It’s with great sadness that we heard of the recent death of the photographer John Rigby. Back in the late 1980s when Amber/Side Gallery was looking at developing the model of placing a photographer-activist in each of the counties covered by Northern Arts, John was going to take on the role in Cumbria. West Cumbria was his home turf. As things turned out, Northern Arts didn’t go for the idea (let’s not mention the fact that, instead, they cut gallery funding by 80% – it’s water under the bridge!) John remained a good friend to Side. With his eyesight deteriorating, he was unable to continue to work as a photographer, but, moving to Newcastle, he dropped in regularly to look at the exhibitions and enjoy the craic. He’ll be much missed.
This body of work was photographed between 1983 and 1986, looking in particular at the docks and summer carnivals. Maryport harbour was semi derelict although talk of redevelopment was in the air. John Rigby photographed the fishermen, dog walkers, golfers, horse riders, bikers, coal pickers, beach combers, sailors, travellers, bathers, and children, who made their various uses of the dock waste land. The area’s traditional summer carnivals were revived in the early 1970s, Carnival day the manifestation of many months of effort on behalf of the tableaux makers, foot characters and comedy acts, and the year long activities of the carnival committees. The day is a unique opportunity for everyone, actors and spectators alike, to take part in a celebration which unites and strengthens the community.
All images © John Rigby