Sarah Zacharek and Open Access awards

Sarah with Tom Hicks of Black Country Type

Sarah with Tom Hicks of Black Country Type

One strand of CBC’s activity consists of giving funding to local creatives to support activities that build audiences, and promote creative and artistic excellence across the Black Country. The Open Access Awards are flexible funding opportunities open to individuals, groups and organisations to support the seed of an idea, making it into a great project.

Sarah Zacharek is a photographer who, up until recently, worked in the University of Wolverhampton’s Photography Department. Although the reputation of the Photography Department was good, she found the perception of Wolverhampton was not. She wanted to prove people wrong and champion the city and area.

She has received two lots of seed funding through the Open Access Awards.  

Sarah first heard about CBC through a contact at the University who has links to different funders as part of her role. Her first Open Access Award was given in 2017 to start Wolverhampton PhotoFest. The festival was created in response to headlines claiming Wolverhampton to be a bad, miserable and uncultured place to live. A photography exhibition was held at Newhampton Arts Centre, alongside performances from local musicians and dancers. For many exhibitors, the festival was the first time their work had been seen by the public. Through photography, the festival aimed to prove people wrong and highlight the wonderful things about Wolverhampton and wider Black Country.

The Open Access Award funding covered printing of images, marketing and allowed local students to get involved with the festival. The Award ensured that the launch went well, with live music and dance, and that artists were given hospitality. She wanted to ensure that artists were “well cared for and Wolverhampton was represented in a positive way.”

Funding was then given in 2018 to expand on the work that had been done in the previous year. Work was focused on local photographer Tom Hicks. The previous year had been the first time his work had been exhibited. He was interested in exhibiting more widely but didn’t know how to focus his work. With the second Open Access Award, a book of his photography was produced. This was accompanied by a book launch and photo walk. So that the walk was accessible to as many as possible, they encouraged the use of mobile phones rather than expensive camera kit. Tom’s book sold out on the launch night and he is currently looking into doing a second run.

The two projects have had a great affect on Tom’s practice. As a result, he founded the Wolverhampton Psychogeography Bureau, a programme of regular photo walks around the city. After, the participant’s photos are used to produce zines to document the walks. These have since taken place as part of Wolverhampton Literature Festival and the National Art & Design Saturday Club with groups at the University of Wolverhampton.

Sarah has found the Creative Black Country team to be very supportive:

“They were supportive in marketing the projects and documenting the events. They encouraged me to apply for the second time round and for a larger pot of money too. Neither of the projects would have been able to go ahead without the funding.”

 Sarah sees the strength of CBC coming from recognising the potential in an idea: “Through the process there is potential for lots of happy accidents, and lots of nice new relationships to be built.”

Sarah believes that the work of CBC is important in improving the perception of the area and has led to lots of opportunities for her other than the Open Access Award funding she received.

“Connecting to Creative Black Country has created networking opportunities, allowing me to meet with a different circle of people. A lot of the opportunities I see on social media come from Creative Black Country’s channels. They unite the different creative networks.”

Having just started a new job, Sarah is planning to take some time out, but will be in talks with Tom on what the next project may look like and how Creative Black Country may help.