Friday, 4 August 2017

Guest DJ set, Recordsville, Stockport, Friday 11 August

The Shrieking Violet is teaming up with Steve Hanson for a guest DJ set (vinyl only!) at indie-pop night Recordsville Social.

Recordsville is taking place at Seven Miles Out (opposite Stockport market) on Friday 11 August from 8pm-12am. Free entry!

For more information see the Facebook event.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Review: Available Light, Manchester International Festival


Someone once said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture, to convey the absurdity of arbitrarily juxtaposing two very different forms of creative expression. Available Light is not quite dancing about architecture, but it shows what can happen when an architect, a composer and a choreographer collaborate outside of their unusual comfort zones.

In Available Light Frank Gehry’s sparse, architectural stage design sets the scene for Lucinda Childs’ choreography and John Adams’ modern classical score. Dominated by a huge chainlink fence and raised platform, the setting brings to mind several places familiar from American pop culture: the sidewalk, the bleachers of a sports event, or a seaside pier, sitting atop exposed, crisscrossed supports. Though simple, it plays a key part in the performance, bathed with stark light and silhouetting the stage.
It’s hard not to think of bathers when viewing Childs’ lithe dancers, in their skimpy, figure-hugging costumes; their regimented movements recall synchronised swimmers or the discipline of early morning communal exercisers. At times, they stand still, resembling Anthony Gormley’s rows of figures looking out to sea at Crosby beach. At other times they swarm, reminiscent of a flock of birds. One of the best moments comes after a brief caesura suggesting nightfall; the dancers are lit as if by moonlight, drawing the eye to follow their flitting shadows rather than the movements themselves.

John Adams’ effervescent, multilayered soundtrack steals the show. It swells and ebbs, sometimes muffled and distant as if emerging from underwater and at other times crowded with bright bursts and silvery toots. It suggests found sounds collaged from technology, work and nature, from radio broadcasts and typing to trilling telephones to the creaking of gates, the rumble of industry, the passage of boats, the murmuring of owls and the whining of the wind.
Like much of the best American art of the twentieth century (it was originally performed in 1983), Available Light takes its inspiration from life. It sounds and looks like the city. Though small in numbers, Childs’ performers suggest a crowd, incorporating everyday movements such as stretches, twirls and kicks. The dancers move towards each other and pass by, around and through, yet never meet, appearing to follow some unspoken but long-established rules of the street. 

Available Light is at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until Saturday 8 July. To book visit http://mif.co.uk/mif17-events/available-light.

Review: Last and First Men, Manchester International Festival

Deep in the former Yugloslavia are a series of strange, silent monuments known as spomeniks. Out of scale to their surroundings, many are remote, hidden and accessible only on foot. Commemorating long-forgotten battles and scenes of atrocity, they’ve been brought back into view for glossy, coffee table consumption by photographer Jan Kempenaers, who invites us to revel in their strangeness and unfamiliarity in picture book form as part of the aestheticisation of modern ruins. 

Unlike many monuments, these huge concrete sculptures are not representational, and are deliberately devoid of any religious associations. Instead, they as act as viewing points for the landscape, framing the sun, clouds and stars, or tower over it, remote and untouchable, arms outstretched as if about to take flight. Distanced from politics, memory and culture, this leaves room for imagination, as Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson demonstrates in Last and First Men, which revisits the spomeniks to construct new stories, narratives and associations. Taking its title from Olaf Stapledon’s 1930 sci-fi book, Jóhannsson uses the last two chapters as the basis for a dystopian tale that explores what it means to be human, how we communicate through physical and cultural distances, and the rise and fall of civilisations.

Last and First Men is primarily a film work, using black and white 16mm film to document the spomeniks and their relation to earth, landscape, light and sky. Often, our view is partial, abstracted and deliberately disoriented – close-up the sculptures could just as easily be fossils, ancient rock forms, rock carvings or primitive totems. There’s something of Paul Nash about the way Jóhannsson presents them; suggesting organic forms such as wood, seeds and bones, they take on the anthropomorphic qualities of surrealism.

Jóhannsson is well-known for his work scoring films and his soundtrack, performed by the BBC Philharmonic, is a minimal and slow-moving exploration of the landscape on screen. It roves not just through space but through time, suggesting ageing, loss and decay. The familiar textures and instrumentation of the orchestra lend themselves to this grandiose tale told on a vast scale. Jóhannsson's score is at once heroic, romantic and fragile, conjuring the drama of entering into a battle – against the passage of time, against the inevitable entropy of the universe – that’s already lost.

