Lots of snapping and a great big hug

All hail! Ben's pastiche for Shooting the Grown-Ups
All hail! Ben’s pastiche for Shooting the Grown-Ups

Grown-ups are all very mature, but if you want vivid imaginations, crazy ideas, wild, random and giddy running around and massive and uninhibited hugs, give me a bunch of kids any day.

It’s the school holidays and I’d volunteered to run a photography workshop for children at Leeds Museum. I’d already done a couple of workshops for the grown-ups, which were very civilized affairs, with some clever ideas and good technical skills, but now it was time to lose any inhibitions and that went for the children as well.

The youngsters were already bouncing off the walls with excitement and giddiness, no doubt fueled by over-enthusiastic Easter egg consumption. I whisked them outside to do the 20-step challenge. Easy peasy, walk 20 steps, stop and take a photo, not just any old thing, something different, they didn’t disappoint, and made rather a lot of noise about it too. They burst across Millennium Square and bothered workers escaping the office for a lunchtime read and a bit of peace and quiet, ha ha, some hope! I’m not even going to mention the chaos we caused in the Nelson Mandela Peace Garden, except that there was mass disregard for the keep off the grass signs, I think we got away with it…

I saved the best for last – shooting the grown-ups. The idea was to get the youngsters to art direct the adults, or make them stand in silly poses, whichever they chose. Noel refused me permission to post the photo of him doing passable Middle-Aged Man at C and A, though copies can be emailed on request. Mums and dads were made to do Elvis Lip, jump up and down, stand hand on shoulder and, pay homage to two of the grown-ups, producing a pastiche of an Old Master. Actually, I thought the children were rather restrained and very polite, the last time I did this with kids they made their parents pick their noses, their own noses, that it, anything else would have been gross.

They were a super bunch, very interested and interesting, and politely thanking me, which was lovely. Then Nathan, who has Down’s Syndrome and autism, his communicating hampered even further by deafness, gave me a high five and the best hug I’ve ever had. And just for good measure, he did it again.  I think I’ll build group hugs into all future workshops, and invite Nathan to show us how.

Magnificent magnificence

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People who don’t know any better talk about Bradford as if it’s the poor relation of every other northern city and as we northerners know, that puts it bottom of the pile. Well, ya boo sucks to you Bradford naysayers, this weekend, with the official opening of City Park, it was the best city in the country. So there.

I really do get fed up of the way Bradford is portrayed in the media and Twittersphere. Channel Four’s recent Make Bradford British fly-in-the-ointment, I mean fly on the wall, documentary just underlined all the anti-Bradfordness. Come on, guys, give the city a break.

With my Exposure Leeds hat on, the community photography social enterprise I’m part of, I took a gaggle of 30 or so people on a photowalk around the City Park official opening celebrations on Saturday. Actually, I should have had an Exposure Leeds hat on, a very very large one, because as soon as we stepped out from the meeting place at Impressions Gallery, we were swallowed up by the thousands and thousands of people who were enjoying the celebrations in the six-acre space. I soon lost 20 of them, it always happens!

I have never seen so many people so good naturedly having a great time in the city centre. Children and quite a few adults were splashing in the Mirror Pool, the focal point of the park, where fountains gurgle, splash and spout, depending on which way out they’re feeling. Two gymnasts were twirling and tumbling, suspended from giant helium balloons and the street entertainment just went on and on. Even the electioneering candidates hoping to get a look-in at this week’s by-election were greeted cordially, I shook George Galloway’s hand and had my head examined by the Monster Raving Loony Party candidate who confirmed that I am in fact bonkers. Tell me something I don’t know!

The idea of a photowalk is to walk and take photos, pretty simple really. It encourages people to look for something different to photograph, try something new and to enjoy the challenge. By the time we returned to Impressions, others were uploading their photos, with many of them displayed on the large public screen in the city centre.

The finale was two-pronged. On the one hand, there was a spectacular firework display, on the other, protesters good-naturedly, symbolically and actually turned their backs on the festivities to face the crumbling old Odeon cinema, cunningly hidden behind scaffolding and wrapping.

The Odeon was a splendid art deco-style cinema which has fallen on hard times since it closed at the turn of the millennium. There were plans to renovate and feature it as part of the city centre development, but that hasn’t happened so people have got a bit peeved, hence the protest. In my book, it didn’t detract from the fabulous day, it just underlined that the city has a heart and cares. How many other cities can say that, eh?

Knee-high photowalk

What’s the collective noun for excited young photographers? A click? A clique? A giggle? A gaggle?  Aghast? Give kids a camera, a hint of an idea, a football field and watch their imaginations run riot. I did, it was glorious!

What seemed like a couple of hundred excited children, but in reality numbered a couple of dozen, converged on Hunslet Youth Club for the first ever LSx Junior, a mini technology festival for key stage one and two run by enthusiasts and volunteers. I, with my Exposure Leeds hat on, was one of them.

Youngsters could try their hands at making lamps using old phone chargers and LEDs,  animating Lego shapes, putting together a pinhole camera using that rather old-fashioned spool film and taking photos.

The photowalk was simple. Children, accompanied by their parents set off around the football field, with the instructions to stop every 20 steps and take a photo of something interesting, a shape, a texture, a person – whatever. It is amazing what they came up with!

On return to the club, they were invited to shoot the grown-ups, with their cameras of course. I also suggested they made them pose… and they did, in the way that only kids can. So their imaginations went into overdrive as they to the grown-ups to a) dance a jig, b) pick their noses, c) pretend someone had just farted. Kids, eh?

Have a look at the fun we had:

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