Installed in Hall’s Croft, Stratford-upon-Avon
At the time of the most recent census (in 2011) Stratford-upon-Avon had a population of 27,445 but it receives over 4 million visitors every year. It’s a town that’s continually looking at its past, celebrating its heritage and restoring its historic buildings. Living with History forms a bridge between the historic and present day Stratford - what it looks like and what it’s like to grow up and work here.
William Mulryne was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1995 and received an HND in Photography from Stratford College. Mulryne is inspired by documentary photographers such as Don McCullin and Steve McCurry. He describes himself as an ‘observer of things' and the selection of photographs on show here put forward a view of Stratford that is fresh, dynamic, real and, at times, funny.
Mulryne’s photographs give the viewer an insight into what it’s like to grow up in Stratford: “It’s an amazing place with a special feeling. The town gets smaller every time you go out. I understand when people get angry at the various developments as it changes the feeling of the town with every one. If I were able to I’d love to go back in time and disallow any changes (except planting flowers and trees) from Shakespeare’s time. I’d pedestrianise the whole town (except for horse-drawn carts) and have a troupe of actors walking around performing Shakespeare scenes. I would keep homes as homes and I’d keep the theatre.”
The photographs selected for this exhibition capture Mulryne’s feelings beautifully - the nostalgia of childhood, the love for restoration and keeping history alive, the shots that capture a brief moment in time. And yet they represent a very different view of the town to the experience most tourists will have. They give us an insight into ‘real life’, the every day and the extraordinary within these humdrum moments.
The clash of old and new found within Mulryne’s photographs is most prominent in his documentation of the Stratford Mop Fair. The fair rides and fast food stalls sit amongst classical Stratford architecture. The people in the images are captured mid sentence and place the photograph in time. The photograph of the fairground ride stopped mid- movement captures another side to Mulryne’s experience of growing up: “Asperger Syndrome made growing up a series of experiences, everything was 100% interesting. I experienced cars, music, elevators: the sounds and the way they moved, working out how they worked and being mesmerised by the visual movement.” Mulryne’s photographs perfectly capture his way of seeing and feeling the world whilst at the same time allowing the viewer to experience his fascination with movement and sound.
September 2019 also marks the 250th anniversary of the Shakespeare Jubilee, organised by the actor, playwright and producer David Garrick, in 1769. The celebrations included the construction of the first real, but temporary, theatre in Stratford. Built not far from the site of the present Royal Shakespeare Theatre, it was almost washed away in two days of torrential rain that resulted in terrible flooding. The diarist James Boswell wrote of the Jubilee: ‘After the joy of the Jubilee came the uneasy reflection that I was in a little village in wet weather and knew not how to get away.’ Road infrastructure is still an issue 250 years on, and is a point of contention between the residents of the town and the very large number of tourists visiting each year.
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre can be seen in Mulryne’s photograph of the River Avon. Several of his works shown here explore the relationship of the town with the waterways and how this has changed over centuries. The river is still well used to this day by rowers and tourists alike. Mulryne also captures how the town’s connection with theatre has changed and how contemporary performances take place at night and outside, bringing the perceivably elite experience to the masses.
Mulryne’s exhibition is on show in the Hall’s Croft cafe, part of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Hall’s Croft was the home of Shakespeare's daughter Susanna and her husband John Hall.
This exhibition has been curated by Josephine Reichert. Reichert is the founder and director of Ort Gallery, an artist-led exhibition space in Balsall Heath, Birmingham. Ort Gallery represents underrepresented artists and facilitates dialogue in the community, making art accessible to everyone. Josephine has curated the busy programme at Ort Gallery since 2012.