Skip to main content

It’s been a difficult and unprecedented year. Along with the uncertainty of the situation and our isolation from others, a change of pace has forced many of us to re-evaluate things or at least think about what we really value. What’s important to you?

We asked the Rochdale community this question in the months after the first lockdown. The range of responses was heart-warming, and it is from these that this exhibition has been developed. Despite the individuality of each response, we found most of them revolved around five key themes. Family and friends was ofcourse a big one, along with community. Both involve looking out for one another and keeping people safe. For others being able to get outdoors into green spaces and nature has been a beneficial, calming escape from the anxieties of this year. Closely related was keeping active. Going for a run or taking long walks has given people a certain amount of freedom when most things are restricted. And finally embracing creativity and learning, whether taking up a new hobby or spending more time on an existing one, has helped people navigate this stressful year.

Mixing first-hand reflections drawn from the responses we received to our question, along with objects, artwork and archive material from Rochdale Borough’s significant cultural heritage collections, this exhibition explores these themes in more detail.

Join Curator Helen Beckett for a tour of the exhibition:

YouTube may set cookies when you view this video.

1. Rare footage from Holidays at Home, 1942–44

Rochdale Borough Council
2.41 minutes
Courtesy of North West Film Archive, Manchester Metropolitan University

In 1942 the government launched an initiative with local authorities across England encouraging the civilian population to take their annual holiday within their home towns. Known in Rochdale as ‘Holidays at Home’, a week-long programme of activities and events was organised to entertain the workers and boost morale, while also freeing space on the railways for vital freight services. With travel restricted, people instead had access to entertainment and leisure on their doorstep. This rare footage filmed by the borough council captures people enjoying the events and activities from the ‘Holidays at Home’ week.

YouTube may set cookies when you view this video.

2. ‘Holidays at Home’ week programmes, 1942 and 1943

What's Changed? 2. ‘Holidays at Home’ week programmes, 1942 and 1943

These programmes for two years of ‘Holidays at Home’ show a range of entertainments and events taking place in the borough, from paddle boating on Sykes Pond to fashion shows at Rochdale Town Hall.

3. Essay written by a child evacuee from the Channel Islands sent to Rochdale during the Second World War, 1940

In the face of imminent Nazi occupation, the government evacuated over 5000 people from the Channel Islands, scattering them across the UK to areas deemed safe from enemy bombing. Carrying few belongings, over 700 of these evacuees, mainly children from the States Intermediary School in Guernsey, arrived in Rochdale on 22 June 1940, where they were met with great hospitality and offers of a home with local families. As the author writes here, people rallied round offering clothes, toys and even music lessons to make life away from home more comfortable.

4. Bloomer suit, 1915

What's Changed? 4. Bloomer suit, 1915

Developed during a radical wave of women’s dress reform in the later nineteenth century, ‘Bloomers’ were adopted by brave women throughout the world who wanted to escape the restrictions of heavy corseted dresses.

The bloomer suit (or cycling suit) consisted of a pair of lightweight bloomers with a loose-fitting skirt over the top, which gave women the freedom to cycle, walk or take exercise without being restricted by their clothes, and became fashionable in Edwardian Britain.

This new approach to dress was controversial and had many opponents who thought trousers were inappropriate for women of the day.

The bloomer suit blurred the lines between masculine and feminine dress, challenging social norms and calling into question ideas surrounding traditional gender roles.

5. Delivery bike used by Norman Dearden for Scars Butchers and the Co-op in Smallbridge, c. 1930

What's Changed? 5. Delivery bike used by Norman Dearden for Scars Butchers and the Co-op in Smallbridge, c. 1930

Some of the most positive outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic have been the stories of people helping vulnerable neighbours with their shopping or, baking to cheer up friends, together with people’s general willingness to look out for others in their communities.

Older people might remark that it reminds them of ‘how things used to be’, and perhaps to some extent they are right.

In the 1930s, Norman Dearden pedalled this bike throughout Smallbridge and the surrounding area to deliver shopping supplies to people.

