An exhibition of photographs by Phil Thomson With poems by Gregory Leadbetter


An exhibition of photographs by Phil Thomson With poems by Gregory Leadbetter

07 July - 21 July 2024 Now Showing

The decline and resurrection of the mythical city ‘baile naomh’.

Phil Thomson and Gregory Leadbetter’s Balanuve is a sequence of photographs and poems about a mythical city, charting its decline to its resurrection. The haunting photography of Phil Thomson is complemented by Leadbetter’s poetry which sings with the sweetly intoxicating music of Yeats and moves like a flag flapping in the wind around a ruined castle. A collaboration of the highest order.

Balanuve has its origins in a conversation about poetry and photography I had with Phil Thomson whilst we were colleagues at Birmingham City University. In 2015 Phil held an exhibition called ‘Mono 68’, featuring striking black and white images of Dundee. Together at the Private View, Phil and I – quite casually – floated the idea that I might write a series of poems that respond in some way to some of the photographs. Working through over 90 photographs, a story quite mysteriously but vividly emerged resolving into the poems that you see alongside the photographs. I called my imaginary city Balanuve – an anglicisation of baile naomh, Scots Gaelic for ‘holy city’ – in honour of the city and the people of Dundee imaged so evocatively in Phil’s photographs.’ – Gregory Leadbetter

‘These monochrome images give a distinct feeling of a lost world, almost a sense of lost innocence. Much has changed since they were taken over 50 years ago. Sixties modernist architecture, hailed as a breakthrough, has been seen to lack humanity; equality of opportunity is now embedded in many aspects of life, yet on the other hand, the street is viewed as a dangerous place. Cigarette brands can no more be advertised on billboards and our computers are becoming shopping centres. 1968 may have been better in some aspects than today, it may have been worse, but it was most certainly different. The images on display are a testament to that difference’. – Phil Thomson

Phil Thomson MA FRSA is a Scottish-born writer, photographer, lyricist and artist. Being caught between a number of disciplines is in part the reason that he likes to explore the notion of identity – what defines us, or indeed, what sets us apart. This is particularly evident in the photographs in Balanuve. These stunning images offer a rare glimpse of an old and new Dundee, telling a story of a city and a people in search of their identity.

Gregory Leadbetter’s books and pamphlets of poetry include Caliban (Dare-Gale Press, 2023), a New Statesman Book of the Year 2023; Balanuve, with photographs by Phil Thomson (Broken Sleep, 2021); Maskwork (Nine Arches Press, 2020), longlisted for the Laurel Prize 2021; The Fetch (Nine Arches Press, 2016), and The Body in the Well (HappenStance Press, 2007). Recent work for the BBC includes the extended poem Metal City (Radio 3, 2023). A song-cycle featuring poems from The Fetch by the composer and pianist Eric McElroy has been performed internationally, and a recording with the tenor James Gilchrist was released in 2023. As a critic he publishes widely on the history and practice of poetry, and his book Coleridge and the Daemonic Imagination was awarded the University English Book Prize 2012. He is Professor of Poetry at Birmingham City University.

Preview Evening
7pm-9pm, Saturday 6th July

Performance / Discussion
7pm, Saturday 13th July
Poetry reading by Gregory Leadbetter
Images by Phil Thomson
Soundtrack by Tom Tebby
Followed by discussion/Q&A with Gregory and Phil
Tickets £17.50

Gallery opening hours:
11am-4pm Wednesday-Sunday
Closed Monday and Tuesday

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