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.

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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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Lytham. The Morning Paper.

Lytham is one half of a  a charming pair of  Fylde resort towns, the other is St. Annes,  on the Lancashire coast a little to the south of Blackpool . It’s about an hour’s drive away from where I live so it’s an easy destination to make for with my camera. It’s a bustling place with plenty of life and a busy centre, which means there are many opportunities for the candid image. Sunday is a favourite day, when people ease back a little and take time over the small pleasures, like reading your newspaper in the sun.

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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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Gateshead And An Angel

Standing with a mute indifference over the bustle and clutter of a housing estate and the busy A1 road to Scotland is Anthony Gormley’s ‘Angel of The North’. The sculpture was erected in 1998 and it’s rusted orange presence has now become part of the psyche of the North East. The varied palette of orange and browns that make up the surface of the Angel are a feature of the Cor-Ten steel which is used in it’s construction. This steel has naturally weathering properties which protect it and remove the need for any additional painting.

On the day I took this image I had been visiting Newcastle upon Tyne, just across the River Tyne from Gateshead and the Angel. It was late-ish summer and the evening was beginning to settle in as the sun bid goodbye to the day. I decided to silhouette the Angel against the cloud fluffed sky and while I liked the resulting image, I felt a B&W version would work too.

A detail I only noticed when editing the shot, I had always assumed that the wings of the Angel where flat but in fact they fold inward by a very few degrees in a shallow embrace.

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Astley Hall & Figures In A Walled Garden

A favourite place of mine for taking my camera for a walk is Astley Hall on the outskirts of the Lancashire market town of Chorley. The Hall has it’s origins in the 15th century, with succeeding families of owners each putting their own stamp on the building. To the rear of the hall is the walled garden, the kitchen garden, providing produce to feed the household. The garden has been under a program of restoration and replanting with the emphasis shifting to the decorative as opposed to the edible.

It’s a spot that holds year round attractions as the season ebb and flo, the bare sticks of trees and frozen hummocks of soil slowly warm and ease themselves into a new cycle of life for the year. Shoots forcing themselves through onto the stage of a new growing year and fresh leaves begin to garland the trees as the days lengthen.

The walled garden is also a stage for an ever shifting range of features and exhibits. Two that have caught my eye are these wicker figures, not quite a Wicker Man, they don’t quite have those sinister overtones, they are more peaceful and reflective.

13/09/15 CHORLEY. Astley Hall Walled Garden. Wicker Figure.

LANCASHIRE. Chorley. Figure woven out of willow in the walled garden.

My original shots were colour but something in the poise of the figures made me try out B&W versions of the images which I felt conveyed more the timelessness of a peaceful walled garden.

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Cheese on Toast In A Blackpool Cafe

If only walls could talk as the old saying goes. I had decided to take a trip out to Blackpool, it was still a little early in the year and so the days were a bit on the short side. To make the most of the available time I decided I would drive but that I would park my car at Fleetwood and use Blackpool’s world famous trams to get about. There is a day ticket which covers both the tram service and the bus network. So after I had parked the car and grabbed a quick-ish coffee I walked over to the tram terminus and boarded and was on my way.

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One of Blackpool’s new trams.

Blackpool’s trams operate from Fleetwood in the north, down the promenade through Blackpool itself to the southern terminus at Squires Gate. Travelling south the Irish Sea is on your right and depending on the day’s weather and tide is either forbiddingly gloomy or as on the day of my trip, a sparkling ribbon on a distant horizon.

A ride on a Blackpool tram is always an interesting affair as you cross paths with other people’s lives. Catch happy or otherwise expressions or dip unintentionally into conversations that are not as private as the participants would like to think. For this journey I travelled down as far as the South Pier, one of three that Blackpool proudly possesses, I crossed over from the promenade and made my way up Waterloo Road This was a busy part of town which faded a little, though now it’s on the way back up after some refurbishment. Blackpool South railway station is at the top of the street, though it is now very much a pale, single platform shadow of it’s former self but the station still has an hourly service through Preston to East Lancashire so it still can be a busy place.

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Blackpool South railway Station.

By this time my internal clock was telling me that food would be a good idea. One of the many delights of Blackpool is the almost endless supply of cafes and tearooms. I chose one, went in, checked the menu and ordered cheese on toast, a personal favourite and a mug of coffee. I had picked a corner booth from where I could watch the coming and goings. I have a great affection for places like this cafe, one that has it’s regulars, customers who don’t need to order at the counter, their meal is almost ready the minute they step through the door.

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Lunch for two on Waterloo Road Blackpool.

Two sets of people caught my eye almost immediately. The Lady in the header photo and the couple. The Lady on her own was sat at her table and radiated a sort of inner peace and calm. Her expression throughout was one of reflection and meditation. As though she was happily engaged in turning over in her mind past personal events and happenings. The couple were sat at a table near to the Lady. Their conversation was polite and considered, as though they had reached the stage of a comfortable form of conversational shorthand, where whole sentences could be conveyed in a couple of words and a glance.

It began to feel as if I was a theatre play or a film. I ordered another coffee and a cake so I could spend a little more time watching these quiet events unfold, like the petals of a flower in the sun. But eventually it was time for me to go so as discretely as possible I clicked the shutter. on my little ‘go-everywhere’ camera and made my exit.

I will go back, the coffee and the cheese on toast were both excellent but I really want to see if I can catch any more of the quiet drama of everyday Blackpool folk playing out

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