Thursday, 11 October 2012

City Break, Part 1.

Last Friday I took myself on a day trip to Manchester, somewhere I do not visit anywhere near enough, considering it's only 40 minutes away on the train. I'd spotted the adverts for the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair a few weeks back, and then a newsletter for the First Cut exhibition at Manchester City Gallery landed in my inbox. Add to that a long overdue visit to Platt Hall Gallery of Costume and I had a cracking day planned.
A minor 'gas meter battery failing' incident (no hot water and a head full of shampoo lather, rinsing my hair with kettle water in the kitchen sink, four wrong gas emergency hotline numbers and far too much hold music) threatened to scupper my plans, but I made it to Manchester reasonably early. Too early in fact, as Platt Hall doesn't open until 1pm and I hadn't checked the opening times. There isn't a huge amount to see in Platt Fields Park, except the ducks.
 I saw a signpost for the 'Teenage Village' but daren't investigate further, and I found myself unexpectedly detained by a friendly, if slightly odd, man who insisted that you couldn't work in fashion without learning sugarcraft and that I was in town with the Labour conference and friends with Nick Robinson. I politely declined a request to be his penpal.

Platt Hall itself is a beautifully restored Georgian mansion, a testament to the success of Manchester's textiles industry in the 18th century.
I Want It Now.
 The costume collection at the hall is fairly wide ranging, from the 17th century to the present day, and covering men's, women's and children's wear, with an impressive array footwear, hats and bags. My personal highlights were the dresses by Biba and Ossie Clarke from the 60s and 70s, and as always the 19th century held my attention for sometime.

In addition to the permanent collection there was a temporary exhibit of West African textiles, which included this beautiful loom.

Clickety clack, clickety clack.
One day I WILL learn to weave.
 The First Cut, an exhibition of works in paper by contemporary artists is housed primarily at the City Gallery, but there were a few costume related pieces at Platt Hall, including this dress by Violise Lunn. Suspended in one of the upstairs galleries, it is a beautifully delicate piece that seems very much at home in it's opulent surroundings.
 Hopping on a bus full of students back in to the centre (including a brush with that ubiquitous C list celeb, the ex-Hollyoaks actor) I made a beeline for the City Gallery. I hadn't actually looked too hard at where it was so my beeline was none too straight.
I was running out of time by this point as I had planned on attending a talk by Louise Gardiner at the GNCCF, so I dashed past the Pre-Raphaelites and went straight for the paper. Most well known in the exhibit would be Rob Ryan and his silhouette papercutting, represented in some large works and originals of his popular greetings cards. My own favourite was the work of  Claire Brewster, who uses old maps to create intricately cut birds, by themselves or in a huge flock taking flight across the gallery wall, the maps of northern towns give these garden birds a tropical hue.

The First Cut exhibition is on until the 27th of January, and is completely free, so if you're in the North West I strongly reccomend it. I'm certainly going to go back and take it in a bit more slowly, along with the rest of the City Gallery's permanent collection.
I'll be covering my visit to GNCCF in my next post, expect sherry and drum n bass. You have been warned.

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