Manchester Art Gallery

Culture Recovery Fund

Yesterday we received the very welcome news that we were successful in our application to the Culture Recovery Fund – part of the Chancellor’s £1.57 Billion Covid response to the arts sector.

Manchester Art Gallery has been awarded £780,022 along with our partner institutions the Whitworth and the Manchester Museum, who received £428,223 and £240,580 respectively.

This is a huge boost in difficult times, and is a much-valued lifeline for the gallery and the culture of the city as a whole. The funding for the gallery is designated for specific actions addressing the impact of Covid. The money is targeted at relieving the deficit in our finances due to lack of commercial income during lockdown and since we reopened in August. It will help ensure that the Trading Company that runs the gallery café and venue hire offer remains solvent and well supported. The Trading Company is a significant contributor to our income and helps drive our public programmes. There are still challenges ahead, with reduced footfall, no café offer for our visitors as yet, limitations on our retail offer and no possibility of events for the foreseeable future. But, it is great news, and we are extremely grateful for this support.

Some of the funds will go towards broader audience development work across the city and to joint working across the city’s cultural organisations, helping people through the pandemic and working with schools and the Manchester Cultural Education Partnership. The camaraderie and resilience across the city in lockdown has been a wonderful antidote to the problems we have all faced.

There is also some funding allocated to new Covid-safe learning programmes and to the additional costs related to the unavoidable delay in opening our Derek Jarman and Constellations exhibitions along with some updates to our website which will significantly enhance our digital offer and online programme.

We are very grateful to Arts Council England, DCMS and HM Treasury for this support and also to our audiences, supporters, communities, volunteers and staff who continue to keep Manchester Art Gallery free and open to all people as a place of civic thinking and public imagination, promoting art as a means to achieve social change.


Unearthing the mysteries of Manchester Art Gallery’s lost sculptures

As part of the ongoing Out of the Crate exhibition, a group of volunteers have been tasked with researching some of the gallery’s ‘cold cases.’ This refers to items in the sculpture collection about which the gallery knows very little. The gallery is also encouraging members of the public to engage in active research and get in touch if they know anything that could contribute to a more complete record for these objects. 

A mysterious disappearance

As one of those volunteers, I have had the tremendous opportunity to engage in archival research. Before the COVID-19 lockdown required the gallery to close – thus halting my research – my research partner and I were focusing specifically on Cold Case 1. This concerns the mysterious disappearance of the gallery’s first acquisition, a group of 13 plaster casts (7 of which were copies after works by Antonio Canova) and 3 marble busts, donated by wealthy corn merchant Jonathan Hatfield. He donated them to the Royal Manchester Institution in 1825, which became Manchester City Art Gallery in 1882. Several of the casts stood in the main Entrance Hall well into the 20th century, flanking the pillars either side of the staircase. But by 1945, they had been removed from public view, possibly never to be seen again. Whilst our research has not yet uncovered a definitive answer as to what happened to them, it has brought to light several fascinating details that have helped the gallery build a clearer picture of these sculptures’ history. 

Fragile works

Our first stop was Manchester Central Library, who hold a substantial amount of the Royal Manchester Institution’s records, including their meeting minutes. The casts are first mentioned during the meeting of 14th April 1825. It is here we find out that upon opening, some of the casts were “considerably damaged.” A fortnight later, a group of Italians were paid a sum of £13 to repair them. The minutes from the meeting of June 2nd indicates that by this time they had been repaired. This information is quite remarkable, for two reasons. First, it indicates that conservation work had to be undertaken before the sculptures were ever displayed. Second, it gives us a clue as to the sculptures’ fate. It shows that the casts were fragile, and easily breakable. It is possible that the casts were lost or disposed of after sustaining further damage in the 20th century. 

