Thursday, 21 April 2016

‘A British Islander’ sculpture and art from B.E. Cole at The Whitaker

Can sculpture show a new side to nature?  Babara Cole's impressive physical art suggests so:  connecting with the landscape and uncovering the incredible wild processes at work within. Her drawings and sculptures in particular capture the various structures of an evolving natural world: with an exciting exhibition opening at Lancashire museum The Whitaker on Friday 29th April at 7pm. If you think that sculpture is just ‘decorative’, you’ll be made to think again by the diversity on display!

Cole’s work captures the landscape: embracing the rough with the smooth, how it has been shaped over time – from fossil to forest, cave to castle. She uses a range of mixed media, including modern materials, to sculpt processes which the eye cannot typically see. Art gets behind the face of nature! Things like the formation of fossils, the work of micro-organisms, are uncovered: often in alluring patterns and strange textures. It certainly is unique.

'Questioning Our Identity'

Cole’s own exploration of natural environments – including over twenty years working on the Pennine Ridge – enriches her artistry. ‘The British Islander’ is an especially interesting title to this exhibit, especially as the dust of the Scottish Referendum is far from settled and discussions over the EU may lead us to question our own national identity. Her beautifully carved and moulded structures then seem to offer a kind of answer; look to the landscape!

The Whitaker museum and art gallery in Rawtenstall, Lancashire seems like an ideal place to enjoy this exhibition. The bold Victorian building allows light to billow in through big windows, making Cole’s designs shimmer and stand out. To see her work certainly is a powerful experience, as she is an Associate of the Royal British Society of Sculptors, with a number of works already acclaimed. It takes great skill to uncover the organic structures and secret processes in nature, and turn these into physical art forms which make us think, after all.

'A Comprehensive and Unique View in East Lancashire'

The Whitaker
Lancashire also seems like a fitting area to host this unique sculpture experience – as is a county recognised for its physical artworks, especially the ‘Panopticons’. You may not have heard of this title specifically, but it is collective term used to describe an artistic regeneration project here, featuring sculptures such as The Singing Ringing Tree and the Haslingden Halo. These Panopticons are structures designed to provide a comprehensive and unique view in East Lancashire – and the other two are The Atom and Colourfields, in Blackburn. It seems that Lancashire then is a place for iconic sculptures, and thus that Cole’s work is coming here is even more significant.

Originally from South Wales, Cole now exhibits not just on a national level, but internationally too - emphasizing the power of her creations. Examples of previous work include De Rerum Natura (on The Nature of Things) which is a biomorphic wax sculpture on a bed of dyed sand, mimicking the crushed creatures in sediment, the fossils in a rock face. Cole’s work is creative, uses cutting-edge techniques and is open to interpretation; so why not treat yourself to something unique and get down to the opening at The Whitaker?

 The Friday evening session gives guests a chance to get close to the art and enjoy the experience, as well as considering what it is to be a ‘British Islander’. With beautiful interiors and a fully-fitted bar, The Whitaker emphasizes the importance of art and public interaction with it: don’t miss out.

For more information you can visit The Whitaker website:

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Wordy Rappinghood in Lancashire? Spoken Word Wednesday at The Whitaker

The Whitaker in Rawtenstall Lancashire is not only a museum and gallery, but is bursting forward as a creative space and creator of contemporary culture. This is crucial – it doesn’t just preserve the past, but is working to fuel the arts of the future. Taking place the second Wednesday of every month is their Spoken Word evening, nicknamed ‘Wordy Rappinghood’. The next is on Wednesday 13th April at 7.30 pm and opens up the opportunity for any wordsmith, performance artist or interested individual to showcase their talent in a fabulous atmosphere.

Where else do you get this chance? Perform in a museum!

Whether you are keen poet, public speaker, storyteller or just want to go along to listen, The Whitaker welcomes your contribution. With an attentive audience and beautiful surroundings, you can be sure of a positive experience too. It’s the type of event which brings cutting edge talent to the surface, and I’d thoroughly recommend going along.
After all, who would turn down the chance to perform to an eager audience inside a museum which is over 160 years old? Surrounded by lovingly-restored Victorian interiors and natural history, and complete with a bar and restaurant on-site… it’s enough to inspire anyone! Beginners are warmly welcomed whilst practiced professionals can expect a well-organised and exciting event.

It captures the magic  

The tagline ‘Wordy Wrappinghood’ from the song by the Tom Tom Club actually made me think of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’! After all, The Whitaker was a big feature in the tales of my childhood – and to my five-year old self it certainly had a fairy-tale like feel.  An array of creatures, massive pictures and towering ceilings; it’s the stuff of magic! Crucially, The Whitaker has captured this atmosphere and sense of intrigue and used it to push a number of unique cultural events this 2016. Not only are there spoken word nights, but film screenings, acoustic evenings and beautiful themed meals in their greatly-recommended restaurant. It’s a form of artistic flair, made accessible!
A night at the museum becomes a reality in this place and it has certainly inspired me. Here a few of my own words on The Whitaker:


Words for The Whitaker

Are you ready to come down to The Whitaker?
It’s Lancashire’s cultural calling
Complete with parkland, and a welcome that’s grand
From a museum which is ever-enthralling!
Whether you want to see an array of animals
Or stride through their social history
There is much to be said, for the shrunken head
And artefacts filled with wonder and mystery!
There’s plenty going on in the evenings
With a bar and restaurant packing a punch
And get yourself to their spoken word nights
On the second Wednesday of every month!

For more information you can visit The Whitaker website: 

Friday, 8 April 2016

A Nursery Rhyme to Manchester

Hey diddle diddle
Manchester is in the middle
Of wherever I want to be.
It’s raining, it’s pouring
So let’s get drinks going
In Federal, Ziferblat, Rosylee.

