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Adrian Arbib at Hastings Arts Forum

Adrian Arbib at Hastings Arts Forum

Adrian Arbib talks about his work

Press photographer, Adrian Arbib concluded his exhibition, “Solsbury Hill, Chronicle of a Road Protest” at Hastings Arts Forum last Tuesday with an illustrated talk. HOT’s Nick Weekes was in attendance.

Arbib gave an inspiring and balanced presentation, clearly highlighting where corporate interests conflict with the lives of environmentally conscious people. His photographs capture the struggles of all those involved, from the police and the mercenary eviction staff to the protesters in hazardous constructions 100 feet up in the trees, hijacking machinery and risking live burial in their hand dug tunnels.

The presentation began with a short history of motorways replacing rail transport since the 1960s and quickly moved towards the protests of recent times. Some interesting highlights of Adrian’s involvement with environmental protest over the years included photos of the famous ‘Swampy’, emerging from his bivouac at the Manchester airport site – and amazing constructions of walkways and villages in the trees at Radley Lakes in Oxfordshire, where N-Power employed contractors to fell all the trees around a beauty spot, before their planning application to dump fuel ash in the lakes was passed. This particular outrage was eventually halted, a victory for the local residents, despite some underhand legal tactics by the multi-national, N-Power. Adrian showed us some video of a high court injunction being served on him simply for taking photos of the carnage.

It was poignant to see Arbib’s action filled shots on a big screen. Details intensified, like the snide expressions of evictors carrying a traumatised young female protester, the half smile of N-Power’s boss, invited to share the champagne of the successful Radley Lakes campaigners or a military style neck grip being used to forcibly remove a young man from a digger.

The apparent worthlessness of the Batheaston bypass (photos of this protest being the subject of the exhibition) was clearly depicted, effectively captured as rush hour vehicles piled up on the slip roads with no through traffic visible on the dual carriageway. The bypass remains as some kind of memorial in limestone or a landscape artist’s random response to Offa’s Dyke. In the background, where the protesters were living in ancient trees, a new housing development is seen filling in the spaces, despite promises that no fill-in development would take place.

Solsbury Hill, Chronicle of a Road Protest by Adrian ArbibIf you missed the exhibition, Adrian’s website ( is well worth a visit with plenty of examples of his powerful images. An excellent book including all the photographs from the exhibition, with a foreword by George Monbiot is available to purchase from the website. £19.99 plus delivery.

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Posted 14:26 Saturday, Mar 30, 2013 In: Photography

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