Drawn by artists in the city

Another interesting point uncovered in these records is that upon arrival to Manchester, the casts took up residence in the kitchens underneath the Portico Library, where they would stay until at least 1827. During this time, artists were invited to draw them, and a competition was held for the best drawing, with a prize of ten guineas. A quick look in the Portico’s archives confirmed that the casts did indeed remain in the Portico for a time. Whilst this does not give us any clues as to their current whereabouts, it tells us that Manchester’s cultural institutions were not operating in isolation at this time. Much like today, they are working together for the city’s academic development and wellbeing.

Donor’s wishes

Relatedly, the Central Library’s archives also have details of letters from Jonathan Hatfield that indicate his reasons for donating the casts. He wrote: “I offer them in the spirit of affection, and in the hope that the example will be followed by others, who wish to embellish their native town.” In another letter he also expressed a particular fondness of the cast of Endymion, stating: “this statue has excited more interest in Italy than any other of his [Canova’s] productions and indeed than any statue of modern times.” It is evident that the casts and busts meant a great deal to Hatfield.

Case solved?

Lastly, our most recent piece of archival research brought us back under the gallery’s roof. We scoured through works on paper, documents, photographs, and exhibition brochures in an attempt to pinpoint when the casts were removed from the Entrance Hall. A watercolour from 1906 shows some of the casts, and an ‘Illustrated Guide’ to the gallery’s collections from 1945 (by then curator Lawrence Haward) contains a photograph in which the casts are absent, after which their location is unknown.

Written by Holly Johnson, MA student, 

Art Gallery and Museum Studies, University of Manchester

Making Conversation in Lockdown

By lead artist Naomi Kendrick

Making Conversation is an adult learning workshop the gallery that was established in 2006. Each workshop is led by me Naomi Kendrick, artist Helen Newman and a dedicated group of volunteers. It is a friendly social space where people gather to explore the gallery’s exhibitions, discuss their feelings about the artworks, and then make something in response. What is made is very much led by the maker and people work alone or in pairs – for practical reasons as some participants are blind or partially sighted or just because they want to collaborate. At the end of each workshop we come together to find out what has been made and discuss it. Making Conversation participants are a mixture of regulars (some have been coming for over a decade) and people who drop by. The relationship we have with each other during each workshop is just as important as the one that we have with the artworks we discover and create each time. 

Apart, but still connected

In March 2020 we were parted. Our first ‘remote’ workshop was at the end of March, and the participants, Helen, and I  communicated through phone calls, email and the post depending on each participant’s access to technology.  We sent out images of artworks from the collection with a guide showing how to spend time noticing and absorbing those artworks, to think about them and then make work in response (using basic materials from around the home). In an attempt to keep people connected and to stick to the familiar Making Conversation approach we asked people to let us know how they got on and share with us what they had made.  These responses ranged from sculpture, music, textiles, writing and photography, or even just a note to say how much they missed everyone. Helen then turned these responses into a newsletter which we sent back out to everyone. We’ve managed a workshop in this way each month since, and had new people join us as a result of the workshop being on the gallery website, social media and in the Creative Care Kits distributed by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

Is it real if it only exists in our respective imaginations?

During this time, I have been phoning one of our participants, Tony, once a fortnight. Tony is blind, lives alone and doesn’t have access to the internet and therefore my audio description enables him to continue participating in the workshop. Tony had been about to receive a new guide dog before lockdown but that had to be put on hold, so he has been very isolated.

In my first call with Tony each month I audio describe and read the newsletter showing what the rest of the group have been up to and then describe the artworks for this month’s workshop and discuss them with him. Two weeks later I phone back and find out what Tony has made in response. This has been a really interesting part of the process for me. For Tony the audio description I provide over the phone is the same as when we are at the gallery. But when Tony describes what he has made to me the roles are reversed, I am relying on his description. Sometimes what Tony has ‘made’ only exists in our respective imaginations. It began with a drawing which Tony described to me, he had physically made the drawing but it was then lost somewhere in his house. I wonder does it matter, neither of us has the means to look at it and Tony had described it beautifully, I felt I held it in my mind’s eye as clearly as he did.

