Every Country is Perfectly Designed …

mickyates Culture, Environment, Ideas, Mick's Photo Blog, Politics Leave a Comment

This article rings true to me, as the UK’s current challenges are not just economic. They are structural and cultural. The society wants (deserves?) to be a modern, socially liberal and inclusive one, northern European with a strong NHS, care for those in need, social safety nets, strong on human rights, strong on both arts and science etc. But it has been run for years as America-light. So we see deteriorating infrastructure, austerity not investment, growing inequality (both personally and regionally) and all without the innovation / productivity engines needed to sustain that kind of society.

We are essentially ‘stuck in the middle’, massively compounded by Brexit and isolationist thinking – and of course immigration scare-mongering. This is not just about practical impact but in national mindset. With the clear and ongoing Tory Government incompetence, populist management by slogan, and a whiff of corruption to serve the elite few, this is a perfect storm. It all feels much worse to me than when I left in 1981, not to come back for 20 years. And I say that as a well-off citizen.

A wise colleague of mine once wrote ‘Every organisation is perfectly designed to get the results that it gets’. That goes for countries, too.

The UK needs social and cultural renewal not just economic improvement. And right now Labour isn’t offering much more than the Tories. It’s not just the economy, stupid. And it’s not just about two parties. It is about everyone in the UK.

And before I get hit by the ‘talking the country down’ brigade, true patriotism is seeing what is in front of you as a nation and working to improve things, not trying to turn the clock back. Our family tree goes back to England not long after the Doomsday Book, but I’d rather think about what’s best for our children than try to appease our ancestors.


HANNA, David P. 1988. Designing Organizations for High Performance. University of Michigan: Addison Wesley.

Photo|Frome 2023 was a major success!

mickyates Exhibition, Festival, Mick's Photo Blog, Personal, Photography, Photo|Frome Leave a Comment

The festival had over 11,000 visitors across all of our venues, almost double last year’s inaugural result of 6,000. Exhibitions broke daily and total attendance records at the major venues such as Rook Lane Chapel and Black Swan Arts, and this year’s innovations such as Coffee @ Photo|Frome brought new visitors into local cafes and shops.

It has been particularly good to see so many visitors from outside of the Frome area, which accounts for many of the additional visitors this year. Social media isn’t everything, though it is worth noting that Photo|Frome now has a larger Instagram audience in London than in Somerset, which explains why so many of our venues noted out-of-town visitors.

We are very pleased to hear first-hand the positive reception to the festival’s ‘Decolonising Environments’ theme from both local people and the wider photography community. It was also gratifying to hear positive feedback on how the various shows were professionally produced and exhibited.

There was excellent photography shown in 2022, though we believe that in 2023 we went several steps further in quality, breadth, and content. This year’s festival aimed to offer an image-driven conversation about important social and environmental issues and succeeded.

Photo|Frome staged 15 venues, including outdoors, compared with 7 in 2022. The new outdoor exhibitions especially got a lot of interest (even a little controversy) and clearly opened-up photography to audiences of all kinds.

Over 170 national and international photographers showed more than 500 photographs across the town. With photographs and book entries from literally all over the world, the national and international response to what Photo|Frome is offering has been humbling. Of course, as part of our community objectives, Photo|Frome also showcased the talents of local and student photographers in 4 group exhibitions across the town.

The 2023 programme included an engaging 2-day symposium with 11 excellent speakers (we will share videos in due course), practical and fun workshops for the whole family, a new international open book call (winners from Egypt, Mexico, Ireland and the Netherlands) and new national student photography awards, which attracted entries from across the country, with prizes from MPB.com.

Our free pop-up portrait studio, Faces of Frome, in partnership with The Frome Independent market and managed by students of Boomsatsuma, Bristol and Frome College was as popular as ever. People have already been sent their free digital portraits.

2022 was about demonstrating the team’s ability to stage a festival, and to get visitors interested. In 2023 we proved that Photo|Frome can do even more, and be an engaging, high-quality addition to the local Frome scene whilst also appealing to a truly national and international audience with new and meaningful photography.

As an ‘indie’ festival, our concept takes inspiration from such long-standing festivals as Les Rencontres d’Arles, aiming to fill the community with curated photography and events whilst attracting the wider world of photography.

Everything was a huge team effort. Our volunteers, photographers, sponsors, designers, local and national partners, and our venues all playing their part in making this all work so well.

Thank you everyone, so very much.

We particular want to acknowledge the support of public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England; MPB.com, the largest global platform to buy, sell and trade used photo and video kit; Fujifilm and Digitalab for printing support; Frome Town Council, Frome Wessex Photographic and St Cuthbert’s Mill, as well as several private donors.

Stepping back, 2023 gives a very solid foundation for what Photo|Frome might become and do next.

Watch this space!

Installation photo at Rook Lane by Jesse Alexander.