We were invited to the private view of the current exhibition “Two Worlds”, as we know the photographer, Pat Pope, who is an excellent portrait photographer, and has met many famous people during his career. For this project though, he has met ex military personnel from around Kent.
The exhibition, the first of three over the next two years, is designed to raise awareness of the change from military to civilian life. This can present difficulties with housing, which is why Town and Country are involved. They currently offer support to ex-service personnel and their families, and in the future aim to do more. The change from the world of service to civvy street can be quite hard, especially for those forced to leave earlier than they expected due to injury, illness or redundancy.
We were introduced to Kevin Alderton, who is working as a lead for veterans within the Two Worlds project. Kevin was in the army for 12 years and lost his sight while helping someone else. He can now only see shapes and shadows, and is in a situation he never thought would happen. At that moment he lost his sight he also lost everything else in his life: job, home, friends, work colleagues, almost to the point of hopelessness. He was grateful to receive help from St Dunstan’s charity, and rebuild his life. A keen skier before his sight problems, he now holds the world’s first-ever blind speed-skiing record. He also became aware that there are various charities to help ex service personnel, but they weren’t co-ordinating together, and he is working within Kent to improve this.
Jackie Sumner from Town and Country, introduced us to the people involved in the exhibition, and the accompanying booklet. Personal stories were collected by Felicity Hasse with the photos by Pat Pope, taken at the subjects homes or places of current work. The stories can also be read online, and there is also a request for YOUR stories, if this is a situation you have experienced. If enough stories are collected there is potential for a book. The stories will be read out loud by local group CREATE on the 25th of January from 6pm in the art gallery.
The exhibition is on until Saturday 2nd of February, and is worth a visit. Or two.