Tony loves music, he plays and teaches the guitar and he began to select songs in response to the artworks I had described to him, playing them to me down the phone via Alexa if I hadn’t heard them before. One workshop featured an Issey Miyake dress, not something that particularly appealed to Tony as he “isn’t interested in fashion”. However, when I called back two weeks later he described an animal rights protest outfit he had designed (to both our surprise!) and described to me in great detail.

Tony and the other participants we have been in touch with are desperate to get back into the gallery, to be in the building and be with each other. Their exploration of art is a shared experience not one undertaken alone. The repeated question “when will we go back?” throughout this time has been hard to hear and impossible to answer – though I am recently told the staff at the gallery are working on establishing how this might safely happen again.  Until then, as Tony said of our fortnightly phone calls:

I love art now [since coming to Making Conversation over the last 10 years], and your phone calls have kept me in touch with the art world, it [art] doesn’t come across the same on TV. If you stopped phoning me I’d really, really miss it. It’s a lifeline keeping in touch like this.


You can follow Naomi on Twitter @naomikendrick

And try the Making Conversation lock down activities here.

Sarah Parker Remond commission

In 1859, African American, lecturer and abolitionist Sarah Parker Remond came to Lancashire to appeal to mill owners and cotton workers to support the US anti-slavery movement, she spoke in the Atheneum (now part of Manchester Art Gallery) and said the words:

When I walk through the streets of Manchester and meet load after load of cotton, I think of those 80,000 cotton plantations on which was grown the $125m worth of cotton which supply your market, and I remember that not one cent of that money ever reached the hands of the labourers.” 

Sarah Parker Remond

Extinction Rebellion recently commissioned artist Venessa Scott to create two artworks, commemorating Sarah Parker Remond’s influential speech and celebrating the abolitionist meeting held at Manchester Cathedral in 1787, which fuelled the anti-slavery movement in Britain. 

On Sunday 30th August 2020, the posters were sited across Manchester City Centre, as part of the Extinction Rebellion, Stand up to Racism and Black Lives Matter solidarity march, marking the city’s historic involvement with the abolition of slavery as well as highlighting systems and leaders who opposed it. This included a 8.46 minute take-the-knee demonstration outside the Royal Exchange in memory of the brutal murder of George Floyd. 

Remond gave her first speech aged 16

Sarah Parker Remond (June 6, 1826 – December 13, 1894) was born free in Massachusetts and became known as a lecturer, abolitionist, and agent of the American Anti Slavery Society. An international activist for human rights and women’s suffrage, she made her first speech against slavery when she was 16 years old. In 1858 Remond traveled to England to gather support for the abolitionist cause in the United States.  

Primary school children from across Manchester find out about Remond as part of the Gallery’s school’s takeover programme. Working in the atmospheric space of the Atheneum they are introduced to this inspirational speaker and asked to reflect on what changes they want to see today. Taking up the mantle of identifying injustice and understanding they can also look to make change.

A moment of pride, empowerment, and encouragement

Venessa spoke of it ‘being an honour to be part of this history making march and cannot wait to see what other wonderful things occur when people join together in unity against injustice’. 

“Growing up in the UK there was a significant lack of discussion and education around the success of black people, particularly of black women throughout history. In the education I received black people were simply always slaves and then one day, sometime in contemporary history, we were not. To learn that there were effective, eloquent, well educated, and successful women of colour in Manchester in the1800s hundreds, not least to discover that one of them, Sarah Parker Remond, spoke on the site of Manchester Art Gallery was a moment of pride, empowerment, and encouragement.

I believe that it is important to include and celebrate these women and other strong women of colour in our cultural institutions; to display works of art and literature that discuss their achievements and normalise their beauty. For young people of colour be able to enter a gallery space and visually relate to the paintings that hang on the walls. To see people that look like them. I believe that women such as Sarah Parker Remond; educated, powerful women of colour, serve as beacons of inspiration and aspiration for women of all nationalities but especially for women of colour whose voices, presence, and impact has often been overlooked, downplayed or categorised as worthless and ephemeral.”

Copies of the artwork are available for purchase here.

