The Blackburn foundation course is well known for being a creative springboard for budding art students from around the North West, with an enviable reputation for its state-of-the-art facilities and an innovative, ‘baptism by fire’ approach to teaching. A&M was invited to the foundation show’s opening by its (completely unbiased) course leaders, Jamie Holman, and Joanne Conlon, who introduced the show at Blackburn College’s Beacon Centre by stating, “You just won’t believe how good this exhibition is… this group of students has secured 29 London art school offers, plus places at Glasgow School of Art, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh and everywhere in between. They have made films for Tate Liverpool, recorded and filmed The Nightingales, Emma Pollock and Tim Burgess as well as making films in Tanzania, Poland, Hong Kong and Cape Town.”
Blackburn, Lancashire, isn’t the easiest place to get to from London, despite what it says in the tourist guide, and if you miss your train connection (as we did) you’re looking at a six-hour journey, including a forty-minute sojourn in sunny Bolton. But of course, enduring the privations of privatized train travel was more than worth it in order to meet the students and see the work they’d produced in just one academic year.
There were many highlights, but we were particularly taken with the photographs of Kerry Heaton which showed the ever-so David Lynch-like interior and exteriors of a bleak local static caravan park. We were also impressed with the exquisite textile work of Zanab Ramzan and Becky Carlton’s intricate paper sculptures [below], inspired by Nabakov’s Lolita. Interspersed among photography, sculpture and painting was The Girl in Red, a fantastic short film which told the story of a doomed teenage romance, pitched, superficially at least, somewhere between Sam Taylor Wood’s Nowhere Boy and Nic Roeg’s Don’t Look Now.
Jamie was right; the show was of an exceptionally high standard, the running theme throughout leaning towards serious subject matter, executed in a playful style, but conceived, produced and presented with the utmost professionalism. The students had even put together a ‘multiples’ shop to sell editions of their works.
As we waved goodbye to these future stars and began our journey back to London we realized that while they may be geographically far away, when it comes to talent and determination they’re exactly where they need to be – in a vibrant experimental hotbed for young artists.
*The Girl in Red was written lmed and produced by Aaron Dunleavy, Rebecca Gill, Emily McGregor, James Hibbert, Josh Walker