Simone Witney talks to Lucy Bell and David Rhodes about the Tom Hunter show


Karam at Rock-a-nore
PICTURE: Tom Hunter

The title is a phrase I spotted among a wall of slogans written by the public at the Ian Hislop exhibition ‘I Object’ at the British Museum. This show focused on languages of dissent: clothes, for example, or coins stamped
with messages. In fact there are multiple languages of dissent. Any event, network, or vehicle of communication which gives expression to values opposed to those of political or bureaucratic institutions is an act of protest: a critique.

This was the thinking behind Lucy Bell and David Rhodes’ decision to create an exhibition that illuminates the lives of taxi drivers in Hastings; they both
share a passionate belief in the value of individual courage and resourcefulness.

“This country is under extreme stress,” said Lucy. “How are we to deal with it? We have to be positive, to bring stories about things we value, about what individuals are doing with their lives, up from the grassroots into general awareness.”

It has taken them two years, but during that time they’ve had ‘wonderful support’ from the Arts Council, Hastings Borough Council, Hastings Museum,The Chalk Cliff Trust, Scott Mead, 247247 Taxis and Metro Imaging, and from Hannah Wiebe, who constructed the sound installation at the
museum – and of course from internationally renowned and celebrated photographer Tom Hunter.

Lucy and David (former curator at the De La Warr) have worked with little  salary as the budget was so tight. Tom stayed with Lucy on his visits to Hastings and she drove up to the sites at four am to help set up the dawn shots and carry the field camera over muddy cliffs and rocks. 

Heroes and regeneration
In the course of the project, they have uncovered many heroes. These include Richard Harding, who is the driver liaison manager and a qualified ex children’s service manager, who has supported the project for 247247. Richard and his colleagues at 247 help drivers gain their qualifications to become licensed drivers and support them through this process. As we know, funding for refugees has been severely cut in the town, and his work is even more vital to help people gain employment – as is that of Rosanna Leal who runs the Hastings and Rother buddy scheme to support refugees.

By honouring the experience of the drivers and their contribution to our lives, the show is itself an act of inclusivity. It’s a celebration of the richness that social diversity brings to this ‘sleepy seaside town’ (Daily Mail) and which is part of the process of regeneration. 

There is so much going on in this town that life here can seem a ferment of disparate activity. In the course of working with HIP, I meet a lot of people and in no time tap into sources of deep commitment to and aspirations for this community. They form a counterweight to the town’s undoubted stresses and areas of disfunction. And you can read about them here. In your paper: the Hastings Independent.

You can take part in a competition connected with the show by posting three photos that relate to your favourite local place on Instagram #HMAGHunter.
1st Prize £200, 2nd £100, 3rd £50.

• Competition to be judged by Lucy, David, Tom and Catherine Harvey of Hastings Museum.

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