Behind the #OneChair project with Sam Ryley

I was intrigued to see the announcement of the #OneChair project on twitter, with its remit of “Celebrating Chester’s forward thinkers’ it sounded right up our street.

There was opportunity to vote for the people who were making cultural life in Chester better. As much as I wanted to vote, as the tweeter for Chester Culture I wanted to stay true to our ethos and not play favourites too much.  That said we wanted to give #OneChair some coverage because I love what their project is all about.  So I contacted Sam and asked him about the story behind #OneChair

Tell us a bit about the #OneChair project and what inspired you to do it?

It’s a photography project really, ‘cos that’s what I do…

I was originally going to find interesting Chester people and photograph them in my studio, Having the chair was always the plan, it took a few months for the perfect one to come along but I was prepared to wait. The Chair I found has so much personality – he’s a true king amongst furniture.

It’s kind of about changing people’s perception of Chester really. There is a real gap here in which to develop more contemporary culture.

I’ve only been here 2 ½ years and came from spending 10 years in Manchester. I was so surprised to find a giant gaping void where a subculture should really exist. Chester has “old School” traditional culture coming out of it’s ears, but beyond that it was like people just weren’t aware of things that aren’t mainstream. You could analyse why that is, and complain about it – or try and do something that lets people know that there is a massive potential.  So me and CHAIR decided to try to find the people who were really pushing forward culturally in all areas and try to celebrate their presence in the city.  And beyond that: show everyone

I thought up the nomination thing so it was fairly fair and not my choice alone and put it out there. 

What was the response like?

Amazing in a word… on the second day the Chronicle ran an article about it. Although I still don’t think enough people nominated. The list could have easily been twice as big and there are people I can think of that I was gutted weren’t thought of and nominated.

Tell us a bit about the judges…

Mike Devoy, I know to be a strong character, He brings bands from all over the country to Chester at Telfords Warehouse and was a good choice because he knows a lot about what goes on in music and performance locally.

Tom Whitley is a great character I met who has like myself been here only a couple of years and believes that if you live in a city you have a duty to affect it! He has a business growing vegetables call Vegmen, He’s been constantly wandering the city since he got here meeting people from the council and local businesses. so had a great knowledge of positive things that are currently happening.

How did you go about judging and whittling it down to your top 20?

It was actually really hard fought, The main rule was that it was not going to be a popularity contest. The contribution and potential towards affecting the city’s culture specifically was weighed up with all of them. Some of the people on the nominations list are really good friends of mine/Mike and Tom but still weren’t voted in… we were harsh!

Some people were a perfect fit others we discussed for a long time. We discussed every single name on the list individually and weighed it up. That last five places were extremely difficult to decide.

What have you learnt about Chester from doing the #OneChair project?

There are a lot of really motivated people out there. It would be a much better city if they were all connected and able to bounce of each other’s energy.

What happens next with #OneChair?

We photograph all of the nominated people… and then you have to wait and see.

Was #OneChair a one off or are there plans to run it again in the future?

It would be nice to do it again in a year. No promises but yeah I’d like to.

Aside from #OneChair we’d love to hear a bit about your other creative work, what do you do?

Photography and film, I’ve worked for global brands down to local bands, quality is everything! food, portrait and creative stuff… I try and be very different in every shoot so my style stays fresh. hobby wise I love wildlife.

Where can people find out more about your work and future projects? is my website, that’s the serious stuff.

I put current stuff/swearwords/general rubbish up on facebook as well:

And finally – what aspect of Chester’s arts and culture do you enjoy most?

Music, food, all of it really… so long as it’s got passion behind it.

Thanks Sam for taking the time to tell us about #OneChair. To see the chosen 20 and all nominations you can visit the website here.

We can’t wait to see the finished photos!


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