Just Between Friends
2019 – 2022
A 5-year project with Robert Parkinson and a variety of community groups within the Runcorn area

Just Between Friends marks the end of a 5-year project (almost 6) with Robert and Gary working with a variety of groups within the Runcorn area. These have come under the titles of ‘As and When’ (2017 – Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool), Know Thy Neighbour (2019, Tate, Liverpool & Chaltem Gallery, London) and Just Between Friends (2021 – Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool and public realm). These projects have yielded multiple outputs in addition to the exhibitions, including one book, one academic article, one essay & exhibition for Stephen Willat’s CONTROL Magazine, two films, a few talks, conferences & workshops, some with medical professionals/carers, and most proudly, it was an instigating factor in the trialling of social prescriptions by the NHS/CCG in Halton after being presented to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing as part of a portfolio of ‘good practice’.

Press Release

Just Between Friends is a project developed and produced with a community group in Castlefields, Runcorn alongside Robert Parkinson and Gary Bratchford. The exhibition is split between two sites; firstly 4 public realm installations in Runcorn which are highlighted in the map provided. Secondly, an exhibition at Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, that showcases some of the processes and activities that contributed to the project over a 3-year period.

The purpose of parallel exhibitions, one in situ and one within the gallery, is threefold. Firstly, to encourage the exploration of Runcorn, to invite participants to see and experience the environment and people who make this project what it is. Secondly, to allow for the possibility of exchange between site and gallery, and to better reconcile the relationship between community and institution, city and suburb. Lastly, to better understand the hows and whys, successes and failures that shape how projects, such as Just Between Friends, come into being. To experience the exhibition fully you need to visit both the Open Eye Gallery and Castlefields, Runcorn.

The project covers a wide range of mediums that principally revolve around using lens-based media to evidence and explore the spaces and relationships formed through the project. In addition, walking, note making, cooking, eating and sharing conversations were as important a method as photo making. What this body of work highlights is the importance of community driven practice as a process and not just a final outcome.

For Robert & Gary, this wouldn't have been possible without the people we have worked with; Les Roberts / Peter Moore / Sharon & Phil Thornton / Bill Murphy / John Knight / Jim Smith / Barrie Davidson / Bob Allan / Buster and the CHI Community Cafe.

Just Between Friends marks the end of a 6-year project with Robert and Gary working with a variety of groups within the Runcorn area. These have come under the titles of 'As and When' (2017), Know Thy Neighbour (2019) and Just Between Friends (2021). We hope that these projects and their successes inspire others to co-create, embed within a community and make friends when adopting these practices.

While the exhibition marks the end of our formal relationship with the group, it also signals the start of something new. Those noted above have independently developed the framework for their own, constituted photo-based community group based at the CHI Community Cafe, Castlefields.

We're honoured to introduce: Phoenix Amateur Photography Group (PAP)

Documents, resources and links
Co-authoring Cultures
Liz Wewiora, Head of Social Practice, Open Eye Gallery
Collective Matters feedback film
Video feedback from local resident and project collaborators (Les Roberts & Barry Davidson); Axisweb: Contemporary Art UK Network
© Gary Bratchford