Wednesday, 21 November 2012

An interview with Martin Priestley, Saltaire resident, professional photographer and Saltaire Arts Trail regular.

Martin lives in one of the mill workers terrace cottages that make up the streets of Saltaire, whilst at first glance so similar to a multitude of other streets across the greater Bradford area, on closer inspection the little period details that Titus Salt - the Victorian philanthropist that built this village for the workers in his textile mill - used to embellish even the smallest of dwellings are what makes Saltaire such an uniquely captivating place.

Tree Above Ribbleshead Viaduct - Martin Priestley

Q. Why do you open your house as part of the Saltaire Arts Trail?

Well, above all I think that being part of the wider event, with it’s connections to the whole Saltaire community, is why I have opened my doors for the last 5 years. Of course, as a professional photographer I love the opportunity to bring my work to a fresh audience each year, but I think the over-riding reason I do this time and again is to be part of this fantastic event, and perhaps put something back into my local community in the process..

Q. Community spirit seems quite strong in Saltaire, do you think this is due in part to the Arts Trail and Makers Fair?

I certainly do, you hear of communities where neighbours are at war with each other over this and that, Saltaire certainly isn’t like that, and during the weekend of the Arts Trail it’s positively buzzing with neighbourly love. Coming together to collaborate on the event, with all the pre-planning and actual activities during the event really seems to bond the community.

Q. How does it feel having your doors open to the public?

Great, although I will admit to it being weird on occasion too. Creating a temporary boutique gallery in my living room, putting nails in the walls, blue-tacking signs all over the place, and then inviting strangers in through the front door can be a little overwhelming.  Having said that, you soon get over that when the first inquisitive visitors come through the door. The organisers of the event are brilliant, and are always there to help with tricky things like hanging work on the walls, moving furniture and taking money. I’m also provided with an assistant for the weekend, so I can go and rest upstairs or explore some of the other houses that are open up along my street, safe in the knowledge my house is in good hands in my absence.

Q. You provide wall space for other artists too, how does that work out?

The artists are chosen by the organising committee, they do a great job of selecting a couple of artists who will best fit into my tiny space, it is only my living room I open up, and also compliment my own work. The group of artists then work together to best utilise the space, creating an intimate mini-experience within the larger Arts Trail is all part of the fun. All the signage is provided by the organisers, along with Health & Safety checks and payment facilities.. The finished installation always looks so great, and makes me very proud as a home-owner and artist.

Q. What would you say to homeowners in Saltaire who are considering opening their homes for the 2013 Arts Trail?

I would recommend people think about it seriously, the feeling of being involved with something this big really makes you walk tall. The comradery between artists and homeowners is fantastic, with everyone chipping in to make the event a success. Yes, having so many people (6,000 in 2012) passing through your private space can be a little unnerving, but the opportunity provided to meet and chat with people, acting as a kind of unofficial Saltaire tour guide in the process, makes for great experience. People can be so nice, it really reaffirms my faith in the human race.

Martin Priestley is a professional landscape and wedding photographer, with his work regularly appearing in the national media. He also offers practical photography courses to the public, based in Saltaire as well as out in the wilds of the Yorkshire Dales.  Further info can be found at

If you are interested in opening your home as part of the Saltaire Arts Trail 2013 event, May 24 - 27th, then please drop us a line at

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