6. Photo of person looking through wire mesh, date unknown

What's Changed? 6. Photo of person looking through wire mesh, date unknown

7. Collection of baking tools and ingredients, early twentieth century

8. Receipt from Duckworth’s grocers for goods to the ‘Chapel of the Destitute’, 1904

9. Large hand-painted glass sign for Duckworth’s grocers, 1869

What's Changed? 9. Large hand-painted glass sign for Duckworth’s grocers, 1869

James Duckworth opened his first shop in 1868, selling tea, sugar and other groceries at affordable prices. ‘Jimmy Ducks’, as it was affectionately known, was soon supplying baked goods and confectionary as well as more luxurious products such as coffee to Rochdale’s growing town.

Other branches soon opened across the Pennines, with the company running eighty stores across three counties during its heyday.

As his business empire grew, Duckworth concerned himself in local politics and social issues, serving on the town council for over thirty years and donating large sums of money to help his workers and support civic projects.

10. Ceramic loving cup c.1820–50

What's Changed? 10. Ceramic loving cup c.1820–50

Although the origins of this particular cup are a mystery, the text inscribed around the vessel, ‘The real cabinet of friendship, justice and equity, he helped his neighbour, brother be of good cheer,’ is in keeping with the principles of Friendly Societies of the nineteenth century.

Friendly societies were first set up with the intention of safeguarding their members against debts incurred as a result of illness, death or old age.

Members would pay in, much like an insurance policy, to protect themselves in times of hardship.

11. Objects relating to Mac the Dog, including his collar and Merit Medal from the RSPCA, 1920s

What's Changed? 11. Objects relating to Mac the Dog, including his collar and Merit Medal from the RSPCA, 1920s

Mac was a black retriever who for five years during the 1920s sat with a collecting box on The Walk in the town centre.

He collected money for charities such as Rochdale Infirmary, the RSPCA, Rochdale Blind Society and Barnardos, raising a total of £581 (nearly £40,000 today).

Mr Tomlinson, Macs owner, claimed his dog was so intelligent that he could count to a hundred and add three figures as well as tell the time!

He was a famous, well-loved addition to Rochdale town centre during his career as a charity worker and was awarded several medals for his efforts.

12. Objects relating to the Co-operative Wholesale Society, 1860-1960

What's Changed? 12. Objects relating to the Co-operative Wholesale Society, 1860-1960

The basis for the cooperative movement was first realised in 1844 at Toad Lane in Rochdale. Twenty-eight working men, mainly weavers and textile workers, each pooled together one pound to start their own shop, selling food at fair prices to other members.

Anybody, regardless of class or circumstances, could join the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, and members were then encouraged to help others in their local community, whether through voluntary work or financial contributions.

The approach taken by the original Rochdale Pioneers was adopted by other cooperative societies internationally and still provides the underlying principles of the modern-day movement.

13. Tableware from the Ashworth Chapel for the Destitute,
1858–1902

What's Changed? 13. Tableware from the Ashworth Chapel for the Destitute, 1858–1902

14. Keys from the Ashworth Chapel for the Destitute, 1858–1902

What's Changed? 14. Keys from the Ashworth Chapel for the Destitute, 1858–1902

15. Food vouchers distributed by the Ashworth Chapel for the Destitute, 1858–1902

16. John Ashworth’s diary, 1863

John Ashworth established the Chapel for the Destitute in 1858 after visiting London and witnessing the plight of the poorest in the bustling capital.

On his return to Rochdale he vowed to help the town’s impoverished population, using his influence as a renowned preacher to secure financial support for them.

The chapel was used not only as a place for Ashworth to spread the word of God but also provided a place to stay or a hot meal for destitute people at a time when there was no welfare state.

17. ‘Cotton Famine’ relief fund cash book, 1863–65

What's Changed? 17. ‘Cotton Famine’ relief fund cash book, 1863–65

During the American Civil War (1861–65), mill workers faced years of hardship as embargoes on cotton from Southern slave-owning plantations gripped the textile industry.

