Exploring the cultural heart of Bury: The Spirit of a Place Exhibition

Our reporter Gill from Bury has been to take a look at the new Spirit of a Place exhibition at Bury Art Museum, an exclusive set of work designed to engage with the community and new audiences.

The project has challenged local artists to interpret various buildings and surroundings around Bury, highlighting the rich visuals and history in the area which they say can be often overlooked.

What did Gill make of the experience?

You have to go down the ramp and enter the Bury Art Museum via the basement today. This is part of a Covid -secure one-way system. It’s fortuitous anyway because this brings you straight into the Spirit of a Place exhibition. Lee Crocker, Bury Art Museum staff member, is manning the desk.

Lee hosted Sketchbook Social which took place monthly at the Bloom Café. This metamorphosed into Sketchbook STILL Social as the pandemic took hold. A spin-off of this is The Spirit of Place exhibition.

Bury Library and Art Gallery, Silver Street. © David Dixon (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Why is it centred just on Silver Street and part of Manchester Road I wondered? Well, as Lee explains, Silver Street is rich in different styles of architecture and history. Silver Street is a good name for it. It has a wealth of detail to be explored and the banks used to be there. Manchester Road nods to our neighbouring city.

Artists were invited to make a creative response to what they saw and many of the outcomes are shown here.

There are also exhibits of items pertaining to the location: photographs and records from the churches, documents from the banks, prescription books, bottles and pillboxes from Boots the chemist, paperwork and items from the pubs and hotels, and objects from a grocer’s store and from a music shop.

A large display case shows different types of architecture. This tempts you to go and look for examples yourself. Photographs taken decades apart are enlightening. The traffic is different, the purposes of some of the buildings have changed but the building themselves, apart from a few cosmetic details, are very recognisable.

Adverts are displayed here too and as ever they give a vivid picture of how people lived in other times. There are also two films to watch and a rather macabre account to listen to: what happened when they had to clear out the graveyard. Worth a listen but not if you’re squeamish.

The creative response is varied and far-reaching. There are several sketchbooks you can scrutinize. One of my particular favourites is a doorway painted on a piece of sheet music. I admire also a painting by G Nicholas that speaks to me of the area opposite Bury Library. I’d be interested to know if that’s what you see and what the picture tells you.

Credit: Chris Waites

There are also some fabulous wigs and hats sculpted from paper. I guess, though, the next time I visit the exhibition I’ll find other things remarkable. So, if you wander along Manchester Road and Silver Street what is your response?

Some might be enthralled by the lines and shapes in the buildings, others will marvel at the examples of different architecture and some will find stories to do with the people who go about their business on the street.

It’s clear that there is much to be explored right here on our doorstep. The exhibition invites you in to look at what others have noticed and discovered, but then also makes you look again at what’s outside and in this case literally just outside. Museums and galleries are much more than the space they occupy. They provide information and inspiration to their visitors about how they can look further afield.

There is a lot to see here. I need to gather my thoughts and I’m pleased that Tina’s Tea Room is open again so that I can do this over a fine cup of coffee and a delicious biscuit. Before I go home, I’m compelled to turn into Manchester Road and then take a walk along Silver Street.

It is quiet today and there is little traffic. A man sits on the bench in the Gallipoli Gardens. He is enjoying the sunshine. There are boards up on many of the buildings. There are spaces for hire. The Earl of Derby has European flags showing on its upper windows. At the end of the road, there is a lively shop window. This is indeed an interesting area.

The exhibition is well worth a visit and crammed full of interesting material. Don’t forget to pick up the Spirit of Place Sketch Zine. This is especially useful if you too are tempted to explore the area after your visit.


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