13th June 2017, 11:45am


Although the Lit & Phil 2016/17 Season is approaching the end, we will still be informing members of our recommendations for events and exhibitions to visit across the city this summer before our lectures recommence in September. Here the Lit & Phil staff, Julie and Kathryn, write about their recommendation for the Shirley Baker photography exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery.

For the past few years, museums and cultural institutions across Manchester have collaborated to create a mélange of arts and culture at unique events across the city for one evening only, called ‘Manchester After Hours’. The events feature different venues and organisations working together to mix their respective art forms, from music to painting, photography to poetry, and fashion to history. Examples include last year’s ride on the steam train at MOSI which was accompanied by local Manchester music artists performing at different stops on the ‘journey’ while the conductor regaled the passengers with anecdotes from Manchester’s industrial past. This year included collaborations between literature organisers Bad Language and the Elizabeth Gaskell House to present an event of story-telling and performance; MOSI teamed up with the audio-visual artists from Islington Mill’s Engine House collective to creative installations projected onto the Avro Shackleton aircraft in the museum’s Air and Space Hall; and John Ryland’s library hosted two female audio artists whose work echoes and pays tribute to the pioneer of electronic music–Delia Derbyshire.

'Shirley Baker: Women and Children; and Loitering Men'


This year the Lit & Phil staff, Julie and Kathryn, attended a ‘first look’ event at the Manchester Art Gallery which was showcasing the work of photographer Shirley Baker (1932–2014). Baker was born in Wilmslow and despite not being well known her most prominent work is her post-war street photography depicting working class communities in Greater Manchester. This exhibition includes previously unseen colour photographs by Baker alongside black and white images and specifically focuses on her depictions of the urban clearance programmes of inner city Manchester and Salford in the 20 years between 1961 and 1981.

The opening night of the exhibition as part of Manchester After Hours was very popular with arts enthusiasts, locals and tourists alike. Aside from the usual considered discussions by small groups of visitors on the technique, style and composition of the pieces, there were equally many visitors joyfully reminiscing from the scenes depicted in the photos – war-torn buildings, outside lavatories, children’s dirt-smudged faces, questionable fashion choices and popular playthings. There was a sense that this exhibition was not just about viewing artwork but also partaking in the collective experience of many visitor’s own childhoods and memories.

The exhibition is also accompanied by additional events such as a free showing of the film ‘Love on the Dole’ set in 1940s Salford and based on the novel by Walter Greenwood. The film is showing on Thursday 15 June, 6.30 pm–8.30 pm; tickets are free but booking is essential.

‘Shirley Baker: Women and Children; and Loitering Men’ is free to visit and is on show at Manchester Art Gallery until Monday 28 August. Whether you lived through the era or not, Baker’s photography will certainly bring to life around you the people and places of post-war Manchester and Salford at this exhibition.

Photograph copyright

All photographs are © Shirley Baker