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Isle of Sark - not to be missed!

Posted on 23rd February 2015

Tour Leaders: Phil Malpas & Clive Minnitt

22 - 29 April 2015

The Tour Leader’s Viewpoint – by Phil Malpas

When Clive and I first visited Sark in 2011 we were really looking forward to the spectacular coastal scenery, the abundance of beautiful spring flowers, the magical “dark skies”, the peace and tranquillity offered by an island that has no cars and of course, the amazing Stocks Hotel (about which we had heard a great deal). Our expectations were more than met in every respect but in the end the real photographic opportunities offered by this island paradise turned out to be something that neither of us could have predicted. Sark is a unique destination that I am sure all those who have travelled there with us in the intervening years would agree, really touches the soul.

Since 2011, we have been lucky enough to get to know many of the 600 islanders who live in their tranquil haven far from the hustle and bustle of “normality”. Our friends at Stocks have taken it upon themselves to actively support out photographic aspirations by introducing us to many individuals with fascinating stories to tell and wonderful photographic treasures that they are more than willing to share. Some of these individuals who have become minor celebrities in their own right following starring roles in the TV series “An Island Parish” are fully prepared to invest their personal time and energy in helping us to find those hidden gems that only local knowledge can uncover.

One aspect of island life that didn’t at first occur to us is that if you have an item that you no longer have a use for, there isn’t a local “household recycling centre” to take it to and consequently disposing of it isn’t that simple. Being a small island with limited access even to Guernsey means that often the only solution is to build an outbuilding to keep stuff in! During our visits we have uncovered some amazing treasure troves of “stored” items that are frozen in time from the day they were first packed away somewhere safe. From the shed with 3000 bottles in to the collection of dinner services, the shed with numerous carriages protected against the elements and the wonderful “tool sheds” with amazing items to discover, all at the mercy of our photographic exploration. Then there are the municipal buildings that islanders are happy to open for us. The two cell gaol, the courthouse, the fire station with its tractor-pulled tenders all of which offer an immense variety of subject matter.

But in the end the main reason that Sark touches the soul is of course the people that inhabit it. Over the years the islanders have become more and more interested in what we are doing, why we are there and because they are immensely proud of their island paradise they will do everything they can to help us see and photograph all it has to offer. This interest from local people culminated in 2014 with an evening of merriment hosted by Stocks Hotel who very kindly provided wine and canapés for not only our group but also for almost 70 islanders that we had invited to an end of week show of our most successful images. Each member of our group showed their favourite images first and then we continued with some of the portraits of island folk that we had gathered during the week. This resulted in immense enjoyment by all and the evening of banter and laughter was one we will never forget. Fortunately we have been told that the attendees enjoyed themselves so much, they are already looking forward to a similar event in 2015.

We are really looking forward to returning to Sark in April this year and there are still spaces available if you would like to join us. This is far more than a photographic workshop. This is a chance to (temporarily) join a fascinating community that wholeheartedly supports what we are doing and wants to be involved. Be warned, however, that once you have experienced this wonderful island there is a significant chance that you will want to return – again and again and again….

      

The Client’s Viewpoint – by Peter Wilman

What I like about the Sark workshop is the gentle pace, giving time to learn a new skill & feel part of the place I am photographing, interacting with the colourful locals, many of whom are very helpful in sharing their island & their collections with us.

The island of Sark is small, just over 2 square miles & nowhere is far from our base at Stocks Hotel. This means that once everyone arrives; an adventure in itself; small plane to Guernsey, small ferry to Sark, tractor pulled ‘toast rack’ up harbour hill & then a short walk through one of the world’s smallest high streets & down through the meadow to Stocks Hotel; there is no further need for organized transport; although you can hire bikes or even horses & carriages!

Over the first few days Phil & Clive take the group to all parts of the island. Not just the beautiful coastal scenery; but the properties, both pristine & wrecks, the people & their wonderful collections of horse drawn vehicles, farming implements, hand tools & general miscellanea.

Phil & Clive explain that they want us not to leave with just a few beautiful images, but to treat it as a project & put together a photobook. They show us how to use software from Blurb & Phil has set up templates to make this easier for the novice user. As can be seen by the number of Blurb books in the Stocks hotel library, donated by past attendees to the workshop, this has indeed worked & many have left with new skills, which I for one continue to use & produce a photobook after every workshop I attend.

Once the attendees know their way around the island, they are free to go where they please, to work on their own projects, letting Phil & Clive know where they can be found, so advice & assistance can still be given. By the end of the week, I had not only taken enough images to create my first photobook, but had begun to feel part of the Island I was photographing, rather than a casual tourist.

Then finally there is the show. Each of us having half a dozen images projected to not just the rest of our group, but to the friendly hotel staff & many of the islanders who had been so helpful during the week. I called it a show & yes that’s how it starts, but the people of Sark don’t need an excuse for a party & so with a little alcohol & a lot of good willed banter, the workshop ends as a party, which of course means Clive gets out his harmonica & silly hats, but that’s another story….

I shall return."

The Gold prize in the Winner's Galley competition for September was awarded to Dave Martin for his image titled 'Wagon Wheels' which was taken during the Sark tour.

If you would like to find out more about Sark, or to book a place, you can do so via the website or email Emily at admin@lightandland.co.uk

We hope you can join us!

Phil and Clive
 

Post By Charlie Waite

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