Groundbreaking Hartlepool images will be preserved in the town

Published Monday, 15th April 2024

An exhibition of photographs by renowned British photographer John Bulmer has broken all recent visitor records at Hartlepool Art Gallery – and now those images have found a permanent home there.

Over 12,000 people have so far seen the exhibition – ‘John Bulmer - Northern Light’ - which runs until Saturday 4th May and captures the fortitude of Hartlepool people during the hardship of the 1960s.

Born in 1938, John Bulmer is best-known for his pioneering colour photojournalism in the Sixties, when he worked for, among others, the Sunday Times magazine.

In the winter of 1962-63 he visited Hartlepool for Image magazine, taking more than 40 photographs. At the time of his visit, during a bitterly cold winter, Hartlepool was suffering from mass unemployment. Gray’s shipyard had just closed with the loss of 1,400 jobs and the future looked bleak.

His images record the town before it changed, but also the daily life of men and women who were out of work and gathering sea coal from the beach, waiting in the dole queue or visiting the labour exchange.

Despite the hardships people were facing, John Bulmer’s photographs convey a sense of resilience, humour and even optimism.

Thanks to a substantial award from the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the support of John Bulmer himself, Hartlepool Borough Council has been able to purchase the images for Hartlepool Art Gallery’s permanent collection.

John Bulmer pictured at the Northern Light exhibition

John Bulmer pictured at the Northern Light exhibition

Angela Thomas, Hartlepool Art Gallery Curator, said: “The response from visitors to the exhibition has been phenomenal. People have left lots of comments on our comment cards, sharing their memories of the scenes in the photographs and identifying people they recognise. I’ve never known a response like it.

“So we’re thrilled that, thanks to the generous support of Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and John Bulmer himself, these photographs will become part of our permanent collection.

“By acquiring these images, we will ensure they are preserved for future generations to look back at that moment in time before much of the local landscape changed beyond recognition.”

Leanne Manfredi, National Programmes Lead at the Victoria and Albert Museum, said: “The Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund supports the purchase of a wide range of material for the permanent collections of non-nationally funded organisations in England and Wales.

“We are delighted that this collection of photographs by John Bulmer has been acquired by Hartlepool Art Gallery and featured in the current exhibition John Bulmer: Northern Light. They will benefit audiences for years to come.”

John Bulmer said: “I’m so glad the photographs will have a permanent home in the town where they were taken. I’m honoured that Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund have supported the purchase and would like to thank all involved.”

Hartlepool Art Gallery is located in Church Square and is open Tuesdays to Saturdays 10am – 5pm and entry is FREE.