Taken by themselves, the visuals have a formality that reads like a slideshow or set of textbook illustrations, freed from their captions, but it’s Tilda Swinton’s calm, authoritative narration that binds Last and First Men together. Swinton imbues it with the air of a nature documentary or anthropological report, but Jóhannsson’s orchestral soundtrack restores a sense of humanity, communality and emotion to these man-made monoliths in a way that's rooted in the enveloping, escapist fantasy of the sci-fi genre.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Review: What If Women Ruled the World?, Manchester International Festival


Premiering in the week that North Korea claimed a successful intercontinental missile test, and the columnist Owen Jones sparked a social media row by suggesting the British people should present large-scale public resistance if the President of the United States visited the UK, What If Women Ruled the World? feels scarily prescient and necessary for an art performance.

Rather than a hackneyed invitation to smash the patriarchy – although the need to replace established hierarchies is, unsurprisingly, a recurrent theme – What If Women Ruled the World? uses a creative platform to imagine a situation in which humanity is forced to start anew, and to learn the lessons of the past (and the present).

Israeli artist Yael Bartana’s commission for Manchester International Festival takes the ambiguous end point of Stanley Kubrick’s classic film Dr Strangelove as its starting point, positing a female-led world in which women outnumber men ten to one and asking what would happen next if the slate was wiped clean and we could start again – with women in charge.

To start with, the piece has an air of amateur dramatics about it – think stick-on-moustaches, exaggerated accents, women in drag and ‘survival kits’ containing lipstick and nylons alongside sustenance and weapons – but the piece convincingly navigates between fact and storytelling, entertainment and debate, information and polemic. It’s both historically grounded and contemporary, incorporating possibly the first literary reference to ‘covfefe’, to knowing audience laughter.
What If Women Ruled the World? comes into its own when the five actors in the war room are brought together with five women who are real-life international experts in their fields, ranging from economics and development to archaeology and feminism. The women discuss major and recognisable challenges facing the world outside – from climate change, the threat of nuclear war, pandemics and the depletion of natural resources to ongoing conflict and systemised violence against women. Behind them the Doomsday Clock ticks away, offering archival glimpses into natural and manmade disasters, with both personal and global impacts, as a rapidly deteriorating post-bomb landscape is alluded to, building a very real sense of urgency.

What If Women Ruled the World? is an invitation to imagine things done differently, and to ask questions of our actions and priorities as individuals, as city dwellers, and as British, European and global citizens. It starts with a lighthearted premise, exploring serious issues with personality and humour, but it’s a simplistic title for a piece that suggests not just overthrowing the patriarchy, but our entire economic, social and political systems and fundamentally rethinking the way we relate to each other and to the planet. At a time when socialist ideas such as equitable taxation and economic redistribution are apparently back in vogue, much of the discussion captures the zeitgeist, but ultimately, it serves as a warning about bigger dangers such as the power of individuals and the cult of personality. It poses not just the titular question, but asks who should be allowed a seat at the table of power, whose knowledge and expertise we take on board, and what measures we need to take to ensure those voices are heard.

What If Women Ruled the World? is at Mayfield, Manchester, until Saturday 8 July as part of Manchester International Festival. To book visit http://mif.co.uk/mif17-events/what-if-women-ruled-the-world.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

An education in art: The University of Salford Art Collection

Darren Nixon, The Intern (2016)
Mixed media
Courtesy the artist, photograph courtesy Museum Photography North West

Fifty years ago, the newly inaugurated University of Salford – previously a mechanics institute and technical college – started an art collection for the benefit of its students, staff and the public. This followed a national trend towards the establishment of art collections with educational aims. In the post-war period many local authorities became patrons of art, alongside education committees and sometimes schools. Teacher training colleges also started collections, as did some universities, including the University of Warwick, founded in 1965, whose collection is still on display around the campus today, and which still actively acquires work. These collections were part investment and part expression of prestige and modernity at a time when not just physical but social, cultural and educational experiences were changing.

The precedent for collecting contemporary art for educational purposes lay partly in the ideas of influential educationalists like Henry Morris, Director of Education in Cambridgeshire, who sought to create beauty in educational environments – and believed in the potential for the places by which people were surrounded everyday to be visually and aesthetically educational. In the 1930s Morris commissioned renowned architects such as Walter Gropius to design school buildings, and after the Second World War he worked with the planners of new towns. He also advocated displaying works of art in educational buildings, believing that they would act as a ‘silent teacher’.

