Quays to the city: Quays Open Day

Phoebe Hurst
SolCinema events at the quays open day

Quays Culture brings solar powered cinema, guided tours and design markets to Manchester’s waterfront.

You can’t make something from nothing, least of all a thriving arts scene. Behind every creative hub lies investment, collaboration, research and, perhaps most importantly, time – which may explain why the Quays hasn’t quite emerged from its cultural cocoon just yet. Despite being home to The Lowry and IWM North (arguably Manchester/Trafford’s best building), the regeneration spurred by the arrival of the BBC in 2011 is still in its infancy.

While “Manchester’s waterfront” has a long way to go before it matches the vibrancy of the two cities who each claim it as their own, the Quays is no a caterpillar. The Catalyst exhibition currently showing at IWM North is heralded as a ground-breaking exploration of conflict via contemporary art, and last week Grammy-nominated musician Alison Goldfrapp launched The Lowry’s Performer as Creator project, the first in a series of illuminating exhibitions put together by icons of performance. A clutch of independent restaurants including Damson’s Media City outpost are also making admirable headway against the tide of Wagamamas and Prezzos.

The waterfront’s burgeoning arts scene is also being nudged along by Quays Culture, a programme of new art commissions, discussions and events staged in venues and outdoor spaces across the Quays. Following the success of floating theatre performance, Water Fools in July, Quays Culture has gone all out to stage the first Quays Open Day this coming weekend. “The Quays comprises cultural icons like The Lowry but also as organisations at the cutting edge of digital invention, such as BBC and the University of Salford,” says Programme Manager Lucy Dusgate. “The open day gives people the chance to truly get under the skin of the site.”

The waterfront’s burgeoning arts scene is being nicely nudged along by Quays Culture

Sol Cinema leads the day’s cultural schedule as it parks up at the waterfront to screen a selection of short films, comedies and music videos. Staking its claim as the “world’s smallest solar powered movie theatre,” this eco mobile cinema provides an intimate screening experience for audiences of just eight. Meanwhile, Manchester-based artist Nicola Ellis, whose work featured in a recent show at Castlefield Gallery, brings “Osseus” to the Quays Open Centre. Ellis gives a talk on her newly commissioned sculpture during an afternoon discussion that happily coincides with a design and art market.

Championing emerging artists is central to the Quays Culture programme, which includes the National Football Museum’s John O’Shea as its artist-in-residence. “John has invited artists to rediscover the format of the weather forecast as a way of exploring global systems,” says Dusgate. The resulting work, called The Other Forecast, is staged at the University of Salford’s Digital Performance Lab at Media City and features presentations from each of the chosen artists as well as visuals from Islington Mill’s Soup Collective, who in turn are perhaps best known for their promo videos for the likes of Elbow and The Verve.

Over at IWM North, the museum’s own director, Graham Boxer talks about the impact of war on civilians, with visitors lead around the museum’s main exhibition space to discover the history behind the items on display, such as the twisted steelwork recovered from the ruins of the Twin Towers. Opposite, The Lowry lays on a guided tour of its Alison Goldfrapp show, while Hue and Cry co-founder Pat Kane gives a talk at the Egg (an oddly-named building that’s part of the university’s Media City campus). Soundtracked by the whirs of Audible Forces, a kinetic art installation we last saw in the Lakes, all in all this is an open day that demonstrates the cultural potential of this waterfront space. So however tightly cocooned the Quays may appear to be, we know there’s a butterfly in there somewhere.

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