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Exhibition featuring the 2012 Guild celebrations opens in Preston city centre

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A photography exhibition featuring the people of Preston celebrating the 2012 Guild has opened at The Larder, in central Preston. Between Two Guilds features nearly 200 images taken by local photographer Bernie Blackburn. We went along to the exhibition launch to chat with Bernie and see if we could spot ourselves amongst the crowds.

“It is joyous to have so many fantastic images of the Preston community on display,” says Victoria Dyer, from Art at The Larder. “Bernie’s images are taken from a variety of locations during the processions, he was at the Adelphi Roundabout, the Flag Market and Friargate snapping away. He has captured so many people! Lots of different community groups, schools and organisations feature in the exhibition.”

Can you see yourself? The Larder is inviting people to come along and identify the community groups featured. Pic The Larder

“We are exactly halfway between the last Guild and the next one so it is a fabulous point to stop, take stock and remember all of the fantastic people and wonderful events that Preston held for this unique celebration.”

“We worked with Preston City Council who supported us by printing all the images featured in the exhibition and the Harris Museum supported us by printing the promotional materials.”

Guild Mayor Carl Crompton opened Between Two Guilds, an exhibition of the work of Bernie Blackburn. Pic Lisa Brown

You may already be familiar with Bernie Blackburn’s artistic work. He has built up a huge archive of photographs of Preston, taken over the past two decades. His work has been exhibited across the North West and as far afield as Sydney. The creative also works in sculpture, 3D design, furniture and lighting and is a past winner of the Harris Open exhibition. He is also prolific on social media, last year one of his satirical photo montages was seen by over two million people on Twitter. 

During the 2012 Guild, he exhibited Preston Now and Then showcasing some of the city’s iconic places, blending a photograph of a location taken in the past, with one in the present.

“A photographer visited Preston in 1910 and photographed a variety of locations,” Bernie tells me. Bernie followed in the photographer’s footsteps, taking photographs from the same angle and blending them. People visiting the exhibition in St George’s Shopping Centre and Avenham Park Pavilion could witness changes to the train station, old Booths supermarket and Fishergate amongst others. It was a popular exhibition, receiving over 4,000 comments from people who were visiting the city during the Guild Weeks.

It’s surprising to learn that Bernie isn’t from Preston. He was born in Port Talbot and came to Preston when he was six as his dad hailed from the town.

“But,” he says, “I’m a Prestonian at heart.”

Carl Crompton and Bernie Blackburn enjoy looking back at the 2012 Guild. Pic Lisa Brown

Bernie also didn’t start out in photography, he trained in design, achieving a degree in Furniture Design. Unable to find reliable photographers to photograph his work he borrowed a camera from university and became hooked. His first forays into photography were on early digital cameras, recording images on floppy discs.

“You could only fit three images on a floppy disc!” Bernie says. “Digital made it more affordable, so everyone could partake but that ability to spot a good image, that is within you.”

Bernie has also exhibited work with his partner Jo Cook, a fine artist, at the old Bitter Suite, in Fylde Road. Together they exhibited Blue Sky Thinking a series of images depicting blue skies that were on display for two years at the venue. Jo is at the launch of his exhibition at The Larder, along with Garry Cook from Lancashire Photography Festival where Bernie exhibited work last year and 2012 Guild Mayor Carl Crompton and Mayoress Linda Crompton. Carl Crompton is here to open Between Two Guilds.

“People travelled from across the world to Preston Guild,” he says. “Bernie did a marvellous job capturing it.”

Guild Mayor Carl Crompton and photographer Bernie Blackburn reminisce about the 2012 Guild celebrations Pic Lisa Brown

Carl reminisces with Bernie about the Guild celebrations and working with him to enable him to photograph and move about the large crowds. Reflecting on the buoyant atmosphere Carl says, “The streets were chock-a-block, it was rammed and that unique celebration that you only find in Preston is reflected in Bernie’s photographs.”

BBC Radio Lancashire’s John Gillmore enjoyed the exhibition at The Larder. Pic Lisa Brown

Victoria Dyer worked with Bernie to curate the exhibition. 70 photographs are on display on the walls of the venue and a further 100 can be viewed on a monitor in The Larder and on Flickr. The photographer has kindly made all the images available for The Larder to sell to raise money for their food fairness for all projects.

“We would love people to come along and help us identify the different groups, schools, artists and musicians who feature,” says Victoria. “Let us know if you are in one of the photographs!”

“I love Preston’s history,” said Bernie. “But I also love the fantastic diversity of the city’s people.”

You can order an A4 size print of any of the prints featured in the exhibition for £5 by emailing art@thelarder.org.uk.

Between Two Guilds will be exhibited at The Larder in Lancaster Road, Preston until Sunday 7 August 2022.

The Between Two Guilds album can be viewed on FlickR.

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