Image credit: Vanice Scott

A safe place that is part of a healing process

What do people get from volunteering here?

As a volunteer manager, I spend quite a bit of time having tea and coffee with volunteers. Sometimes in groups but often for a one to one chat. This is the part of the job that I love – spending time with people, getting to know who they are, their life experiences, what makes them tick, why they want to volunteer at the gallery and how they feel about the world. Late last year I sat down with a volunteer, Nick, who has been volunteering  at the gallery for about 4 years.  Nick had started coming to the gallery as a participant on our Health and Wellbeing programme working in partnership with the Creative Living Centre, Prestwich. He was leaving Manchester and so had come to say goodbye. Over coffee Nick shared with me how he felt about Manchester Art Gallery. It was a very moving conversation. At the end I asked if he would be up for sharing his thoughts more widely. Here is what he sent in an email this week:

Meg Parnell, Lifelong Learning and Volunteering Manager


I started attending the gallery around five years ago and took part in mental health and wellbeing classes and then progressed from there to volunteering at MOSI and then found myself back volunteering at the Art Gallery. The main reason I came back to the gallery was because I always felt that it was a safe place for me to be.

I suffer with something called “Complex post traumatic stress disorder” and one of the main symptoms is spending your entire life in a state of heightened and increased hyper vigilance, basically you live life in a constant state of “fight or flight”. It is something that is extremely stressful on the whole body and mind and leaves you exhausted, to say the least. The very basic of tasks, for example walking into a supermarket or travelling on public transport can drain your entire being and leave you in a bewildered state for days.

Time, determination and an awful lot of energy

For me, travelling to the gallery on public transport and interacting with groups of other people was something that was part of my continuing healing process. I was going through some extremely arduous times, having to face up to, confront and overcome the experiences of my childhood. During this time I was frequenting the gallery and I was able to see it as an escape. Yes it was a challenge to use public transport and talk to and with groups but it was also increasing my strength and being able to do that in a safe environment such as the gallery made all the difference to me, in fact it has played a key part in the healing process, which I have learned does not happen overnight, it takes time, determination and an awful lot of energy and is indeed ongoing but the gallery was a safe haven.

When you walk in from the street the ambience is so relaxing and the calm is almost overwhelming at first but something that you soon learn to get used to. All the staff are extremely welcoming and for me being able to interact and take part in the services that were made available through the health and wellbeing team are something that I will always carry with me. I even found myself calling into the gallery for a spot of lunch if was in the area and that is something that I ordinarily would not have done.

Taking part in the gallery is something that boosted my confidence in a way that I could never have imagined.

When suffering from mental health issues one of the most frightening things is that you don’t really know if you will ever get better. When you break a leg or have yourself stitched up the medical staff will always give you an expected recovery time and give or take it usually falls within those parameters. When your head goes pop you don’t have that. All of a sudden almost everything you have known is taken away, you cant eat, you cant sleep, you cant talk, the list goes on but you basically stop functioning and lose sight of all reality, if there is such a thing.

A calm, gentle and safe environment

Providing the services that the gallery offers is like a breath of fresh air, no medication, no pressure, a calm, gentle and safe environment in which to express yourself is vitally important to recovery. You can pop all the pills and read all the leaflets and self help paraphernalia on the planet but they wont make a shred of difference if you have nowhere to express yourself. It’s not about your artistic ability it is about the whole experience provided within such a unique environment.

I could not thank you enough for giving me the opportunity to be part of such environment.

Nick, Volunteer 2015-2019


You can find out more about the gallery’s health and wellbeing programme here.

We aren’t currently taking on any new volunteers, though you can sign up for information here.

Baby boxes are go!

Hi Everyone,

Tomorrow is gonna be a BIG day; with the tremendous help of Visitor Service staff we’ll be packing 100 boxes of materials to send out to Manchester families via our Sure Start partners in Hulme, Mosside, Clayton and the city centre wards.

