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Visit to Manchester

David Mellor, Hathersage
Our immaculately groomed and moustachioed guide was so enthusiastic we were all soon caught up with the process of turning sheet steel into exquisitely balanced cutlery and eagerly absorbing such technicalities as the tonnes per square inch of pressure needed to stamp out soup ladles and the cost per set of silver cutlery for a middle-eastern potentate wanting a full set for each of his eight children. All the company's own products are made onsite in a purpose built factory designed for David Mellor by Sir Michael Hopkins. It is intriguingly circular as it adopted the footprint of the old Hathersage gasometer for its foundations but the shape lends itself very well to the firm's processes. The factory is light and airy and a far cry from the workshop hovels of old Sheffield. Working practices mean employees perform many different tasks. People certainly seem to enjoy working there and we heard of apprentices staying with the firm for decades.
Lunch was fresh, tasty and substantial. Time was allowed to peruse the small museum which reflects David Mellor's prowess as a designer of silverware, cutlery and latterly of street furniture that was so fit for purpose that it is hard to imagine it's design being improved even decades on. There was also a fine shop for those in the mood.
David Mellor died in 2009 and the firm is now run by his son Corin, a product designer and architect, who is expanding the firm's range and reach.
Alison and Richard Thumpston

The Whitworth Gallery
Celia and I headed straight for refreshment before we began our exploration. The café is housed  in a raised glass box in part of the new extension to the 19th-century Whitworth Gallery.
The gallery now embraces and forms an elegant addition to Whitworth Park. The café is both a glass pavilion and a place from which to gain access into the refurbished galleries. I was captivated by the reflections presented by the stainless steel mullions, the glass windows and the brises soleil of the new rear elevation. The café reflects the green spaces in the park and the trees and the sky.
From the park the glass box appears and disappears and reflections change as you walk around.
The architect has allowed the new architecture to emerge seamlessly from the existing gallery as an integral yet individualistic part of the whole assembly and produced carefully crafted spaces inside and out.
 
The Art Garden is described as ‘An urban sanctuary in the gallery’s grounds developed with Jo Malone and devised by Sarah Price. The layout of the garden is focussed on waves of texture, colour and scent.’ It was a joy to see that this extended into a wilder looking area full of less manicured planting and then on into the park itself. It was also wonderful to see the outside spaces so well used on a Monday afternoon.

Walking around inside the new extension the visitor is presented with a variety of spaces to explore with glimpses of the exterior landscape often framed to make you stop and look. The materials used were excellent, well detailed and well finished.

The exhibitions were a delight. Barbara Brown’s  printed textiles were a potent reminder of distant times; of 1960’s school halls and visits to the Design Centre in London’s Haymarket. Her furnishing fabrics are striking, with unusually large repeat patterns designed for very large public spaces and given suitable sized display spaces in this gallery.

I knew nothing Deanna Petherbridge when I entered the gallery. I was impressed by the sheer quantity of work on show. Her work is clearly recognised by its bold, straight lines, and geometric patterns with sequences of shapes meticulously formed in accurate detail.  Upon entering the gallery, the viewer notices that the pictures are done almost exclusively in black and white and seem to lack impact and a use of colour that would usually draw the eye. However, her drawings required and deserved more than just a cursory glance.
Rob Purdy

John's walkabout - aided by Peter Carr
We awoke to news of the fatal bombing at the concert the previous evening. At that time we couldn’t understand why the service was so poor at breakfast that morning.
At John’s suggestion on our walk from the hotel to the Town Hall we went via Market Street, passing the Arnedale Centre, the site of a previous bomb attack, and on to Saint Ann’s Square, King Street and Cross Street to Albert Square. This showed us some of the best of Manchester and enabled the group to take a look inside the Royal Exchange where there is a famous theatre built as a separate modern structure inside the Exchange. This was an amazing sight - especially as the exchange remained in it’s full glory whilst cradling the muscular  engineered structure of the theatre. John and Peter were our very informative guides.
Rob Purdy