Cotton was expensive to import from other countries and, as a result, thousands of workers found themselves unemployed.

Although Abraham Lincoln famously sent over 1000 barrels of flour to the workers of Lancashire as thanks for their support, this went only so far. John Ashworth and WA Scott established a relief fund to support people destitute due to the ‘Cotton Famine’.

The book here records donations to the fund and how the money was spent.

18. The Cornish April, c.1940

What's Changed? 18. The Cornish April, c.1940

Adrian Allinson (1890–1959)
Oil on canvas

Adrian Allinson studied at the Slade School of Art, London alongside artists such as Stanley Spencer and Mark Gertler. He is best known for his vibrant landscapes of Southern Europe and North Africa.

Here, Allinson presents us with an idyllic scene set in this country, idealising rural life with the inclusion of chocolate-box cottages and rolling green hills, with the village church the focus of common life.

The importance of community is further emphasised by people standing in the lane to chat and neighbours tending to their gardens. Central to this perfect vision are nature, family and friends.

19. Front door signed with names of local children and pets from 145 Walker Street, Rhodes, Middleton, 1980

What's Changed? 19. Front door signed with names of local children and pets from 145 Walker Street, Rhodes, Middleton, 1980

A unique piece of social history, this door from a house on Walker Street has been signed with over 200 children’s names and sixty-five names of their pets.

It belonged to Yvonne Malik, who taught art lessons for local children in her area of Middleton during the 1980s.

Malik would set the children art projects, finding gallery spaces like the local butcher’s shopfront and even her own living room window to showcase their work.

Her house acted almost as a youth centre where children could go to meet up with friends – and keep out of their mothers’ hair!

20. Autograph quilt, 1895

What' Changed? 20. Autograph quilt, 1895

Mrs J.T. Worth

This beautifully-made quilt contains 199 names stitched into small patchwork silk diamonds, representing both well-known and less-prominent members of the Rochdale community in 1895. Each signatory paid to have their name stitched to the quilt, which raised the equivalent of £1500 for an NSPCC fundraising bazaar held in Manchester.

After the bazaar it was raffled off before being donated to the borough’s museum collection in 1953. In 2013 it caught the eye of Lynn Setterington, a Manchester-based textile artist, who embarked on the project Please Sign Here with members of the community to create a contemporary version of the quilt.

21. Out of Place, 2017

What's Changed? 21. Out of Place, 2017

Sutapa Biswas (b.1962)
Neon

Born through her work with a small group of South Asian men from Rochdale recovering from substance abuse, Out of Place is a visualisation of Biswas’s continued interest in the untold narratives of different communities.

The neon sign is one of two pieces, the other being a poem, in which she explores and uncovers the complexity and lived experience of these men, drawing on the colonial past of South Asian culture and conflicting concerns around masculinity, as well as the importance the mother’s role plays in recovery.

22. The Painters Studio, 1961

What's Changed? 22. The Painters Studio, 1961

Daniel Stephen (1921–2014)
Oil on canvas

This painting by Scottish artist Daniel Stephen was first exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1961 before being bought for the art gallery collection here in Rochdale.

It was described by one critic at the exhibition as a “rare and refreshing piece of sheer excitement in a desert of dull convention”.

At the time of painting this work Stephen shared a studio with other artists in Aberdeen, his home town, which could be the inspiration for The Painters Studio.

23. Bellrope Meadow, Cookham, 1936

What's Changed? 23. Bellrope Meadow, Cookham, 1936

Stanley Spencer (1891–1959)
Oil on canvas

Describing it as the ‘holy suburb of heaven’, Stanley Spencer regarded the village of Cookham not only as his home but also the inspiration and subject for both his religious and landscape paintings.

In this work Spencer has painted a glimpse of his beloved village from Bellrope Meadow, peering over the barbed wire into a very neatly landscaped garden.

He contrasts this manicured environment with the wild variety of plants in the foreground.  

The large bouquet of pink flowers in the centre catches the viewer’s attention and draws their gaze deeper into the painting.

