Manchester Art Gallery

Lost Gardens Found: Age Friendly Thursday Late

Reflective pondering about The Lost Gardens Found event, by Maurice Walsh

For the Thursday Late event on 11 June, Manchester Art Gallery’s’ Age friendly group set out to welcome friends known and unknown and share with them some creative responses to the Lost Gardens of Manchester and House Proud Exhibitions.

Good Galleries have wide-open arms, and Manchester Art Gallery, being a very good Gallery, isn’t afraid to allow us older punters to be involved with occasions like Lost Gardens Found.

Everyone thought the evening a great success, and left saying so. Result!  There was, appropriately for our theme, a buzz in the air, although some of it came from us busily working out what we should be doing next and where we should be doing it. (This despite Addie and William’s clever timeline on the back of the order of service). We’d been talked through it, but it was all a bit bewildering for a first-timer. Fortunately, the stewardship of the night rested with Ruth, who as usual was well in control. Under her keen amending eye we greeted visitors young and old, helped them make butterflies, drawings, writings, talked to them about art, shared our passions, sang to them, ate delicious honey cakes (Bravo John Mouncey and bravi the bakers!), listened with them to imported experts, and joined them in discussion groups. Pleasing numbers of Mancunians and others enjoyed all that was on offer, Gallery staff were very positive and we went home tired but happy to have been part of the Age Friendly group.

To develop the content of the evening, we in the Age Friendly group took part in six preparation sessions that were informative and rewarding. We had tours with Kate Jesson, Curator of House Proud and with Sean Harkin, National Trust gardener in residence and Curator of The Lost Gardens of Manchester.  John Mouncey transfixed us with his roof garden beehive project, and Hilary Jack explained her work to us before the installation of her intriguing Inside Outhouse. We had the opportunity to make our own art, learn how to fashion butterflies and rehearse some related songs. I think we worked together well as a group, and would have liked more time to develop the project further.

So, I mused to myself on the bus going home, after Lost Gardens Found, had the evening been ours or the Gallery’s? The question of ownership had always been somewhat opaque, and I felt the six afternoon preparation sessions weren’t really long enough for us to develop a sureness of touch about our involvement.

Maybe the Gallery could ask more of us, trust us more, extend the course to whole-day sessions, talk with us, give us a sense that what we are trying to do is important to them. (There could be a sub-group of those of us prepared and able to do whole days, which might share progress in an afternoon plenary session with those who have less time).  If the Gallery really does want to ‘enable a group of older creative people to have a strong presence’, it would be good for that group to be involved from the very get-go.

An away-day with appropriate gallery staff and the Age Friendly group was suggested in the evaluation session and is planned for Autumn 2015, which should deepen our mutual understandings. If we put up a good case, we might get more to do more exciting things. That’s it – I want it to be more exciting, a bit more demanding artistically.

Thank you, Ruth. Thank you, Addie.  And thank you Manchester Art Gallery for giving us the chance to be a small part of a great team. Looking forward to the away-day!


Ruth Edson, Learning Manager: Communities

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