I would like to tell you the story of how it all started

Darren Washington

Image courtesy of The Sentinel Newspaper


Back in 2006 I had been made redundant from work and had been unemployed for a few months with no real direction of what I wanted to do to be honest. I was in and out of the job center and felt like I was getting swallowed up in the system as such. I’d always been a keen photographer and felt I could perhaps look for a job as a photographer. One day during a review at the job center I was asked what I would like to do, I explained that I want to look for work as a photographer. The negative response I got from the interviewer definitely helped me to get where I am now, so thank you for telling me it was never going to happen because I was unqualified. A few days later after the interview I discussed what I was going to do and I did it. I SIGNED OFF THE DOLE.

A big risk you may say but the happiness I felt when I walked into the job centre with my card,  requesting to sign off was amazing and to answer why was a brilliant but some what terrifying statement. They asked if I had a job? I said NO, but I can’t do this anymore. I’m going to become self employed and make it as a photographer.

So that was that, What do I do now? well, I got on to the Business initiative scheme to get a business start up qualification and got a small grant from the Prince’s Trust to help me to start up the business.

I was focusing on home portraiture to begin with and then one day I simply decided to take some of my artwork around to different businesses around the city to see if the were interested in buying my work, this is when I guess my first big break came. I was asked by a large housing association to photograph their entire area of buildings in the city, to display within their head office, thus sparking my need to look into producing more artwork.

Just by luck walked into a new and upcoming gallery in the city center called Airspace, they were based on an old factory at the time and I spoke to the (now former) gallery directors David and Andrew. I was visually stimulated by the work on display and offered some photographic services for the artwork; this is what I felt helped me to get my foot in the door of the local arts scene of Stoke on Trent.

In 2008 I produced my first large scale exhibition with fellow artist Danny Hill, with a small grant from Stoke on Trent city council creative team we were able to fund a gallery show and print all of the work necessary to make it work, and successfully too. TALES FROM A CHANGING CITY was a massive success gaining great reviews on the subject matter. The work was based on the then changing environment of Stoke on Trent and the impact of such changes. Also at the time, there had not yet been a project so bg surrounding such subjects (or in general), my images were greatly accompanied by a interesting collection of fictional stories based on change written by Danny, the work was mainly written in Stoke Dialect covering a varied subject matter based on change


Image Courtesy of the Sentinel Newspaper


Over the following years asked to collaborate on all kinds of projects and worked with many other artists within the area of photography and others mediums.

In the late 2009 myself and some friends walked on to a factory in Stoke (Town) called Spode, I’d been there the previous year for an opening for a project called Place, Space and identity but this time it was different. It was closed up and derelict. I was amazed by how it had become some redundant and how the pigeons had taken ownership of the place. Following the visit I made many return visits thanks to Alan on security.

I photographed the space in detail as a photographic archive project but then this developed into a video project. Giving birth to the Memories Of Spode project; I recorded a series of interviews with former factory workers in the original areas of their workplace on the factory and developed a feature length film and photographic archive, which was displayed at the factory in 2011 and ran for 4 weeks.


Memories of Spode was what gave me (and my friends) the boost to open some kind of display space for artists.I attempted many times to acquire the space on site of which Memories of Spode displayed  but was not getting much luck, every time I approached the council about the space I was rejected. Following many attempts at getting the space I found out about the connection of the space next to Spode, 116 Church Street which is still owned by the Copeland Family (connections with Spode). After speaking to the owners I was accepted for the rental of the building at the end of 2012. We opened early 2013 but had to close shortly after due to building works. In September 2013, we officially opened the exhibition side of things with fellow photographer and friend David Yarker displaying his images from Spode. The show was a huge success and after a 4 week run the show paved the way for may more artists at one one six. There have been many artists and all types of art from photographers to sculptors exhibiting since, and we are now a well established gallery (and photography studio) in the center of Stoke, showcasing art by all the talent that is in Stoke and beyond.

We have had artists from as far as France, America and Japan showing their work at the gallery along with some celebrity visitors from football stars to reality tv and film stars.

Of which during 2016 as an artist myself released my third large artistic creation titled Dark Thoughts Through A Sunny Window which was a collaboration between myself, Sarah Peart who now works alongside me at one one six, and John Murton. This was a somewhat side step from the documentary work I usually work on and basically exposed myself in how I allowed the media to control my creative thoughts and create a series of Dark films and photographs based on the real world and exploring taboo subject matters. We worked alongside actor George Newton (Dead man’s shoes / This is England) to develop some short films and used music from local talent to give a soundtrack to the videos created.


Above image – Promotional Poster / Below image – courtesy of The Sentinel Newspaper


What does the future look like now for one one six? We have another incredible line up of artists this year and will see the gallery go from strength to strength.

I would like to see Stoke as a city grow and be officially recognized as a city of culture, having this title will surely bring investment in and help stoke to regenerate and get its Mojo Back……. 

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