24. Sheds of Rossendale, 2006

What's Changed? 24. Sheds of Rossendale, 2006

Jill Randall (1958)
Bronze statue

Jill Randalls work is mainly concerned with exploring issues surrounding place, landscape, industrial heritage and environment.

In this series Randall painstakingly recreated real sheds from the town Rossendale.

Each one is reflective of the environment, history and cultural identity of where it comes from which Randall removes and recreates in miniature form for our scrutiny.

25. ‘The Language of Stamps’ postcard sent during the First World War, 1918

What's Changed? 25. ‘The Language of Stamps’ postcard sent during the First World War, 1918

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was fashionable for people to send coded messages to their loved ones through the placement of stamps on a card or letter, such as this example.

As the illustration on the postcard shows, the angle at which the stamp was placed determined the kind of message or type of affection being conveyed by the sender.

Although writing remains dominant as a way for people to keep in touch and pass on information, the power of graphic communication is nothing new, much as people use emojis today.

26. Letter sent by a school friend to Lillian Coupe, date unknown

What's Changed? 26. Letter sent by a school friend to Lillian Coupe, date unknown

This letter was found in an exercise book in the museum collection. It was written privately to Lillian Coupe by her classmate to complain about sitting in the front row of a different class away from her.

It reads almost as a secret note passed to Lillian during lesson time.

27. Selection of mobile phones and black Bakelite telephone, 1940-2001

What's Changed? 27. Selection of mobile phones and black Bakelite telephone, 1940-2001

28. Selection of cameras, 1898-1930

What's Changed? 28. Selection of cameras, 1898-1930

In the 1970s, only 70% of people had access to a landline phone at home, while owning a camera to document family holidays was a luxury.

Mail came in the form of letters through the post and most people still relied on the radio for news updates.

In the last twenty-five years or so has communication changed rapidly. Most people can now access news, send mail and make video calls from wherever they are with the device in their pocket.

For many, this has made times of isolation and loneliness much easier to handle, keeping them informed and in contact.

29. Selection of hand-stitched sewing samplers, 1825-1940

What's Changed? 29. Selection of hand-stitched sewing samplers, 1825-1940

Historically, sewing was an important skill for young women and provided a form of education at a time when academic subjects were not available to them. Letters and words would be stitched to improve a girl’s vocabulary.

A sampler, an example of their needlework skills, could be shown to prospective employers if they were from a working-class background.

Wealthier young women would use them to highlight their good upbringing and domestic abilities, both regarded at the time as good traits for any prospective wife and mother.

30. Oriole Supper Set

What's Changed? 30. Oriole Supper Set

Louisa Taylor (1980)
Porcelain

Inspired by the rituals of dining and historical dining vessels found in museum collections Louisa Taylor creates hand thrown contemporary porcelain tableware.

The aim of these objects is to encourage shared and relaxed eating between family and friends, stating ‘I like the suggestion of how eating meals together can build stronger bonds/relationships within the family unit’.

31. The Library, c.1970

What's Changed? 31. The Library, c.1970

Carel Victor Moulons Weight (1908–1987)
Oil on canvas

Carel Weight was a London-educated artist who taught at the Royal College of Art for much of his career, where his students included David Hockney.

A prolific painter, his work primarily focused on studies of ordinary, everyday locations informed by literary and religious influences.

In The Library, Weight combines these elements, depicting a woman leaning against a bookshelf. She is holding an open copy of T.S. Eliot’s East Coker (1940), a wartime poem whose verses are a meditation on time, memory and recovery through an inward spiritual journey.

32. Victorian family photos taken from the collection, nineteenth century

33. Interior (The Open Window), 1949

Vanessa Bell (1879–1961)
Gouache on board

Vanessa Bell is considered one of the most influential female artists of the twentieth century. She grew up in London, the elder sister of the author Virginia Woolf. Both women established themselves as members of the Bloomsbury Group, an influential group of artists, writers and creatives during the early 20th century.

