Liverpool. Calderstones Park.

Like every other photographer I am always on the lookout for images, seeing if I can find  one with the elusive spark that tingles down the spine. For me it doesn’t have to be a dramatic scene, just one where the elements fall into place. Where there’s a sense of place. It’s a constant search as I look for material for the photobooks I produce.

This shot is from a journey I made into Liverpool, to Calderstones Park to the south of the city. The park was once a grand estate and house with the various elements which went with a house of that period. The open parkland surrounding the smaller, more intimate gardens nearer the house. I visited early in spring this year, it was still cold and new growth had yet to make it’s presence felt. Wandering around the Old English Garden I found this row of gardener’s outbuildings tucked away behind a high hedge. There was something in the quiet, unassuming, workaday scene that caught my eye, so the shot was made. With the starkness of the trees so early in the year I decided that a black and white image would be the way forward, to emphasise the coolness of the day and bring out the regimented lines of the brickwork.

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Chorley. Astley Hall All Lit Up.

Astley Hall is a historic manor house on the outskirts of the Lancashire market town of Chorley. It’s favourite place of mine, I like to visit it with my camera as the seasons roll and change through the year.

It has a changing sequence of events taking place through the year which always add to the pleasure of any visit. A more recent attraction is Astley Hall Illuminated, a light show that takes place in the grounds on one night in November and I was able to make it to this years performance. As well as the lights there were other attractions, living Christmas Trees walking around, children being terrified and intrigued in equal measure and a Brass Band from the Lancashire village of Tarleton played Carols throughout the evening.

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SPARK Line up outside the Hall

The highlight for me though was a drumming troupe by the name of SPARK. Their appearance was completely other worldly. They wore illuminated costumes, the colours changing as the beats of their drums changed. Throughout the evening they marched in formation around the Hall and it’s grounds like ghostly Pied Pipers with the crowds following in their wake. It was a truly magical experience.

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SPARK attracts the crowds.

I’ve already made a note to check out the date for next year, a tip if you go wrap up warm, it’s Lancashire and it’s November. I warmed up afterwards with a hot chocolate from the Hall’s Cafe Ambio, a lovely end to a great evening.

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Drums and lights in a circle from SPARK. 

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Liverpool. A Very Particular Gallery.

A few days ago I finally made my way to a place I’ve been meaning to visit for some time, the Victoria Gallery & Museum, part of Liverpool University. I had kept coming across references to it and had made various plans to visit but something had always come up and got in the way until the Saturday when I finally got through the door.

The Gallery is located on Ashton Street, off Brownlow Hill. It stands opposite the modernistic Metropolitan Cathedral, the warm, red brick of the gallery building is a stark contrast to the brash concrete and angular shape of the cathedral.

LIVERPOOL. Metropolitan Cathedral.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral

This isn’t the largest museum or gallery I’ve ever visited but it more than makes up for it with character and quirkiness. The interior of the building is largely unchanged from its opening, when the top floor, now the Tate Hall, served as the University’s library. It is a marvellous time capsule of Victorian design and style of that period. The magnificent entrance hall, now a excellent cafe, is dominated by a wonderfully tiled fireplace from which elegant stair cases lead off up to the higher floors.

LIVERPOOL. Victoria Gallery & Museum

The Entrance Hall Cafe.

LIVERPOOL. Victoria Gallery & Museum

Stairway to The Upper Floors

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Owl Skeleton On The Stairs.

Some of the displays are contained within individual rooms, which I found helped, I was able to focus more on specific items rather than be overwhelmed by larger displays.

The top floor of, the original museum library, now the Tate Hall named after Sir Henry Tate one of the University library’s benefactors, is a large and airy space with a beautiful beamed ceiling. This part of the gallery contains a wonderfully quirky mix of displays, one end has exhibits charting the part Liverpool University played in nuclear research, for medical uses originally and then how that changed with the onset of WW2 and then with the coming of peace developments with lead to the building of the Large Hadron Collider. At the other end of the room however there is a display of dentistry through the ages with a reconstruction of a typical Victorian era Dentist’s surgery and a collection of dentures form around the world.

LIVERPOOL. Victoria Gallery & Museum Tate Hall.

The Tate Hall.

One final aspect which made my visit so enjoyable was the staff, they are amongst the most friendly, approachable and well informed that I have met, only to happy to discuss the museum, its history and displays. Treat yourself to a couple of hours away from the rush of the city centre, next time you are near or in Liverpool, pay the Victoria a visit.

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Manchester. Art On The Street.

A few weeks ago a friend invited me along to his graduation ceremony for his Masters degree which was being held in Manchester. I think it now makes him some sort of Jedi.

The event was being held in the starkly elegant Bridgewater Hall across from the Victorian splendour of the Midland hotel, the hotel was acting as the dressing room for the students cap and gownery. So needless to say there was a certain amount of hustle and bustle between the two but in amongst all the celebrations and mortar board throwing etc. there was a small oasis of calm.

Carefully, diligently a gentleman was sketching away at recreating the Manchester skyline in a panorama of watercolours and pen strokes. From time to time small knots of the celebrating crowds would break off to admire his craftsmanship but never once did he break his concentration or step out of his zone.

I wonder what the finished image looks like and where it’s now hanging?

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