Local people invited to take part in 'Project Berkshire'

MERL is asking for local people to contribute ideas for a project that is producing a record of the Berkshire countryside.

MERL, which is owned and managed by the University of Reading, is currently hosting Field work: photographs from East Anglia, an exhibition of photographer Justin Partyka’s work exploring the lives of those whose identity stems from a close relationship with the landscape.

Now, with support from Arts Council England, MERL has commissioned Justin to photograph rural Berkshire.  From Friday 23 to Sunday 25 March MERL has organised workshops in The Oracle shopping centre, led by Justin’s colleague Bee Farrell, where local people can provide information on local family names as well as describe their favourite places around Berkshire.

MERL Curator, Isabel Hughes says “Justin is looking for interesting locations around Berkshire and the activities are designed to encourage discussion about favourite places and local names around Berkshire.  Visitors will be encouraged to look at contemporary and historic maps and photographs. There will be opportunities for people to use stencils to write up and decorate family names and work with an app on ipads to draw their own maps.

Justin began working on his ‘Project Berkshire’ in February, exploring and photographing farms and landscapes around the county. The results of his first foray can now be seen in the form of a ‘pop up’ exhibition, mounted in partnership with ‘Jelly’ in empty shops in central Reading.

Justin Partyka said: “As a photographer I am excited by this opportunity to discover Berkshire, which is an unknown county to me.  It is easy to see the county of Berkshire as one large suburb shaped by the urban sprawl of Reading and the commuter belt of the M4 slicing the county in half. But I have already discovered that this is just one aspect of the place. As I explore with my camera I intend to also show another side of Berkshire, the more hidden rural pockets that may have become forgotten or overlooked by many people in the past in an age where industrial agriculture has come to dominate the countryside.”

 The workshops are supported by the Earley Charity and arts organisation Jelly.

To find out how to get involved in ‘Project Berkshire’, visit the MERL website or call 0118 378 8660.

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