The group are not only famous for their creative work but also the fluid relationships they had with one another. Although married to Clive Bell their open relationship allowed Vanessa to have a long term love affair with artist Duncan Grant who, openly, had relationships with other men in the group. A famous quote about the group reads ‘they lived in squares, and loved in triangles’.

Bell drew inspiration from her domestic life, often painting still lifes, landscapes and interiors, which initially led critics to downplay her importance in the development of modern art. In this painting Bell has captured the view from her room looking out of a window, an ordinary experience that we have all done, perhaps more so this year than any other.

34. Akhtar and a Kameez, 2002

Noreen White (b.1948)
Oil on canvas

This painting was the result of a project called Mothers and Daughters undertaken by artist Noreen White with women from the Muslim community in Rochdale.

She worked with mothers and their daughters from Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities to create a series of portraits, in order to make Asian women in the borough more visible.

The casual pose of the sitter reveals her personality to the viewer and shows her displaying a kameez, an embroidered tunic, as an example of her creativity.

The painting was donated by the artist after her project was exhibited at Touchstones in 2003.

35. G Plan teak sideboard, 1969

36. Crescent Road II (the artist and his grandfather), 1963–76

What's Changed? 36. Crescent Road II (the artist and his grandfather), 1963–76

John Wonnacott (b.1940)
Oil on board

Having studied at The Slade School of Fine Art in London from 1958, much of John Wonnacott’s career as an artist in the 1960s and ’70s was spent observing and recording scenes of his family.

The distorted angles that became synonymous with his style cleverly and subtly force the viewer to look at the work in a certain way.

Here, for example, the artist has painted himself out of proportion, squat against the edge of the canvas, while using the fence as a guide towards the horizon that brings his grandfather into focus as the subject of the painting.

37. Selection of Brendel and Co. plant models, early twentieth century

What's Changed? 37. Selection of Brendel and Co. plant models, early twentieth century

Brendel and Co. was established in Poland in 1866 by Carl Brendel who hand made biologically accurate scale models of plants and flowers from papier-mâché and lacquer.

His models were bought by scientists around the world and were used as an educational tool for university students. The models are made in parts that can be removed to show more clearly the internal structure of the plants.

By 1913 the company had over 300 different models for sale which can still be found in museum collections internationally.

38. Silver Study, 2011

What's Changed? 38. Silver Study, 2011

Jessica Rankin (b.1971)
Embroidery on organdie
Purchased through the Art Fund New Collecting Award

An LGBTQ+ contemporary artist based in New York, Jessica Rankin works in watercolour, collage and needlework. She creates delicate landscapes inspired by ancient Greek legend, and the carved folds in the marble of the Parthenon sculptures which resemble rolling abstract landscapes.

The slow process of embroidery and needlework, traditionally associated with female domesticity, allows Rankin to think and record her memories to create contemporary landscapes, or maps, within the organdie fabric.

This meticulous approach to her creativity provides the opportunity for her mind to wander, to concentrate on thoughts.

39. The Young Seamstress, 1907

Harold Knight (1874–1961)
Oil on canvas

In this painting Knight is observing a young woman hunched forward concentrating on her sewing project.

He was primarily a portrait painter however is also known for his quite candid paintings of women in domestic scenes such as looking out of a window, reading or taking tea.

He was married to well-known artist Laura Knight, famous for her paintings of ballet and circus scenes.

40. Selection of vintage sewing patterns, 1950–70

41. Hand-operated Singer sewing machine, c.1880–1900

What's Changed? 41. Hand-operated Singer sewing machine, c.1880–1900

Sewing and dressmaking has been a popular and necessary task for thousands of years.

In fact until the development of ready-to-wear clothing in the nineteenth century, people either made their own clothes or, if they could afford it, paid somebody to make them.

Over this past year we have seen a surge in people across the country – Rochdale included – dusting off their sewing machines to make PPE and scrubs for NHS workers and masks for their families and friends, as well as taking up sewing to pass the time during lockdown.

