Kevin Crooks is an exhibitor at this years Fieldwork Photography Symposium on November 9th. His work will be shown at the University’s PR1 Gallery as alongside a range of other practitioners during the symposium. He has come back to UCLan to talk about his photographic development and the project he will be exhibiting.
KC – I am a St. Helens based photographer who has recently won the Deutsche Bank Award for Creative Enterprise after completing an MA in Photography at the University of Central Lancashire. The award will provide funding and support to produce ‘M62: The Trans-Pennine Motorway’, a social documentary project which will explore the effects of how the Northern Powerhouse initiatives, and other government policies and programmes shape the lives of people within society, but more specifically those individuals and communities that are intrinsically linked to the motorway. The project will be produced between 2016-17, and will culminate in the production and a publication, this will be accompanied by the site specific presentations at relevant locations.
A selection of the work has recently been exhibited as part of ‘Northern Light, Contemporary Landscape Photography at the SIA Gallery, Sheffield and an article on the progress of the work was published in the Journal of Writing in Creative Practice in April 2016.
This will also be supported, and part funded by the Heart of Glass, an Arts Council England funded Creative People and Places initiative, which is based within St. Helens. In 2015, whilst still studying for my MA, I was given the opportunity to realise a project, which involved documenting a number of Army Reservists who were living and working within the town. The project named ‘On Reserve’ was exhibited at The World of Glass, St. Helens and the PR1 Gallery, Preston.
After completing my undergraduate degree in Fine Art at UCLan in 2002, I have worked professionally within the field of photography. Since 2008 I have successfully coordinated a BTEC in Photography at Priestley College and in September 2016 was appointed to the post of Head of Photography at Carmel College.
There has been a recent interest in the mobility and transport of the North in general and how this can be used to stimulate, develop and sustain growth within the regions economy, whilst rebalancing the countries economy as a whole. In March 2015 the government released a report on the Northern Transport Strategy called ‘The Northern Powerhouse: One Agenda, One Economy, One North’, this report set out their vision in how they planned to stimulate and achieve increased growth within the North.
‘Our shared aim is to transform Northern growth, rebalance the country’s economy and establish the North as a global powerhouse.’ (Department for Transport, 2015)
Through the production of my work I am interested in focusing my attention on how the creation of ‘The Northern Powerhouse’, through developing and adding to the existing road network will directly, or indirectly impact the towns that are geographically, politically, socially and economically linked to the M62. Since the creation of the M62, it has been the cities within the region that have gained the most from governmental improvements to transport infrastructure programmes and developments, not the towns and the other areas that it passes through.
Connectivity within the North-West region is limited and restricted in comparison to London and its surrounding areas, however now that it takes just as long to get from Warrington to London (195 miles) as it does to get from Warrington to Leeds (58 miles) on a train, is it not time that we reconsidered how the north is to realistically achieve and realise an increase and effectiveness of connectivity and cohesion any time soon?
Through the research, development and production of my current practice I am in the process of examining and highlighting whether it’s too little too late to rely on a vision of what the transport infrastructure of the future could provide in assisting the rebalance of the countries economy?
Should the communities that may be directly affected by the further industrialisation of the north encourage, embrace and support further continued dramatic manipulation of the regions landscape?
Is it possible to consider new and more appropriate methods and approaches that could be effectively utilised to enhance connectivity, in order to stimulate sustainable growth and development within the region?
Should the authorities be more aware and understanding of the commonalities, which bind the communities within our northern cities and towns and the possible opportunities that can be developed through embracing and celebrating the culture, heritage and diversity of the people who live within them?
Do we need to understand and appreciate the social structure that may be disrupted by further development of the regions road transport network?
I see the motorway as being a visual reference. There is a contradiction within the motorway in the fact the motorway is there to connect and people and places, however the people who travel on the motorway are somewhat detached from the landscape and communities that they travel through and also the people, in other cars around them that travel on the same stretch of motorway.
There is a specific focus on connectivity in George Osborne’s vision of how the Northern Powerhouse is to be created and facilitated, however do the towns that the motorway passes through really benefit from these initiatives? Historically, have these places ever notably, or substantially benefitted from the inclusion of the motorway, in the same way that increased connectivity through the creation of the Northern Powerhouse is to be envisaged?
I want to produce this project in order to widen peoples awareness of the M62, motorways, the national road network, transport and connectivity whilst examining, exploring researching and communicating the on going affects that large- scale transport infrastructure programmes have on the regions economy and the communities, towns and areas that they are supposed to be realised for.