Although aspects of these ideas are laudable, including taking art out of the museum to be encountered and experienced as part of everyday life, today the University of Salford Art Collection is challenging ideas about what form a collection should take, who it’s for – and where and how it should be displayed. Although there are a number of items from the collection around campus in communal spaces, and the New Adelphi Building hosts changing exhibitions, this isn’t the main focus of the collection. “Buildings change and offices move, but the collection is for public benefit,” explains Art Curator Lindsay Taylor. For this reason, she explains, “we don’t just put it on the walls but carefully consider what stories we want to tell or what themes we want to identify when installing work across the campus”.

As part of the University of Salford’s 50th anniversary celebrations a new exhibition at Salford Museum and Art Gallery, What’s in Store?, displays highlights from the collection, showing how the collection has evolved and what has influenced collecting themes over time. It also offers an insight into how the notion of collecting for educational purposes has changed over the decades.

The exhibition references the collection’s historical context, containing paintings by twentieth century northern artists such as LS Lowry and Adolphe Valette. Lindsay explains that print-making was also historically important, including prints from the Manchester Print Workshop, which was based at the university in the 1970s. The collection also acquired international work from early on and includes the archive of South African painter Albert Adams, paint brushes and all; changing works by Adams are now hung in a room dedicated to his work in the university’s Old Fire Station building.

Lindsay, who joined the collection in 2013 after many years of working at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston, admits that “there is historically a lack of documentation and knowledge about the collection”. She explains: “There are some works that we don’t know who they are by and we don’t know if they’ve been shown before. There has always been an interest in collecting contemporary art – however sadly documentation procedures and collections care were not as important as they should have been!” Eventually, one of Lindsay’s aims is to build the archive material in the collection in order to enable its story to be told better, and to work with other collections such as the University Archive and Special Collections, Salford Museum and Art Gallery, and the nearby Working Class Movement Library.

Today, Lindsay’s priority is commissioning new work for the collection, particularly in digital media, and by Chinese and northern artists, often working in partnership with other galleries and studios in the area. At the Harris, Lindsay had assumed that established artists working in new media were in collections, but found that this often wasn’t the case. She explains that the aim is to “take a risk and help artists make new work they wouldn’t do otherwise” and, by collecting work by artists at different stages of their careers, show that “there is a story to tell”. Co-commissioning has been a way to raise the profile of the collection and the university: work has been loaned to galleries across the north, shown at festivals and exhibited internationally.

One of the most fruitful relationships has been with the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art in Manchester, which has thirty years of expertise but no collection. Lindsay explains: “We live in the Chinese century but no-one else is really collecting Chinese art in a significant way.” When displayed alongside one another pieces from the collection can show “surprising connections between artists”. For example, both Cao Fei’s 2013 work ‘Haze and Fog’, which examines the new middle- and working-classes in China, and Lowry’s paintings of workers in the UK in the early to mid-twentieth century, are engulfed in smog and pollution. Contemporary art is important, says Lindsay, because it “addresses the issues of the day and represents the time we’re in: ideas about what’s ‘contemporary’ change”.

Another collecting theme is ‘About the Digital’ because, as Lindsay says, we live in the digital age. This does not necessarily mean work created digitally: Jai Redman’s painting ‘The Lovers’, on show in the exhibition, concerns communications, showing “invisible threads and networks”. Other work in What’s in Store? includes the trailer for the young Scottish artist Rachel Maclean’s film ‘It’s What’s Inside That Counts’, first shown as part of an exhibition at Home in Manchester in 2016, as well as composite aerial images by Mishka Henner using digital technology.


Mishka Henner, Wasson Oil and Gas Field, Yoakum County, Texas (2013-2014)
Archival pigment print mounted to aluminium
Courtesy the artist and Carroll/Fletcher gallery

Another focus is acquiring work by artists based in the immediate area, such as Maurice Carlin and Rachel Goodyear, both of whom have a long association with Islington Mill in Salford. “It’s really important to work with artists living and working in the region,” Lindsay explains. “There are some great artists here and they deserve to be at the next level. Artists can trial things here; we can be a stepping stone to them achieving the national or international recognition they deserve. I feel it is important to understand that all the different aspects of the ecology are needed.”

