[( 6 )] : The gallery
So, as I said, first thing to sort out is the space. I say first thing, but there's lots of other stuff going on at the same time but whilst there's uncertainty about the space, you can't sort out everything else. The amount of space is one thing, how much is cost is another and who will be there a third. Obviously there are other things too, but hopefully these will get wrapped up as I go along.
Whilst not officially a "graduate" show, the fact is that the people who'd expressed an interest are all graduates or almost-graduates due to the flexible nature of the OCA assessment events. With this in mind, one of the first ports of call was the London based Free Range exhibition space. I spent a good 30 minutes or so talking with Tamsin O’Hanlon whilst she was in South Africa, and she outlined the various opportunities that they had available during the Photography period (they apparently do different weeks for different arts). The cheapest they had going was circa £2500+VAT for the week, that was for what sounded like a reasonable sized space, probably a little too large for the half dozen of us interested though, and certainly it would've ended up far too expensive at circa £500 just for the space. The space is unmanned too, so this would need to be factored in meaning time off work (unpaid), hotel bills for a week (or whatever I attended for) and then time for putting up and taking down. Together with printing, any promo stuff and odds and ends, I was looking at the thicker end of about £5-6k. It was never going to happen...
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that a London show is not value for money. If I was at the beginning of a photography career, was sharing the venue with a few more people, didn't have to forego a week's income or pay for a London hotel and associated travel expenses (I'm too old and set in my ways to slum it anymore), then the added footfall and media attention that something like Free Range would attract would be invaluable, and a good show could be the start of a good career. The fact is, I don't ever really see photography as completely replacing my day job, well, not until I slip into semi-retirement or something and then maybe do a bit of lecturing (not sure I have the right mentality) or maybe sell a few prints (are they desirable?). So, for me at the current time, it seems a lot to spend for dubious benefit.
So where else? Well, bearing in mind the locations of those that stated an interest, Bank Street Arts in Sheffield came to mind. It's not on anyone's doorstep, but it is probably roughly equidistant between us - halfway between Suzhou and NYC! Well, there's 2 of us in the NW of England, and 2 in the south anyway. It also helped that I knew of BSA, and more to the point I like the place. It's not precious, it's not somewhere to fill me with awe, but it feels accessible and that's pretty important for me in what will be my first "major" show, well a show with my name in lights above the door (well, not really but you know what I mean) and more than one or two images installed anyway.
Initial enquiries revealed the costs (much cheaper than London at £550 for 2 weeks for the whole ground floor) and the submission procedure. This procedure was basically to provide some practical information (who, what, how many, how long, etc.) and also a written submission proposal with brief artist bios and the like. I let the others write something in this respects, then sought to homogenise them into something cohesive. I'm not sure how rigorous the selection process is - was it space available and you're in? But there was space available a week before our proposed dates, so we were in! We had a space for July.