The new 2017/18 season is fast approaching, but before we reveal the new Programme we are taking a look back on the past year's events to see what gave us food for thought in 2016 and 2017.
2016/17 Arts Lectures
For the first lecture, Architecture is Political, in October, Professor Albena Yaneva explored the intriguing links between architecture and politics. Professor Yaneva explained that her research crossed many boundaries including science studies and political philosophy. Her talk showed how politics has an influence on so many parts of our lives – from mundane objects such as the safety belt in our cars to the arrangement of a classroom; the height of a bridge or iconic skyscrapers, and she illustrated her talk with case studies including the new Birmingham New Street Train Station and the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.
Early Maps of ‘Real’ Lancashire, and Their Makers was the fascinating lecture in November given by Dr Ian Saunders, who has collected and researched antique maps since 1984, and recently helped to discover an unknown 1604 map in a Manchester Library. He traced the story of English county mapmaking and of the people involved, over many centuries, starting with Christopher Saxton in the 1570s; then looking at 18th century improvements as modern methods of mapmaking were being established and taking the audience through a myriad cartographic changes to what he called a perfection “of sorts” in the Victorian era, when the Ordnance Survey began to map the area in the 1840s.
When Edouard Manet’s painting Olympia was first exhibited in 1865 at the Paris Salon, he found himself once again at the centre of controversy. His choice of a prostitute for his subject outraged public and critics alike. But in his lecture 1865: European Painting in Transition to Modernism, in November, art historian Dr Colin Bailey highlighted the significance of Olympia as a pivotal work in the history of art, and how Manet was a key player in the decade that gave the world Impressionism, for he exerted great influence in Paris on other young painters such as Monet, Renoir, Cezanne and Pissarro. These developments in France had an influence on British painters and the evolving Pre-Raphaelite school. Dr Bailey’s illustrations included Ford Madox Brown’s oil painting Work, which was later to feature in his murals in Manchester Town Hall.
The Lecture with Recital given by Simon Rees and Luke Starkey in February, provided a feast of fascinating information, delightful music and beautiful paintings, and was greatly enjoyed by the audience. Simon Rees, writer, lecturer on music and art, traced the history of the lute from the roving horsemen of the Asian Steppes who created portable instruments with materials to hand, and its further development along the Silk Road and into Europe. The beautiful sound and shape of lutes inspired Western composers and artists through the 14th to 18th centuries. Paintings were shown, such as Caravaggio's portrait of a lutenist, many of which enabled modern lute-makers to re-create authentic period instruments. Professional lutenist Luke Starkey explained the complex history of stringing and the unique written form of compositions, understandable even today only by lute players. He then played examples of compositions from each period of the paintings.
The “Recording Britain” lecture in March by Gill Saunders , from the Victoria and Albert Museum, was an account of the country in the early years of the Second World War as portrayed by artists of the time. Partly a morale-booster, this unique documentary project aimed to capture Britain at a time when lives, landscapes and precious buildings were under threat as change stalked the land. Many of the works sought to freeze the country in time – with nostalgic images where some artists chose to exclude the modern world’s equipment such as electricity pylons and telegraph poles and wires, preferring instead to show a more traditional picture of bucolic country charm – though some presented a somewhat gloomy picture of Manchester, and other towns such as Rochdale and Oldham.