For Assistant Curator Steph Fletcher one of the highlights of the collection is Manchester artist Darren Nixon’s ‘The Awkward Ambassador’, which came about through a partnership with Mark Devereux Projects. This comprises a series of unstable-looking wooden sculptural constructions responding to the collection that have been “purposefully installed into the collection, fit into the store and hide among the other works”.


Darren Nixon, The Awkward Ambassador (2016) 
Mixed media 
Courtesy the artist, photograph courtesy Arthur Siuksta

Perhaps most significantly for a collection with educational value at its heart the University of Salford Art Collection is committed to supporting students’ practice as artists through schemes such as the Graduate Scholarship Programme, where a small number of graduates are given studio space and opportunities such as mentoring for a year in return for giving work to the collection. Another initiative involves commissioning students to make formal portraits of the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor. Students also have the chance to have their work shown to a professional standard in the Old Fire Station, which houses the offices of the Vice-Chancellor.


Claudia Alonso, Jackie Kay (2015) 
Digital photograph 
Courtesy the artist

Lindsay aims to ask “what can make Salford different?” and create “real world links” with the city’s studio spaces such as Islington Mill, Artwork Atelier and Hotbed Press, as well as the International 3 gallery. She explains: “We really want to develop an ongoing relationship with students. It’s really important to demonstrate to students that you can live and work here without going to London or Berlin. It’s about changing how you think as an artist.”

Salford Museum and Art Gallery itself has a “really good and relatively unknown collection of modern British art”, says Lindsay, and an aspiration to show more contemporary art. Lindsay hopes that the show will enable the collection to “feel more valued and understood” as it’s “public and for everyone to enjoy”.

At a time when both Salford and Manchester are undergoing extensive redevelopment, including the relocation of long-established studio group Rogue from Manchester city centre due to property speculation, Lindsay says she is interested in Salford “as it’s not Manchester, but can complement Manchester”. She explains: “There are a number of artists relocating to Salford and it has the potential to be such an exciting time. I want to bring together the good things happening here: there is potential to make a difference.”

What’s In Store? is at Salford Museum and Art Gallery from Saturday 20 May-Sunday 19 November and will be accompanied by a series of talks and events. For more information visit http://artcollection.salford.ac.uk.

Monday, 2 January 2017

The Turnpike, Leigh: A New(/Old) Contemporary Art Gallery for Greater Manchester

In 1971, the mill and mining town of Leigh, Lancashire, located astride the Leeds-Liverpool canal between the two great metropolises of Manchester and Liverpool, hosted an exhibition of modern sculptures by Henry Moore. The likes of Moore’s abstract forms, in materials such as bronze and marble, had never been seen in the town before. Moore’s was the inaugural show at the Turnpike Gallery, in a striking and architecturally innovative modernist building that combined an open-plan library space on ground level with a purpose-built gallery on the upper floor. Like many civic buildings of the time, it incorporated a specially commissioned mural: a large, abstract concrete relief by the industrial designer William Mitchell, in his signature style, mounted on the front of the building. “You can see aspiration in it, bravery and forward-thinking at a hard time for the town,” explains Arts Manager Helen Stalker. “People are astonished when they find out there is a mural on the front by the same artist who designed the doors for Liverpool Catholic Cathedral."
The Turnpike encapsulates the ethos of the post-war period. The two and a half decades that followed the end of the Second World War have been characterised in popular discourse as an era of optimism, when initiatives were put in place to develop the welfare state, expand and modernise the education system, rebuild British towns and cities, and bring art and culture to a wider section of the population. Despite continuing hardships and financial difficulties faced by local and national government after the war, new cultural venues were developed regionally and nationally, and the arts were foregrounded in plans for a better, more democratic and more equal Britain. Many large-scale sculptures were placed in public spaces such as parks, schools and housing estates – including work by Henry Moore, celebrated as perhaps the most important sculptor of the twentieth century. Yorkshire born and bred, Moore was the son of a coal miner and shared these post-war aspirations not just to beautify everyday environments, but to bring art of an exceptional quality to ‘the people’.

The Turnpike caught the tail end of this wave of optimism and renewal. In Leigh and the surrounding area at that time, the last of the pits were closing down – leading Arts Manager Helen Stalker to wonder how such a bold cultural gesture was received. Nonetheless, from Moore’s opening exhibition in 1971 the Turnpike sustained that calibre right up until its last exhibition, by abstract painter Gillian Ayres, in 2013.

