Bedford Brewery - The Residency

This residency at Charles Wells Brewery in Bedford provided me with unlimited access to the brewery, its workforce and customers. During the six month period I engaged in a process of exploration, primarily through lens based media, of the brewing activity and environment. A traditional and largely sustainable industry the water, barley, employees and outlets are mostly local and supplied in reusable kegs and casks. The brewers take great pride in the achievement of consistent quality and taste with members of staff training others in the development of tasting and the cultivation of strains of yeast and other exacting procedures. This is a family run brewery employing up to 400 staff at present. Since Charles Wells established the business in Bedford in the 1870s it has employed a large percentage of the population, owned considerable property in pubs and land and expanded to adapt to a changing environment. It is now on the point of merging with Youngs of London and becoming a much larger organisation altogether. I become involved with the workforce and increasingly interested in the relationships between staff on day and night shifts who worked within different areas of the brewery, largely unaware of each other's routines. In a series of workshops and activites that ranged from saxophone players on the shop floor to 'Virtual Come Dancing With Forklift Trucks' I engaged them with activities that altered these routines and introduced different ways of engaging with art in an industrial environment.

Beer and Skittles - The first of two exhibitions resulting from this residency Beer and Skittles explores the experience of working on the day shift. We see glimpses of freedom from the routine when workers are captured in moments of engagement with music and art.

The Graveyard Shift - The second exhibition of the residency taking place in September 2006 at Bedford Museum Gallery explores the environment of the brewery at nightime. The night shift move around the plant that is full of eerie sounds and dim lights. Steam and the smell of malt surround the workers.

Model Brewers - The brewers are seen here dressed in fluorescent colours. This studio work uses initial photographic studies of individuals who work around the studio in the container plant. The idea of similarity and individuality is explored.

Twin Pics - Invited to work together with disposable cameras and set of instructions members of the workforce are creatively paired up and invited to view their 'twin' in a new light.

Gothic Brewery - The Charles Wells brewery is looked at as a gothic interior. The container plant which moves, stores and fills kegs and casks is populated by robots, forklifts, chains and hoses. Large conditioning tanks offer projection surfaces at nighttime.

Photobooth - The Container Plant Calender is developed through use of the studio as a photobooth. External environments of the brewery are brought into the studio with the workers who inhabit them.