Pat a Cake at Home Sweet Home
Or wind the bobbin back to the start
Go to John Ryland’s, an experience priceless
And enjoy Cathedral gardens, Whitworth Park.

From MOSI to Manchester Art Gallery
Whether wheels on the bus or tram
You can travel faster, than you can master
Singing ‘Mary had a little lamb’!

Baa baa black milk seems fitting now
The Afflecks café, cereal-strewn
Part of this place, where the scenery’s ace
And dishes run away with the spoons!

Why? – because after food comes drink
With bars like Odd, Walrus and Dive
If any Jack and Jill, are in need of a thrill
Manchester is the place to be alive.

It’s inspired a showcase of music
Even a Mary Quite Contrary will smile
At the likes of Clint Boon- with his 80s tunes
And Manc records – there is a whole pile!

So sing a song of sixpence
My nursery is this place
Complete with a rhyme, celebrating the times

It’s brought a smile to my face. 

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

A Lancashire museum of wonder complete with a bar and eatery? Welcome to The Whitaker

The Whitaker (once known as Rossendale Museum and Art Gallery) is based in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, set in beautiful parkland. It combines beautiful art, local discoveries and some of the quirkiest Victorian natural history.  Behind the bold Georgian façade, you can not only feast your eyes on a whole collection of preserved wildlife and antiquities, but enjoy restaurant-quality food and artistically engaged surroundings. It is an inspiring approach to modern museum management you need to check out - engaging people’s appetites and emotions.

There are a number of natural history features
I have been a visitor to the museum since being a child – and the dedication so many people have for this place highlights how relevant the Whitaker still is. It is a museum which crucially makes and sustains relationships with people – a powerful quality. From penny-farthings to preserved animals, archaeological discoveries and art through the ages; it uses artefacts to change the way we look at the Lancashire locality (as well as further afield). Especially striking is its archaeology collection, with specimens steeped in stories – there are flints and tools telling of much earlier ancestors, and even a shrunken head (!); within centimetres of your own

Active and changing displays mean that there is something for everyone including a contemporary art gallery, changing exhibitions and main galleries recently refurbished by The Whitaker Group.

'Landskipping' is an exhibition running until 24th April 

Old-fashioned charm meets a contemporary twist: A real night at the museum?

And if that’s not enough to intrigue you… what it helps to remember, is that this is a place where old-fashioned charm meets a contemporary twist!  It’s hosted a Bowie tribute event, acoustic evenings and is certainly is providing a bold presence for 2016; with a  luxurious bar on-site, dining specials and the chance to really engage with local talent – in the form of open mic nights and talks. Too often ‘local museums’ are stereotyped as stuffy and ‘shutting out’ many people, but here people are welcomed to contribute, not just consume. This is crucial.

Preserving the past, whilst providing a platform for the present; The Whitaker highlights what a modern museum should be all about.
The Open Mic Nights are especially exciting, taking place on Wednesday evenings until 11pm; with a number of musicians and poets already getting involved.

The bar, complete with fresh bakes!

History, food and unfolding the arts – all possible in one place

The Whitaker provides a charming place where you can uncover the past just as easily as you can engage with the present. Treat your tastebuds to their eatery selection, which features a modern menu – and Lancashire favourites served with modern flair. Taking local history and tradition into account, the Whitaker even makes their food an educated and immersive experience like no other.  Even just a ‘ham, cheese and pickle’ sandwich is transformed here; instead a tartine  featuring warm ham hock, pickled vegetables, Branston puree, apple, crumbly Lancashire cheese and black pudding! All food is
prepared with dedication and care – including their children’s menu.

This is far beyond the bland ‘refectories’ common to most contemporary museums; as well as being open 10am-4pm Wednesday-Sunday, ‘Foody Friday’ evenings, Sunday Breakfast and Sunday Lunch opportunities are also available. Seasonal evening options incorporate careful preparation and stunning presentation; ideal as a special treat. Plus their breakfast should not be missed; a full English complete with local Riley’s bacon and award winning sausage, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, black pudding and choice of poached or fried eggs with toast.

Can you believe that this is Museum food?

Covering the senses

In this light, the Whitaker seems to cover the senses; a modern and innovative approach to operating a museum which engages with people directly. This can be recreational – including the bar which is open until 11pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings – as well as educational;  not only in the form of the fascinating local history collection but a  refurbished conference suite, complete with multi-functional IT facilities.

It’s not too far from the M66 and therefore is a straightforward journey, even from Manchester. For more information about The Whitaker you can visit the website.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Factory Living

Photo credits: Lucy Oldfield
They’ve given me a week to dismantle the machine
And piece it sensibly back together
To unhinge the line suspending cheeks
To crack the hands, spine, feet
Into something better.
I bring the wire of hair, for children try
Swinging from into the street
And invite individuals passing by
To touch the sinew
Tied to speech

It’s not often you get to feel a machine
To unreel the film behind the eyes
The brassy chest, each lungful tense
With breath
Like paint, the staring dries.
Look within the ribcage,
The circuit of the sagging heart
Your fingers find, arterial lines
Which light, still damp
Against your arm.

Roll up
The thighs and cross the legs
And see the drain of oil
Into the bowl
-          The opening below the brain –
They call it mouth,
That mortal hole

The nails they pick away are old
The frame plastic, a tongue of leather
Buttons blend into the skin
Which people press
And say ‘it’s better’

So many fallen into disrepair
An industry open now
 As an exhibit;
The walkways churned up with applause
These factories burn
And still we live in.