In 2013, as part of nationwide programmes of cuts, Wigan Borough Council pulled all funding for the Turnpike and made all staff redundant, moving away from local authority control towards relying on local art groups. This story is not unique to Wigan, but continues to be repeated all over the country. Many of the institutions of the welfare state, established in the post-war years, have been dismantled in the succeeding decades, and replaced by either profit-making private sector bodies or volunteers, a process that has accelerated in recent years. Culture, it seems, is a particularly easy target.

Faced with a lack of money, the Turnpike gallery was run on “tea and coffee sales”. Helen Stalker, then Fine Art Curator at Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, who lives down the road in Lowton, had been a regular visitor to exhibitions at the Turnpike and observed what happened to it over the next couple of years. “It went through lots of manifestations about what it would become”, explains Helen. “It became full of pictures of Johnny Depp and numerous African sunsets!”

After thinking “I’d love to get my hands on it,” Helen got her chance early in 2016, when she applied for a two-year post as Arts Manager, funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Helen joined the Turnpike in March 2016 after ten years at the Whitworth and five years at Tate Liverpool. Before that, she worked at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. “It’s an incredible learning curve,” admits Helen. “I’ve come from a well-funded bubble of a fantastic, feminist, forward-thinking organisation but I’m getting a better understanding of the real world climate of arts venues. It’s been a missed opportunity for a fly-on-the-wall documentary!”
The scale of the challenge became apparent within days of Helen starting her new job. The problems were partly financial, partly physical and partly infrastructural – but also to do with attitudes. “The gallery is as it was in 1971,” explains Helen. “It’s a very precious space but it’s been neglected, misunderstood and not considered so we have to fight for it. Lots of people are sniffy and snigger about it – it’s a lump of concrete in the middle of the beautiful town hall and parish church. It needs a wash. It is full of moths and smells funny when you walk in – it’s not been looked after in the ways it should have been. It’s not moved with the times – for example the ceiling cracks when there are gigs.” Nonetheless, she sees great potential: “The bare bones are there and it’s gorgeous when you look up at the concrete ceilings. We need to refocus people’s eyes on it. The Turnpike is a great space and a great venue and I want to bring that level of quality back.”

Currently, the Turnpike is in transition. The gallery itself is closed to the public, but walk up the stairs and you’re greeted by 1970s screenprints by Ron Kitaj and Patrick Caulfield. Helen has got these prints out of storage from the Wigan and Leigh art collection, formerly based at Drumcroon in Wigan, an art education centre which closed due to cuts in 2011 and has now been demolished.

In January a new independent organisation takes over the Turnpike, with a new board of trustees from across the arts, business and marketing. “We are aiming to be more ambitious, to have more outreach and to bring a creative environment back in,” explains Helen. “It needs real impact and serious change. I’d like a creative hub with the community at the heart, which is both shaped by the town and shapes the town, a coming together and connection point which is cross-collaborative, where people can be inspired by each other.”
Initially Helen is developing a three-year exploratory programme. Operating in such straitened circumstances it will, of necessity, be enabled by strategic alliances – including partnerships with the Jerwood Foundation, Liverpool Biennial and Impressions Gallery in Bradford – as well as by nurturing friendships with local organisations and institutions.

In January (14 January-12 March), the Turnpike will be the only northern venue for the Jerwood Drawing Prize, an annual touring show that challenges and expands expectations and understandings of what it means to draw. Helen sees it as an opportunity to hold a celebration, talk to audiences, engage schools and host drawing workshops. Instead of a holding a private view for dignitaries, Helen is keen that schools will be the first to see the exhibition, and children will take part in a “Jerwood within a Jerwood”, making their own decisions about the winners.

In June, the Turnpike will be one of several North West galleries (others include Touchstones, Rochdale and Bury Art Museum) to select work and build a programme from the 2016 Liverpool Biennial as part of its “really exciting” strategic touring fund, which has been established to develop audiences. The idea is that rather than being “parachuted in”, the selected artist comes and engages with the town, for example by working with local teens.

