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Photographic exhibition documents lives of young farmers – University of Reading

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Photographic exhibition documents lives of young farmers

Release Date 14 February 2007

A pioneering photography project which gives an insight into the lives of young farmers is to go on display at a University of Reading museum.

The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), one of the country's most respected centres for the study of farming and rural history, will display "Personal Expressions", a photography project which offers a social commentary on the lives of young farmers, using pictures taken by young farmers as they go about their daily lives.

The Personal Expressions exhibition, which was organised by Rural Education Arts Project (REAP), uses photographs to reflect the hardships and joys of rural life and has been displayed all over the country- including at the offices of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Will Phillips, MERL's curator, said: "Personal Expressions offers a unique insight into contemporary life in the English countryside. Through the medium of photography and film these young farmers have recorded their hopes, fears and aspirations for the future. The results are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and often poignant.

"What really shines through is the highly individual approach each artist has taken in trying to show what it means to them to live in the countryside today. The exhibition will form a wonderful contrast with MERL's historical collection of rural material, much of which represents the countryside as it once was."

Julia Cook, Personal Expressions Project Manager at REAP, said: "The exhibition is a social documentary about the issues faced by young people in rural communities.

The project was originally launched in response to work by the High Peak and Dales Primary Health Care Trust that revealed that the economic decline in farming had led to increased mental health problems in rural communities.

Rural isolation, farming problems and financial worries were all cited as contributory factors to a potential healthcare crisis.

The exhibition has also been on show at the DEFRA after catching the eye of Lord Rooker, Minister of State for sustainable farming and food.

As part of Personal Expressions, more than 100 young people aged between 12 and 24 took part in photography workshops around Derbyshire. They then submitted photographs covering themes of: Self, Family and the Community; The Working Landscape; Challenges, Aspirations and Future; and Our Farming Heritage.

To reflect those themes they used a wide range of techniques and equipment, including mobile phone cameras, film and digital technology to capture many moving and thought-provoking images.

A resulting competition led to the selection of work for inclusion in the exhibition and 28 talented young photographers travelled to London to see their work unveiled at DEFRA last year.

• Personal Expressions: March 27th – May 27th, Museum of English Rural Life, Redlands Road, Reading. The museum is open Tues-Fri 9am to 5pm and at weekends from 2 to 4.30pm.

Notes to editors:

More about REAP and Personal Expressions

REAP is a registered charity supported by a Board of Trustees and managed by a team of staff and volunteers, which operates across the Derbyshire Dales and Staffordshire Moorlands. It aims to address rural isolation and social exclusion, provide opportunities for rural regeneration, support community initiatives from ideas through to realisation and celebrate the history, customs, landscape and people that make the Peak District so special. By involving local people in a broad range of educational, artistic and environmental projects REAP draws inspiration from the people, places and times of the Peak District.

More information about the Museum of English Rural Life

The Museum of English Rural Life, in London Road, Reading, was founded by the University of Reading in 1951 to reflect and record the changing face of farming and the countryside. It houses designated collections of national importance that span the full range of objects, archives, photographs, film and books. Today, it forms part of the University's Museums and Collections Service. The Museum operates as a major resource and research centre for the history of food, farming and the countryside with links into the School of History and other academic departments at the University.

More information About the University of Reading

The University of Reading is one of the foremost research-led universities in the UK. Founded in the nineteenth century and gaining a Royal Charter in 1926, we offer a wide range of programmes from the pure and applied sciences to languages, social sciences and fine art. New research and the latest thinking continually feed into undergraduate teaching, with our academic staff working at the forefront of their fields of expertise.

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