The Whitworth’s grand stairs inspire musical intervention

30 08 2014
The Grand Stairs protected during the building work

The Grand Stairs protected during the building work

While building work progresses at the Gallery, the beautiful 100+ yr old staircases at either end of the textile gallery facing onto Oxford Road are encased in plywood and correx to protect them from damage.  The historic lighting, featured in an earlier post are currently being refurbished (more news to follow soon), and with most of the building closed up and empty, the stairs patiently await the moment when they will be opened up to public view and once again take visitors up to the Grand Hall on the first floor.

For many staff whose offices or workshops were at one or other end of them, the stairs were often an exhausting feature of the working day, and with no lift access between stores in the Gallery basement and study rooms on the upper floor, the stairs were the only means of access when moving works from the collection.

Carrying a large rolled drawing during the collection decant

Carrying a large rolled drawing during the collection decant

Kira O'Reilly - MIF 2009

Kira O’Reilly ‘Stair falling’ – MIF 2009 (Photo credit: Marco Anelli)

At other times though, the Whitworth’s grand stairs have taken centre stage, and many visitors will recall being mesmerised by the sight of performance artist Kira O’Reilly as she slowly descended the staircase, naked and over a 4 hour period during the Manchester International Festival in 2009.

Another artist, this time musician Chris Butler, has been inspired by the staircases as a setting for creativity.  Chis is one of a talented group of freelance technicians who regularly support the Gallery’s Collection Care & Access team and as such is familiar with slogging up and down the stairs carrying heavy loads!  In 2012 Chris Butler teamed up with musician Sam Lench and producer Seadna Mcphail to record the limited edition single ‘Anger’ in the stairwells of The Whitworth Art Gallery. Both Butler and Lench have been involved with the Gallery over the years – with the encroaching redevelopment and extension of the building, they were given the unique opportunity to record a track within one of the original stairwells of the Gallery dating back to 1889. Recorded live in an afternoon and filmed by Mark Kendrick, the aim was to capture the ambient sounds and natural reverb of the space allowing the building to become part of the song. The track was released as a free single featuring a remix by Manchester’s Out Of The Basement.

For more about Chris’s work with ‘We Are Willow’ go to:




One response

4 09 2014

Reblogged this on msamba.

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