Helen has chosen to show the video work Dream English Kid by Mark Leckey, who grew up in Ellesmere Port, Merseyside “peering into the city”. Incorporating footage of a Joy Division gig he attended as a young man, the film – like his rave and Northern Soul tribute, Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore – explores individual and collective experiences and memory. For the Turnpike incarnation of the work, Helen hopes to draw on the Leigh Rock Festival of 1979, which was organised by Tony Wilson and Bill Drummond due to its location in between Manchester and Liverpool, and played host to bands including Joy Division, OMD and the Teardrop Explodes. “Bus strikes meant only about 200 people went, but it’s achieved mythical status,” explains Helen.

In November the Turnpike will show new and existing work by Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, including their 2014 installation Song for Coal, originally shown at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and drawing on the material fabric of Leigh by using coal taken from the area in new works. Manchester artist Mary Griffiths will also reference the heritage of the town, from mining and industry to engineering, at an exhibition in 2018.

Another plan for 2017 is for an open call photography competition responding to, reinventing and offering a new vision of George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier, corresponding with its eightieth anniversary “People are still quite bitter about it around here,” explains Helen. “They want to shake off the book’s legacy.”
The changing exhibitions will be complemented by a multi-purpose studio space, and the Turnpike’s flat roof will be put to use as a Shrangi-La-themed terrace, in reference to Leigh-born James Hilton, who coined the term in his 1933 novel Lost Horizon. Eventually the roof could even be extended upwards into a theatre, as originally planned when the building was designed.

The Turnpike’s new programme is part of a bigger ambition to develop a cultural strategy and voice for Wigan. “There is an uneven playing field in the area; access to culture is really low down on the priority list,” explains Helen. “Wigan is a huge borough but it’s not got the riches of Manchester. It’s got next to nothing for its size. The local authority in Manchester understands that the arts play a vital role in the city, but Wigan has a wobbly infrastructure for the arts with nothing underneath it.”
Helen is mindful of challenges in Leigh, such as underinvestment, above-average rates of drug addiction, alcoholism, self-harm and mental health problems, and low numbers of school-ready five-year-olds. Another issue is isolation and disengagement that goes far beyond the arts. “There are pockets where people of all ages don’t leave their estate,” Helen explains. “They shop there, they go to school there, all their family are there – it’s about coaxing them out.” The reinvention of the Turnpike, therefore, is “not just about having a nice art gallery in town”, but about systematic changes.

One core part of the gallery’s target audience will be schools; there are three schools in walking distance of the Turnpike. “Regional and local artists have told me that the place made them artists when they were children; we need to develop a culturally aware generation with a voice and raise aspirations for young people,” explains Helen. “We need to bring art and culture of an exceptional standard to them so they understand what it is and that they’re entitled to it – why shouldn’t they have it on their doorstep? People been infantilised and not empowered enough. I want to get people to demand better quality, to open up opportunities.”

To support this, Helen is taking part in the Cultural Educational Leadership programme, a new scheme from Curious Minds with support from the Arts Council. She is being trained as a school governor in order to establish how schools work and what they need to address, from understanding how to reduce the attainment gap, to seeking solutions to the awkward transition between primary and secondary school. As well as running enrichment days and advocating for the arts and education, Helens hopes to extend the school day by offering access to the arts after school.

Despite some scepticism about the demand for contemporary art in the town – Leigh and Wigan are “flashing bright red on the Arts Council map of lack of engagement,” says Helen – she sees the sell-out success of the Z-arts production Sponge at the Turnpike, where 70 per cent of families who attended had never been to the theatre before, as proof “that there is a huge hunger for it, and not just for watercolour landscapes!”
Helen hopes the Turnpike will be a catalyst for taking art out into the town, into its empty buildings and shops. Meanwhile, the town hall has received money from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop a heritage centre and another cultural venue will be opening nearby. Castlefield’s Gallery's New Art Spaces supports local artists and this year’s Wigan Arts Festival, founded in 2015 as “a provocation and a way of taking control”, will be expanded into the Wigan and Leigh Arts Festival. “There’s some agitation about the town, and art and culture are the catalyst,” says Helen. “Once we’ve got over the barriers at the Turnpike we can really have some fun with it!”

With the reopening of the Turnpike Gallery in 2017, the people of Wigan, Leigh and Greater Manchester will gain a new place to encounter challenging and exciting contemporary art, in one of the region’s architectural hidden gems: here’s to the building’s next 46 years.

To keep up-to-date with news and exhibitions, visit www.theturnpike.org.uk, and follow the Turnpike on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TurnpikeGallery and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/turnpikeleigh.