Manchester Town Hall Tour
We met our guides at the Central Library to be told that our planned visit to see inside the Town Hall was not possible because of a security lock-down.
We were able to see the impressive new glass structure serving as an entrance hall to the refurbished library and the Rates Hall and then we walked through the Rates Hall to appreciate the full glory of its original design. The library had been made more accessible, containing a quiet study area that retained the atmosphere of the original, whilst downstairs a multi-media suite presented aspects of the history of Manchester. There was a well used social area and coffee bar.
Our group finished our tour in the limited areas of the old town hall that were accessible where we gained a glimpse of what we had missed.
Rob Purdy



Salford Quays

‘Manchester’s Waterside’ lived up to it’s promise helped along by the glorious weather.
I was impressed by how this modern architectural landscape was so pleasant to inhabit and explore. There was a good mix of large, generous areas and smaller human-in-scale spaces. There was some excellent use of planting around the tram stop and in front of the university buildings and good separation of cars from pedestrians.
Rob Purdy


The Lowry

The Lowry is a dramatic architectural statement, much of which is clad in glass and stainless steel, meant to signal a maritime theme. The foyer faces the public plaza, where there is a large aerofoil canopy at the entrance clad with perforated steel and illuminated from inside at night. This architecturally playful, yet severe exterior contrasts strongly with the use of bold colours in the public circulation areas inside for the two  theatres and the drama studio. Even the gents’ washroom deserved a photograph.
The exhibition of Lowry’s work was explained very well by the biographical video that served as an excellent introduction to the visitor and placed his work in the context of his life and personality.
Rob Purdy

The Imperial War Museum North
Another iconic building making a grand architectural statement on Salford’s skyline. However, the entrance did seem a bit understated.
It was so easy to point a camera and get interesting compositions of shapes, surfaces and windows against the blue sky.
Inside the visitor was met by a slightly confusing set of spaces, but this only served to enhance the immersive effect of the multimedia presentations. These brought together a very interesting and sobering collage of personal wartime experiences by both soldiers and civilians.
The displays had been thoughtfully arranged and combined the historical narrative with some creative responses to war.
Rob Purdy

Manchester Art Gallery
In the morning we had the great pleasure of having a gentle pace spent in the fascinating Manchester Art Gallery which offers so much – as described by Rob in his account given to us before the visit.  
But, the main treat for many of us, was the exhibition of photographs by Shirley Baker – Women and Children and Loitering Men.  
This is a large exhibition reflecting the everyday interactions in the 1960’s that took place in Salford and Manchester street-side against the backdrop of the rows of back to backs, cobbled streets, rubbled waste grounds, the degraded fabric of a community being cleared away.  But children play and life goes on.
Alwyne Dean


HOME
We moved on to ‘HOME’ , described as a multi-arts venue which won a RIBA award in 2016 for architects Mecanoo.  This complex of buildings is a shining (literally – glass mainly) and colourful example of an area which brightens the day.  For those who work there they have buildings which are attractive and amenities within easy walking distance giving them the chance to shop and dine.  We certainly enjoyed lunch. 
Alwyne Dean


The Northern Quarter
On next to our final visit in Manchester.  Two venues within easy walking distance between.  
1.  Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA).  It was reassuring to see that the Arts Council was involved in the setup of this small complex of rooms showing Chinese contemporary  art and artefacts.  
2.  The Craft and Design Centre, a couple of streets away, is the former Victorian Fish Market.  Here is work by many talented artists, designers and makers – textiles, jewellery, ceramics, prints, fine art, sculpture and more.  Also a café.

It was very pleasing to see an area of terraced streets, fairly busy with people and traffic, also dotted with art and cafes.

This brought us nicely to a satisfying close on our visit to Manchester.
Alwyne Dean

Members' Photographs

Alison and Richard


Peter Rawson




David Watkin


Audrey Pitches


 
     
     

 

Another View Manchester

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