Our partners have identified a need for provision for families with babies; since Covid-19, parents have not been able to access children’s centres to register new births. The initial registration appointment is usually where families are signposted to services and groups during the first year of their child’s life. This lack of early intervention and support has already led to increased referrals to the children’s centres. Face to face interactions are vital in building secure and supportive relationships between families and health and education providers. Sure Start managers are concerned that many parents of new babies are left feeling isolated and lonely which can lead to an increased risk of postnatal depression and poor mental health. Every parent knows how important the reassurance given in the early days of new parenthood is. At this time families are not only missing out on interactions with trained health and early education professionals, they are also missing out on interactions with other new parents.

From baby box to baby Zoom

The boxes will include a guidance leaflet which has been developed with our partners to make sure we pitch it right for their families. The leaflet includes wonderful mindfulness tips by Health and Wellbeing Manager Louise Thompson and suggested ways to play with the objects in the boxes by artist Naomi Kendrick. We’ve kept the tone light and friendly, and a bit of an invitation to come see us when life returns to ‘normal’.

Sure Start outreach workers will be handing out the boxes to new parents whose babies have been born in lockdown (March, April, May) and capturing their impact. We are then going to test out running some baby Zooms and possibly some face to face sessions at the children’s centres (non walking babies are good as they don’t need to be told to socially distance!).

Thanks to everyone at the gallery who has helped so far, cutting fabric, putting boxes together and cutting happy shapes from acetate. It was also great that Trevor (volunteer) was able to come and help with this task.

Katy McCall, Family Learning Manager

We’re reopening on 20 August

Since the government announced that museums and galleries could open from 4 July, we have been busy making plans to reopen. This has involved ordering new signage, perspex screens, PPE for our staff, working out a safe and enjoyable route around the building, the capacity of each gallery space with current social distancing advice, where and how people can queue to come in, new opening hours, increasing our Visitor Services staff to manage social distancing and safe toilet access. We’ve also been investigating whether we can offer a cafe service, how the gallery shop might work and preparing comprehensive risk assessments. There are many health and safety measures to take into account and we don’t want to compromise anyone’s safety – neither the public’s nor that of our staff. Additionally as a department of Manchester City Council – which is coordinating the reopening of its services across the city – we have had to wait for confirmation as to when we can reopen. Public transport is key to this decision as the council needs to make sure that the transport system is available for key workers and won’t get too overcrowded once the city centre opens up.

Waiting for the gallery to reopen

The national picture

To put all this in a national context, the National Gallery in London was the first to reopen on 8 July, Tate are reopening on 27 July and The V&A on 4 August. HOME in Manchester is reopening in September. We will reopen on 20 August, so not too far behind the large national institutions.

Sadly there are many museums that are not reopening this year. This pandemic has affected the museum and gallery sector hugely with a loss of income from their commercial activities including shops, cafes and venue hire. For some the economics of opening with the reduced numbers who could visit means that they may have to wait until social distancing is no longer a requirement before they can.

Behind the scenes

A programme of essential maintenance and upgrades has also delayed our capacity to reopen straight away, including for example, our connection to the Manchester Civic Quarter Heat Network and replacing 3 very large glass panels high in the gallery atrium.

While we’ve been closed, many staff have been working from home to collectively plan and deliver an online programme of events – some of it an adaptation of our in-gallery programme, but some of it entirely new. The take-up and response to this programme has been incredibly positive and we’re proud of our teams and the way they’ve responded to the lockdown and worked so creatively to continue delivering a service. With initially limited vistor numbers, it’s very likely that some of these online programmes will continue for some time.

We realise that it is frustrating to wait when you are keen to visit and we really appreciate everyone’s patience while we prepare for a safe reopening. We look forward to welcoming you back to the gallery on 20 August. Until then please make the most of our online programme and online collection, and, if you value the work we do, consider making a donation.

Work: Behind the Scenes

Working from home has given many of us a chance to review what work means to us.

