Note: This event has been rescheduled for June after being postponed in January due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The rivers that flow through our constantly evolving cities have come to offer one of the few symbols of permeance and connection with the past. The Irk is no exception, having watched Manchester and Salford transform around it over the centuries; the stories of each inextricably bound up in its moody waters.
Commissioned and produced by Manchester Collective, Dark Days, Luminous Nights at The White Hotel is a highly immersive audio-visual experience that meditates on the changing soul of both cities through a journey along their ruined waterway. A creative collaboration, the work features an atmospheric film by Simon Buckley in which movement artist Blackhaine performs a tortured choreography in dialogue with his urban surroundings and three figures wander through an eerie hinterland of dereliction and regeneration, following the river.
The film is set to three haunting music pieces by Edmund Finnis, Béla Bartók, and Wojciech Kilar, and will be presented alongside a dramatic series of photographs by Buckley. Dark Days is fundamentally conceived to offer a new kind of live encounter in the midst of the Covid pandemic; no more than eight people will experience it at any time, enhancing the deeply intimate quality of the work.
The Irk begins in Royton and runs through the northern parts of Greater Manchester, before eventually dipping below Victoria Station and resurfacing to join the River Irwell. It supplied the city with clean water until becoming severely polluted by the mills and factories of the Industrial Revolution. It then observed the decline of the Angel Meadow district into one of Victorian Britain’s worst slums, followed by its modern transformation into an area of luxury high rise apartments. These towering buildings occupy the ground of a mass graveyard, in which the bodies of those who died of the poor 19th living conditions of the area are buried. The river opens its mouth beneath the Ducie Bridge railway viaduct, near Manchester’s medieval centre; an area that has also seen intense redevelopment in recent years.
Positioned not far from the river’s banks, The White Hotel seems to provide the perfect setting for Dark Days. The venue’s abject surroundings and liminal quality echo the work itself, while the dawn skies that many have left the building under connect with Buckley’s use of light as a metaphor for transition. One of the most exciting projects to emerge from the challenging conditions of the last year, we look forward to witnessing this evocative response to changing cities, subtly inflected with the disquiet of our time.