By Josie Armitage
An exhibition of photographic portraits of volunteers and staff at the Hollybush Conservation Centre, the West Leeds base for national charity the Conservation Volunteers, has been launched.
The ‘Hollybush: The People’ exhibition features 40 black and white photographic portraits by TCV staff member, Mark Slater, and is intended to celebrate the people who create, improve and care for green spaces in West Leeds and the community they are part of.
“I’ve thought about doing this for a while to capture the people and their stories. Hollybush is the centre of the community. I wanted to capture the range of diverse communities of volunteers – learning difficulties, ethnic backgrounds, different social demographics.
“I wanted to take black and white photographs as this focuses the eye with no colour distraction. Each person’s character and face really comes out of each photo.”
Mark spent half an hour to an hour talking to each person and really getting to know them, their background and what they get out of volunteering. For many, the last time they had their photo taken was at school.
Every year, Hollybush have a celebration for volunteers. Those involved in the exhibition each received a copy of their image. Mark said:
“This will give them a real sense of pride and achievement. People volunteer and end up staying. Leeds is a fantastic example of this. This is an opportunity to showcase the fantastic work volunteers do. The centre is not the centre. It’s the people. Everyone comes together. People give their time and skills.”
During Covid-19, volunteers at Hollybush provided food parcels to the local communities and delivered seeds for people to grow their own fruit and veg.
There’s always lots happening. On the day of the launch there was a wood-working whittling group and toddlers’ group. Mark said:
“This is a quiet day. On Wednesday mornings, lots of vans going out to different parts of Leeds with groups to make the environment better, supporting allotment programmes.”
Outdoors and green spaces are really important to peoples’ mental health and fitness. Meeting other people and going out and doing an activity makes people feel better. It’s a great charity to work for.
The exhibition will remain open to the public throughout April, and forms part of a spring programme of free Sunday activities at Hollybush Conservation Centre, including volunteering days and a Birds of Britain themed children’s wildlife trail.
Hollybush is also open to visitors on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays through the week. Have a look at their website and see what is going on and how you can get involved.