It’s not bad working from home. But sometimes the disconnect from the wider world feels too great. I was just at that point a fortnight ago when out of the blue came a friendly email from Alice Strang, a curator whose work will be well-known to anyone interested in Modern Scottish Painting (Google her – you’ll see) Furloughed and at a loose end, Alice was offering her insight into works in our collection. Rather than ask her to write away in isolation, we thought it would be useful to get her perspective on some questions we have been asking ourselves recently on the subject of Work. We are going to put these same questions up here on our website soon, to widen this conversation. But in the meantime, here’s Alice’s thought-provoking and refreshing  perspective.

Hannah Williamson, Fine Art Curator.

How does work relate to time?

The time-consuming creative process involved in making Long Brown of 1966 by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004) is clear, despite its modest size of 44.3 x 13.9cm. The textured surface ripples before our eyes as similarly-sized brown squares cluster and course across it. Sometimes closely tessellated, at others placed on a diagonal with corners touching, space between the squares expands and contracts in parallel with an ebb and flow of abstract emotion, from repression to freedom. Subtle variations in tone, shot through with areas of bare canvas, are equally disciplined and provide a further layer of movement. The elongated format has precedents in Japanese scrolls and Egyptian hieroglyphics, in which non-Western symbols can also be understood on a purely formal basis. Long Brown is a painting as much about the work and time involved in its realisation as about the effort required of the viewer to understand and appreciate it. It was purchased for the collection in 1967, shortly after it was completed.

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham was born in St Andrews, Fife in 1912. She studied at Edinburgh College of Art before moving to Cornwall in 1940, where she became a member of what is now known as the St Ives School. A pioneer of British abstraction, after inheriting a house outside St Andrews in 1960, Barns-Graham straddled the Scottish and English art worlds before her death in 2004.

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004), Long Brown, 1966 © Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004) Long Brown, 1966
© Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust

Who and what do we value?

Mater Dolorosa of 1958 by Robert Colquhoun (1914-62) is a referential painting of the Virgin Mary grieving after the death of Christ. It pays homage to universal notions of maternal care and responsibility. The title means ‘sorrowful mother’ and the subject is portrayed at the base of the crucifix on which her son died, her bowed head supported by her left hand. Set in a shallow picture space and severely simplified, the anatomy of body and clothing are given equal status. Flat colour fields are enlivened by the barest suggestion of volume and shadow, concentrated on the emotional centre of Mary’s face. The pain of the loss of a child, reared, loved and supported, a source of concern, pride and companionship are described in her inconsolable expression and tragic experience of the bittersweet mother-son relationship. Mater Dolorosa was a gift from the Contemporary Art Society in 1962.

Robert Colquhoun was born in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire. He studied at Glasgow School of Art where he met Robert MacBryde (1913-66), with whom he lived and worked for the rest of his life. The ‘Two Roberts’, as they were known, had considerable success in London during and immediately after World War Two, including in the sphere of theatre set and costume design. However, ill-health and hard living took their toll on their creativity before Colquhoun’s death in 1962.

Robert Colquhoun (1914-62), Mater Dolorosa, 1958 © The Artist’s Estate

Robert Colquhoun (1914-62) Mater Dolorosa, 1958
© The Artist’s Estate

How does work shape identity?

A Cornish Fishwife of 1904 by Flora Macdonald Reid (1861-1938) embodies the notion of work shaping identity. An elderly woman is seen, harbourside, preparing a skate for sale. Her right-hand grips a knife with a determination at odds with the resigned expression on her face. The title refers not only to her job but also to her personal status as partner of a fisherman, in a community where personal and professional responsibilities are inseparable. Boats with hoisted sails lead the eye to buildings lit by sunshine which does not reach the subject’s workbench; seen towards the end of a harsh working life, she is at once dignified and resigned. The painting was purchased from the gallery’s twenty-first Autumn Exhibition in 1904, the year in which it was made.

Flora Macdonald Reid was born in London to Scottish parents. She trained at Edinburgh School of Art [NB not the later Edinburgh College of Art] and received lessons from her better-known brother John Robertson Reid (1851-1926). On returning to the English capital, she embarked on an international career, exhibiting from Glasgow to Paris and travelling extensively in France, Belgium and Norway; she lived in Cornwall for ten years. Although neither her technique nor subject matter are modern, as a successful woman artist Reid was a pioneer in her profession.

