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Posted on 21st November, 2011

Is pride in the country life

similar to Pride in Reading?


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The Bucks County Show is a large celebration of country life, held each year at Weedon Park, near Aylesbury. Apparently, it has been running for well over a hundred years, and from the numbers present on 1st September, it has built up a large following in that time. It's a bit quirky in a way, as it's a single-day event, and, held mid-week: considering the effort involved in putting it on, I would have expected two days at least, and to include a weekend day perhaps. But would that dilute its very strong bias towards fiercely independent and proud country people themselves I wonder, and make it just another 'Summer' event?


3G Girls mud wrestling at Reading Pride, 3rd September 2011


I use the word 'Summer' nervously here, as it was appallingly wet last time. I know this because photographs from the previous year were on display, and most made a big point of the muddy quagmire that visitors had to endure. So bad in fact, that it would have put Glastonbury to shame. Thankfully, it was beautiful weather this year, and although I'm a townie, I did enjoy my small taste of how some of the other half spend their lives.


Back to slightly more familiar territory on Saturday, at Reading Pride. This was a late change of plan, as I had intended to visit the West Midlands, to snap some footie supporters. However, I failed to take account of England playing Bulgaria on the Friday. This meant that Premiership fans experienced something more important than life and death, as Bill Shankly implied, a day earlier than normal.


So, the town (soon to be city?) of Reading it was. And before you ask, I'm not a member of the LGBT community: it's just that I've taken pics at London Pride on two occasions, whereas I've attended the Bucks County Show just once. I don't know why though, but Reading didn't attract the large numbers of photogenically attractive, extrovert and demonstrative characters that turn up at London. Perhaps Brighton and Manchester have drained too much of that pride by then? What Reading did have mind you, and its biggest attraction for me, were BAD pole dancers and 3G Girls mud wrestlers. I've never seen females mud wrestling before, but they get real dirty. And that's not just from the mud itself! But if you're in close, as I had to be in the line of duty of course, the girls spread the mucky stuff over you better than if it hits the fan. However, whether my pics of those attractive, sexy young things beating the sh*t into each other justify the pelting my clothes and camera got, I'm not sure.


One other thing I'm also not sure of either: is pride in the country life similar to Pride in Reading? It's a very muddy answer I think.


Sunday was another busy day, in London. I started at the South Bank, looking for people pics as always. But it was miserably wet at that time, and more people were in the National Theatre and Royal Festival Hall etc than on the Thames Path. Therefore, it was pretty barren hunting ground, but I had a sudden bit of inspiration. I remembered that the theme of The Guardian monthly photo assignment for September was landscapes, seascapes, and cityscapes. Well, not my scene any of them really. Even so, being amongst the grim architecture that is at the opposite end of the 'appeal' scale to the cultural activities held within, I decided to give it a go anyway. Reasonably chuffed with the results as well, although I've only looked at them on the back of the Canon 40D so far. No doubt I'll be gutted as usual when I go large with them on the PC.


I was due at the Whitechapel Gallery later in the day, to attend a talk by Ian Berry, Magnum photographer famous for his apartheid work in South Africa (see my blog review of his Liverpool exhibition, Living Apart). In the meantime though, I discovered a small exhibition by Phil Starling, called 'Made in St Helens', in the Avenue of Portraits. It features pics of regulars from the Turks Head pub in the Lancashire town, of a technical quality to kill for.


Slightly later, near Tower Bridge, I passed another exhibition. This one is called 'Rites of Life', by Swedish photographer Anders Ryman, which shows people undergoing often bizarre rituals at very emotional times in their lives. But running late, and finding that it ended on Tuesday coming, I decided to return after seeing Ian Berry at the Whitechapel. And I'm so glad I did, because, as I was reading the text against one of the very enlightening images, who should introduce himself to me but Anders Ryman himself. So, just like his pics show, life can be surreal at times!


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