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  • ginnykoppenhol

Everyday is Like Sunday

During my residency with the Life Rooms in Southport, one of the people in the group told us that Morrissey's scathing lyrics about a deserted seaside town, was possibly based on the singer's experiences of visiting Southport as a child.


On further Googling this proved hard to verify, but the story stuck with me as it was a particularly overcast 'out of season' day that day.


But happily, the photography project residency co-commissioned by the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool and Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust spanned 12 months, and so I got to experience the beautiful town in all its seasons.


Photo by Dave (Course 1)


Southport is not somewhere I have frequented growing up, partly due to living close to the seaside town of Morecambe myself, but was very glad to have this opportunity.


Life Rooms is a mental health and social support hub. Their website says:

" We are here to help you improve your mental and physical wellbeing. Whatever the issue; from housing and employment, to lifestyle or exercise. We’re here when you’re ready to take your next steps towards a healthier life. Our services are available to anyone aged 18+."


As part of their programme, the Life Rooms offer a variety of creative groups and projects.


The commission brief was to run three sets of 7-week photography courses (weekly sessions). Whilst I have run many creative workshops and courses in health care settings and as an Occupational Therapist in mental health settings (my former career), I had never really delved into the practice and meaning of 'Socially Engaged Photography' until now.



Photo walk - Course 2 (Photos shared with permission)


It was quite freeing to be able to share the role of shaping the course and its direction with those who joined me for the group. (I have since joined a programme offered by the Open Eye Gallery, called Crossing Sectors, for photographers wanting to work in a socially engaged way. It covers topics such as diversity and inclusivity, ethics and looking after ourselves. I'd highly recommend it!)


Sessions at the Life Rooms included photographic techniques that people wanted to learn, relaxed creative tasks that allowed for story sharing and discussion, and there was a always a gallery trip included too, chosen by the group. Two groups visited the Tom Wood exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, and one opted for the 'Return of the Gods' sculpture exhibition at The World Museum. I was also fortunate to have some fantastic support from Photography student Adam, and Socially Engaged Photography students Aqib and Sauloman.


This beautiful and spontaneous letter from Nicki, who came to Course 2, summarised her experience and the importance of spaces like the Life Rooms and the photography project (shared with her permission):


" Going to Life Rooms has helped me when I have been unwell and help me when I am trying to stay well.

We don’t have to join groups as it’s a safe place to go be to just chat and drink coffee.

The attitude of staff that I have met over the years is totally different.

We are treated with respect, dignity and able to just be ourselves.

 

I have been interested in photography since I was a teenager. So when I was able to attend this course, I was very happy.


Ginny has been great. She has lead the group and always given us our own perspectives and the ability to choose what we would like to learn in the group each week. And each week I feel more confident.


Last week in particular helped me as we had a day out at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. I was anxious beforehand because of my social anxiety but as soon as I got into the taxi with Ginny and some of the other women, I started to calm down.

I felt very special that day, as we had a taxi from Life Rooms to the art gallery and then back again. And we saw the exhibition and had coffee and cake.


So I would just like to say that courses like this at Life Rooms are very important as they keep everyone well.


This has increased my self-esteem and confidence.


Thank you,

Nicki"


Tom Wood exhibition, Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool


Each of the three courses culminated in an exhibition where the group members chose their favourite image and curated an exhibition to hang in the Life Rooms.


Prepping the exhibition - Course 3 (Photo shared with permission)


Invariably, despite having an open brief, the exhibitions celebrated Southport with all its charm and quirks. The photographers were proud of their town and wanted to share their views of it with others.

Sorry Morrissey, if you were talking about Southport, you were wrong.



Photo by Rull (Group 1)



Photo by Sui (Course 1)



Photo by Sue (Course 1)

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