42. Rochdale Field Naturalists Society lecture poster, 1886

43. Rochdale Field Naturalists Society excursion poster, 1885

What's Changed 43. Rochdale Field Naturalists Society excursion poster, 1885

44. Rochdale Field Naturalists Society book, 1882-1897

What's Changed? What's Changed? 44. Rochdale Field Naturalists Society book, 1882-1897

The Field Naturalists Society ran throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century until 1891.

Membership was mainly made up of likeminded local men interested in natural sciences such as botany and geology. Many of them were keen collectors who would exhibit to the society. Some members such as James Maxim and James Horsfall became familiar names in the borough’s heritage collection thanks to their donations to Rochdale Museum.

Regular lectures and educational trips were scheduled for members and a library of natural history books was developed for their enjoyment.  The society was eventually relaunched as the Rochdale Botanical and Geological Society, which ran until 1953.

45. Pair of ladies’ walking shoes, between 1905–11

Women in the Edwardian period were encouraged to exercise in order to maintain a good, “ladylike” posture and the then-fashionable hourglass figure.

Due to the restrictive nature of women’s clothing during this period, one of the most popular forms of exercise was walking.

Wealthier women in particular would take leisurely promenades through parks in order to be seen and to socialise whilst also exercising. These shoes would have been worn specifically for walking.

The low, wide heel made them more comfortable than other women’s shoes of this period.

46. Rochdale Ramblers excursion timetables, 1904-1921

What's Changed? 46. Rochdale Ramblers excursion timetables, 1904-1921

The Rochdale Ramblers was a social group that met on a monthly basis to go for walks. The club was founded in the late nineteenth century and was open to both men and women.

47. Cigarette cards illustrated with British birds, 1939

Cigarette cards were illustrations that came with packets of cigarettes and were very popular collectables from the 1870s until the mid-twentieth century.

These examples show a variety of British birds, a popular theme.

48. Rochdale Art Society list of rules, 1985

What's Changed? 48. Rochdale Art Society list of rules, 1985

49. Rochdale Art Society member’s sketchbook, 1889

What's Changed? 49. Rochdale Art Society member’s sketchbook, 1889

Rochdale Art Society was formed in 1879 by a group of local artists. They would put on annual exhibitions for the people of Rochdale, hold lectures and meet regularly to show their work and socialise.

The popularity of art societies in towns and cities across the country increased during the Victorian period when hobbies and interests in arts and sciences reached a new level of popularity.

Although less formal in arrangement nowadays, art clubs and groups continue to be an important part of civic society.

50. Untitled

Bob Crossley (1912–2010)
Collages

Bob Crossley grew up in Rochdale before moving to St Ives, Cornwall, in 1959. He was a member of Rochdale Art Society and is best known for his abstract oil and acrylic paintings that were heavily influenced by the Modernism of the 1950s.

These small experimental geometric collages resemble Crossley’s brightly coloured silkscreen prints from the 1970s and were likely preliminary experiments to work out composition and scale for larger pieces.

51. Preliminary sketches for Crescent II, 1963

John Wonnacott (b.1940)
Pencil on paper

52. The Young Rower, 1932

RAG94007 The Young Rower, 1932 (oil on canvas); by Glasson, Lancelot Myles (b.1894); 102×76 cm; © Rochdale Art Gallery, Lancashire, UK; REPRODUCTION PERMISSION REQUIRED; English, in copyright until 2065

Lancelot Myles Glasson (1894–1959)
Oil on canvas
Collection of Rochdale Arts & Heritage Service

This painting was first shown at the Royal Academy in 1932, winning Picture of the Year at the prestigious Summer Exhibition. It documents changing attitudes to women’s participation in sport, the first women’s University Boat Race having been held five years earlier, although female rowers did not compete internationally until 1950.

As the artist himself said of the painting, ‘One might say that my picture represented modern girlhood, breaking away from the inhibitions of the past and eagerly enjoying the sports and pastimes once reserved to men, and in doing so manifesting herself as something full of life and health’.

53. Selection of taxidermy, date unknown

What's Changed? 53. Selection of taxidermy, date unknown

54. Manmade Waterways. 91.9 miles walked. Rochdale (Key II), 2017

What's Changed? 54. