Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Derby Day G Peter Dench

A picnic in the car park on Derby Day © Pegter Dench

New photography festival launches in Hastings

It is hard setting up a new project in Hastings because there is always so much going on; and a brand new photographic festival could have been labelled madness. There are a lot of good photographers in the area but photographers are notoriously lone wolves and do not like to be herded together. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths went to talk to the Through the Lens Festival team, Jo Kilmartin and Kim Hall, to find out more.  

It all began when founder and photographer Steve Kilmartin and his wife Jo went to hear Martin Parr give a talk in Rye. They approached him with the idea of an exhibition and talk at a Hastings photography festival. Parr’s initial enthusiastic response meant the idea of the Through the Lens (TTL) Festival was more than possible – and since then he has been a great supporter of the project. He is also a great draw for other photographers to get in line. The TTL team produced professional looking information packs to show they meant business, approached other photographers, all of who agreed to talk or exhibit, and TTL Festival was on its way.

One thing that speaks from the website is that there is a vibrancy about the festival. Steve Kilmartin has brought in a team to get it up and running: event organisers, Jo Kilmartin, Kim Hall and curator Mariam Sudzhadinova. And they have put in the spade work by beginning the organisation a year early to give them time to put it all together. Even so, they feel they could have done with more time.

© Peter Dench

The Great British Beer Festival, Olympia.© Peter Dench August 2001

St Mary in the Castle crypt will exhibit images by Ian Berry, Kristen Reynolds, Peter Dench, Inge Gottfredsen, JJ Waller and Stephen Gill. Some of these photographers are local, others from Brighton and London.

There will also be a series of talks from guest speakers Martin Parr, Mark Power, Peter Dench, Antony Penrose – about his mother Lee Miller’s archive – and JJ Waller. Each hour and a half talk includes Q&A and book signings. There are a maximum of 400 tickets for each talk – tickets are already on sale.

So what have they learned – or been surprised by? In both categories Kim Hall immediately volunteers “funding”. Application for Arts Council funding is an art in itself. Having been knocked back twice, the organisers decided to go for private funding. So the two Kilmartins stepped forward, put their money where their mouth was and decided to fund it themselves. That certainly gives the team the impetus to make it work.

They have been keen to use local people and the services of local businesses. They talked to local camera clubs, Hastings College and schools. They invited non-professional photographers in an open submission – no theme or genre – to submit any number of images to be exhibited around the St Mary in the Castle café. And they will all be for sale. The response was surprising. They received images from about 200 people from which 60 photographs were eventually selected. One person’s enthusiasm was overwhelming when they submitted literally hundreds of images.

Asked whether knowing now what they didn’t know when they conceived the idea,  they would do it again, both Jo and Kim give a resounding “yes”. And what are their plans for the future? At this stage they would like to build on what they have achieved, but it would probably be a biennial festival, rather than yearly. And Margate, possibly, is in their sights.

They have certainly attracted some interesting documentary, street and landscape photographers. There is a lively bedrock of professional and amateur photographers in Hastings which hopefully will engender animated discussion. And the TTL Festival will be a good addition to the Hastings events calendar.

TTL Festival is part of the Coastal Currents arts festival. The festival is supporting charities Cystic Fibrosis and Dom’s Food Mission.  

TTL will run from 31 August to 8 September at St Mary in the Castle. Exhibition entry is £2.50. Talks cost £10-14 with student and under 16 concessions.

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Posted 15:06 Monday, Jul 30, 2018 In: Photography

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