Colin Thomas — Wrexham Leisure

Colin Thomas is a documentary photographer based in Telford, Shropshire. The Café Royal publication, released today, Wrexham Leisure 1982—1984, features work from his Event project which was exhibited at Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool in 1983.
Colin sent this text to help place his work:

I’ve owned a camera since my early teens but photography was just one of several interests. It became my main interest when I discovered the Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool,in the late 1970s. The exhibitions inspired me, especially work by documentary photographers and for the first time I realised how powerful photography can be. I started educating myself with the help of monographs of photographers such as Tony Ray-Jones, Ray Moore and David Hurn.

I earned my living as a civil servant and moved, with my job, from Merseyside to Wrexham, North Wales in 1979 and the photographs in Event were all taken in the early 1980’s. It was the first time I’d worked on a series of photographs.

Shortly after our arrival my wife and I were invited to participate in an inter-street rounders match and a fancy dress charity evening. It was a great way of getting to know our new neighbours and despite having just moved into the area everything seemed familiar to me.

I grew up on a council estate on the outskirts of Aberystwyth, Mid Wales. It was a close-knit community and the regular organised events helped maintain and strengthen it. Many of my earliest recollections are of my family taking part in village activities. My father managed the local football team and I can remember my mother playing in a Ladies Cricket tournament and singing a couple of numbers at the Women’s Institute concert. I also recall the day I was pageboy to the Carnival Queen; I was reluctant to get dressed up but there was a box of chocolates on offer from the carnival committee so I was easily persuaded.

In Wrexham I rediscovered my love of community events and found plenty taking place in the area. It was, and still is, difficult for me to point my camera at someone. To get the photos I wanted I knew I had to work with a wideangle lens and get close. The more I worked the easier it got and I found that a lot of people assumed I was working for the local press because I had two, sometimes three, cameras around my neck. In 1982 the Open Eye gallery put up a couple of commissions for photographers and I applied and was accepted. The gallery was run by Neil Burgess and Derek Massey and they gave me valuable advice and encouragement. There was only a small amount of money involved but the exhibition deadline motivated me to work harder. Looking back I realise it was an ideal photographic project for me to cut my teeth on.

Author: craigatkinsonstudio

UK based photographer, publisher (Café Royal Books), lecturer (UCLan), visiting lecturer (lots), and dad (x2). Generally concerned with street photography and places, usually Brutalist. Founded Café Royal Books in 2005. Publishes weekly titles focusing broadly on aspects of change, usually social documentary, in the UK, and between 1970 — 2000. Work collected by MoMA, Tate, V&A and many other international public, private and educational libraries, galleries and museums.

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