over the Thursday to Monday of my visit, which straddled the opening weekend. However, reading through them now they seem to consist mainly of a list of things I ate, which in turn seemed to be mostly baguettes from the excellent Spar inside Derby’s new bus station. Hendersons Relish flavour Yorkshire Crisps and Spar’s own Jaffa cakes also feature prominently.

Anyway, rather than give a detailed account of the festival that I will probably never get round to finishing, I’ll just dive straight in and give a quick impressionist sketch of the few days that I was there.

Thursday – openings
After a frantic train journey up from Weymouth to Waterloo (late due to a fatality on the line) and then up to St Pancras for Derby I somehow arrived in Derby on time, and wasted no time in dumping my stuff at my hotel, the Kingsway Retail Park Travelodge.

Situated two miles from the city centre, the hotel is ideally located for the out-of-town PC World, Homebase and M&S Food, and has good connections to the city centre via the Mickelover bus that runs late into the night (£1.40). It was also the cheapest hotel I could find that didn’t have horrendous reviews on TripAdvisor. (Naming no names – Heritage Hotel – don’t drink the water.) I stocked up on some provisions at M&S Food, where all the beautiful people in Derby seemed to be shopping, and headed back into town for the In-Public opening.

The In-Public show looked great – the 20 members of the collective each had several pictures, all well displayed and arranged. Nick Turpin and David Gibson had done a sterling job for In-Public in taking care of the logistics over the long road to fruition of the exhibition. Nick had also invested a huge amount of time producing the In-Sight film, an excellent documentary featuring many of the In-Public members in conversation and photographing in situ. The documentary is being shown continuously during Format, and I’m sure it will run and run elsewhere.

The In-Public show is in the Derby Museum and Art Gallery, right next to the Bruce Gilden exhibition.

Bruce Gilden and Nils Jorgensen at the In-Public show.

Next, I moved on to the Quad building to view the exhibitions. What a fantastic focal point a modern, well equipped building like this is for the arts and for Derby. If only there could be one in every town and city. We can dream.

There are far too many noteworthy displays in Quad to mention them all. I’m sure Peter Marshall will be listing them all on his blog at some point. Ones that stuck in my mind were Dougie Wallace’s tram window pictures going up the stairs, the HCSP slideshow, and the Garry Winogrand slideshow of (to me) largely unseen colour shots selected by Joel Meyerowitz. The Winogrand was an unexpected bonus – as far as I could see, this was not even mentioned in the programme. The only minus point for the Quad displays is that many of the advertised exhibitions consist of a small number of pictures, so if you are going for, say, the Jeff Mermelstein you might be disappointed to find only (I think) four pictures. I suppose this is a consequence of having so many well known names in the Quad building (Kollar, Mermelstein, Griffin, Orville Robertson, Meyerowitz, Amy Stein, Brunelli, Lezmi for a start).

At 7.30 pm the brave ventured outside into the cold for funny and eloquent speeches by Brian Griffin and Joel Meyerowitz. Over the evening I bumped into David Gibson, Peter Dench, Kate Hooper, Nils Jorgensen, Laurence Stephens, Andrea Hadley-Johnson, Kate Kirkwood, among many others. At one point I found myself gushing to a suited stranger about how friendly the locals and organizers were and how great the Festival was - the stranger turned out to be Format Co-Director Mike Brown, so it was lucky I had only good things to say...

10:21 pm Thursday

For late-night quality food and service I can recommend the chips at Nads Fast Food Takeaway, 3 Morledge, Derby, DE1 2AW.

And that's the end of Thursday. To be continued.


Adrian Boliston said...

Sounds like a great Festival - a real "who's who" of street photography!

scott davidson said...

What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.