Go Wild in Matlock Bath: The British Wildlife Photography Exhibition

'Grey Heron Walking on Water' by Andrew Parkinson

'Grey Heron Walking on Water' by Andrew Parkinson - Credit: Various photographers - see captions

Ashley Franklin investigates the return of award-winning photography to Matlock Bath Pavilion

A national photography exhibition that opened recently in Derbyshire is a threefold local success story. First, the exhibition, which showcases the 2011 British Wildlife Photography Awards (BWPA), has been financed and organised by Crane Gregory Projects Ltd, an East Midlands social enterprise, following its successful staging of last year’s Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Second, that exhibition was the first public event at the reopened Matlock Bath Pavilion – and this same venue is hosting the BWPA, along with the Peak District Mining Museum. Third, 12 of the accepted images were taken in Derbyshire, nine of them by county-based photographers. Derbyshire Life’s own expert Paul Hobson gained four acceptances, and the exhibition is a particular triumph for Crich-based professional Andrew Parkinson who, amongst his three acceptances, won the Behaviour category with an extraordinary image of a grey heron walking on water and was Highly Commended for his ‘capture’ of coots running.

Buoyed up by the response to the Veolia exhibition, Crane Gregory co-director Helen Crane is thrilled to be bringing more images from the natural world: ‘We were knocked out by not only attracting a good number of visitors of all ages to last year’s show – over 3,000 – but also receiving such a warm enthusiastic response. Most were amazed to find something of this quality outside London. The Veolia show displayed wildlife around the world but this show of UK wildlife is even more exciting as it reminds us what a fantastic and diverse natural heritage we have within the British Isles: spectacular beasts, birds and insects both large and small; underwater creatures of wondrous colours; and such an abundance of wildlife on our doorstep in Derbyshire including grouse, grebe, coot, wood mouse and water vole.’

Helen, who lives in Holloway, was keen to help raise the profile again of Matlock Bath Pavilion, which has over 1,300 Friends of the Pavilion, who share a vision of the old theatre returned to its original splendour and used as a multi-purpose centre for arts, entertainment and local heritage. In fact, as Helen reveals, hosting the Veolia exhibition helped greatly in convincing Derbyshire Dales District Council to sell the Friends the freehold of the Pavilion: ‘We were able to show that visitors came to the exhibition from all over the North and East Midlands and even further afield.’

Since last summer’s exhibition, the Pavilion has gone from strength to strength, according to Charles Beresford, Vice Chairman of the Friends: ‘We have new Friends joining every week – it’s only £10 a year and all get reduced price entry to all the events we run ourselves – and every weekend and on summer evenings, Friends turn up to paint, clean, hold ladders, make tea or provide professional skills as engineers, decorators, electricians, plumbers etc. Importantly, when we apply for grants, each person who supports us as a Friend counts as “community support”, so we’re on track to restore the Pavilion by 2015, providing a 400-seat theatre, community heritage room, café and community and exhibition space.’

‘In the last year, we have attracted over 15,000 individual visits through indoor markets, art exhibitions and live performances, and we have boosted the local economy. During one live performance, local pubs reported their best ever trading days and hotels and guest houses told of significantly higher than normal occupation. Also, restaurants and shops have reported increased takings when the Pavilion is open, so we are delighted that we are hosting yet another prestigious wildlife exhibition.’

The British Wildlife Photography Exhibition 2011 is at Matlock Bath Pavilion until 1st September. Open daily 10.30am to 5pm. £5 Adults, £12.50 Family Group.