Flora Macdonald Reid (1861-1938), A Cornish Fishwife, 1904

Flora Macdonald Reid (1861-1938) A Cornish Fishwife, 1904

What’s the meaning of vocation?

William Strang’s 1912 portrait of John Masefield (1878-1967) shows the poet and writer aged thirty-four. Despite recent and considerable professional success, not least being awarded the Edmond de Polignac Prize that year, Masefield is presented as contemplative rather than triumphant. His sympathetically realised face is illuminated in an otherwise shadowy setting. His shapeless brown jacket merges with the background and his clasped hands are roughly described in his lap. The focus is on the sitter’s cerebral rather than physical abilities. The challenges Masefield overcame to follow his literary vocation, or calling, began with being orphaned before he was ten years old and years of unskilled, manual jobs in New York. Persistence paid off and by 1902, Masefield’s poems and novels began to be published, finding a ready readership. This portrait was purchased in 1930, co-inciding with Masefield’s appointment as Poet Laureate, a position he maintained until his death in 1967.

William Strang was born in Dumbarton and studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. Celebrated for his skills as an etcher, he was also an accomplished portraitist. He was a founder member of the Royal Society of Painter Etchers and National Portrait Society in 1880 and 1911 respectively. Strang showed his work internationally, including in Vienna and New York and was elected a member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1921, the year of his death.

William Strang (1859-1921), John Masefield, 1912

William Strang (1859-1921) John Masefield, 1912

Alice Strang, 29 June 2020

About the author

Alice Strang is an award-winning art historian and curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.
Twitter @AliceStrang
Instagram @alice.strang


The Derek Jarman Pocket Park

Derek Jarman sought solace in creating a garden on Dungeness, an inhospitable part of the South coast, and taught himself how to plant and encourage flora and fauna to grow in a challenging landscape. He created the garden at a difficult stage in his life, when he had been diagnosed with AIDS and at a time when there was little hope of managing the illness and prolonging his life. The garden became central to his art, filmmaking, writing and life and continues to be a source of inspiration for artists, writers and gardeners.

Inspired by creativity

We wanted to take inspiration from the creativity inherent in the garden and think about how we could connect it to what we were doing in Manchester for the Protest! exhibition.

We’re working in partnership with artist Juliet Davis-Dufayard and Pride in Ageing, a group of advocates working with the LGBT Foundation to ensure that Greater Manchester becomes one of the best places for LGBT+ people to grow older.

The garden will be a place for reflection and activity as part of the gallery’s programme of activities for community groups, families and schools.

Thanks to funding from Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Pocket Parks, and the Postcode Local Trust, the partners will develop a community focussed, creative project with the five ways to wellbeing at its core: to connect; be active; take notice; learn something new and give. The long term aim is for the garden to be a place for reflection and activity as part of the gallery’s programme of activities for community groups, families and schools.

Once we emerge from the current crisis, it will be wonderful to have such a celebratory, creative project to work on, that will develop, bloom and grow before the eyes of Manchester’s residents and commuters. Over time the garden will support Manchester Art Gallery’s vision that is based on the importance of us learning to use art to achieve real social impact. It will eventually become a new outdoor space for the gallery to develop new programmes of discussion and debate, words and music created by the people of Manchester. It’s a long way from Dungeness and of course much less solitary, but we hope Derek would approve.

Photography: Howard Sooley

Supported by

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When are we reopening?

This week’s Government announcement that museums and galleries can reopen from 4 July is welcome news. We’ve very much missed being open and can’t wait to welcome people back, but it’s important to us that we manage the re-opening in a way that ensures our visitors and staff feel safe. We’re looking at how we can begin a phased re-opening of the gallery at some point over the summer.

We want to get things right and are planning for how we can best do this to ensure gallery goers get the most from their visit when we re-open. We’ll keep you posted on progress and of course, welcome your thoughts and feedback.