brighton Photo fringe

Foundations and First Year

BPF logo designed by  Steven Swingler

BPF logo designed by Steven Swingler

The first ever meeting of what was to become the Brighton Photo Fringe was held at the Sanctuary Café, Waterloo East Street, Brighton at 7pm on 23rd June 2003. The meeting was organized by Steve White of Spectrum Photographic who brought together Lisa Creagh, Gordon MacDonald, then editor of Photoworks Magazine and Paul Reas, then lecturer at Brighton University that the pace of the fringe began to build. The notes from this meeting read as follows:


This meeting of the Brighton Photo Fringe rounded out some of the hopes and expectations for a collection of photographic events taking place in conjunction with the Brighton Photo Biennial (BPB) this October.


The aims of the Fringe were as follows, 


1. To present Brighton based photographers the opportunity to exhibit during the Biennial.

2. To promote the photographic arts in the area, stimulating a visual arts scene which currently suffers from a lack of venues and events.

3. To bring the Biennial audiences in contact with a range of activities outside of the official Biennial program.

4. To work in partnership with the Biennial in order to broaden and enhance the existing festival of photography.


Those attending defined their roles:

Lisa Creagh: To coordinate the events, publicise the season as a whole and bring in other organisers for individual projects. To oversee the design and production of marketing materials.


Steve White (Spectrum): To host a group exhibition of Spectrum clients, offer practical advice and support for the overall project in the form of production using the resources available at Spectrum and possibly organise a phone/photo exhibition with the assistance of others.


Gordon McDonald: To act as a bridge between the official Biennial and this project, offer friendly advice and support on behalf of Photoworks, although not through Photoworks as they are already participating, and to bring in other artists who may be interested in participating.


Paul Reas: To organise and sponsor the exhibition at the Media Centre. To potentially sponsor the West Street project and to bring in contributors and photographers.


From this initial Monday night meeting, a weekly time was set for photographers to meet and discuss ideas for the Fringe. These meetings, always taking place on Mondays at 7pm at the Sancturary Café grew exponentially week by week, eventually attracting as many as thirty photographers interested in taking part. 


Present at the second meeting were Steve White from Spectrum Photographic, Paul Reas - Photographer, Lisa Creagh - Coordinator, Barbara Taylor - Photographer, Cathy Gillo - Photographer, Jeff Hemmings- Brighton Fringe Festival, Steve Swingler - Designer, Magali Nougarede – Photographer. Notes from the second meeting (1/7/03) read “Open Submission was defined as an open call for submissions which would not need to conform to a criteria. “ Opinions were divided with the arguments against an open submission centering on the possibility that this would be a time consuming process producing too many options which only posed problems given the tight constraints of time. There was a concern, also about the quality of work that may be submitted. 


Those in favour of open submission argued that the likely response from a short publicity campaign would only attract practicing photographers who would have the dedication necessary to put on their own shows within the time constraint. Also that there may be a wealth of talent in Brighton which would remain untapped without the public announcement of a fringe and that this would be a shame.


The conclusion reached was that those who wished to invite photographers would do so, and those who wished to take care of an open submission could also do so and these two methods were ultimately complimentary to the fringe as a whole in aiming to offer opportunities to well known and lesser-known photographers. A clause was written into the terms and conditions allowing the organisers to block any unsuitable submissions but this veto was never needed.


The process of calling for submissions was then defined as follows:

1. The design of an A3 poster by Steven Swingler

2. The creation of an application form to be sent out to respondents

3. An email address as the point of contact

4. The possibility of a short website where this process could be fully automated (ie, the respondant goes to a web address on the poster and downloads a form)

5. A deadline of August 15th for all submissions.


The insight and experience of Jeff Hemmings in founding and running a fringe was crucial at this stage to help the team quickly decide upon the best structure for the BPF in terms of finance and coordination.


With only a few months remaining, they were able to create the architecture of the organisation quickly, with design produced by Steve Swingler and web programming by Lourdes Vero Diez who worked from the creative digital collaboration called Interzones.


The name of the organization was decided at the following meeting, along with a structure of how to finance the marketing and distribution of information. This meeting was attended by Danny Wilson, who went on to help shape the organization as one of the subsequent Directors. The first Brighton Photo Fringe was financed entirely by contributions from participating photographers, with inkind sponsorship from Spectrum Photographic. All work by the organisers, designers and coordinators was carried out for free. 


By Monday 14th July, the outline and structure of the organization was in place, with branding, bank account, website structure, entry deadlines, financial plan and marketing strategy. With only month left for planning, Creagh set about relationship building with Jeremy Miller, first Director of the Brighton Photo Biennial and Paula Murray, Head of Culture and Economy at Brighton and Hove City Council. 


Jeremy Millar expressed his support for the BPF in the following ways:

1. Moral support

2. Joint distribution of brochures including our mailing list merged with theirs

3. Some inclusion in their catalogue (perhaps a mention would be useful?)

4. Joint printing to save us both costs

5. Coordination of design and look

6. Cooperation in terms of scheduling of events.


This support from the BPB was crucial in establishing the BPF as an integral part of the main event and fostered strong ties between the two organisations, which have remained in place to this day. The council too were to play an important role, but this was to come later.