A highly unusual exhibition of Mayoral Chains opens at Devonport Guildhall, Plymouth, this week (running 9-19 May, 2017) in a photographic show which challenges traditional notions and symbols of power and status and profiles the growing power of grass roots communities.
The Mayor’s Chains – Who Leads Communities Now? is a collection of photography from David Partner, that illustrates how political elitism can be broken down and replaced with social enterprise and local action. It is an insightful commentary on localism and grassroots politics, which in the context of Plymouth, the UK’s first Social Enterprise City, has a particular resonance.
The exhibition originated in Frome, Somerset, where local social entrepreneurs took matters into their own hands and stood as Independents in local elections and took over the town council’s leadership.
Part of the Frome strategy to dismantle traditional barriers between politicians and the people, was to change the meaning of the Mayor’s Gold Chains—a traditional symbol of power and status—to something hand-made that related to the town’s communities and businesses. When Mayor Peter Macfadyen went to meet a school environmental group, it made sense for them to make him a new chain from bicycle parts, bottle tops, and biro lids and for him to open their Summer Fete in it. From here the idea grew – keeping a careful eye on when the original Civic Regalia should be worn – Peter’s collection of chains made by charities, local business and artists slowly expanded.
Renowned photographer David Partner documented the Frome experiment, he said: “The Mayoral Chain photo series does a lot to break down the barriers between politics and the people, engaging the same humour, social enterprise and collaboration that Peter Macfadyen deployed during his year as Frome’s Mayor, it’s an insightful commentary on localism and grass roots politics.”
Ed Whitelaw from the Real Ideas Organisation which is hosting the exhibition at Devonport Guildhall said; “Leadership is simply a choice, choosing to take responsibility and choosing to take action. With government in full retreat there is a growing need for greater citizen action and leadership. Fortunately, Plymouth, with its strong and internationally recognised social enterprise sector, is well placed here.
“We are delighted to be hosting this fascinating exhibition at Devonport Guildhall and hope it will spark a great deal of debate around community leadership in what is undoubtedly a very interesting time for local, national and international politics.”
‘The Mayor’s Chains – who leads communities now?’ Is presented in association with the Real Ideas Organisation, the RSA, Devonport Guildhall, and Fotonow. The exhibition is free to enter and is open Monday – Saturday, 10am to 4pm, from 9-19 May 2017
*Visitors should call the Guildhall on 01752 395028 to check that the Mayor’s Parlour is vacant and open to visitors before travelling to see the exhibition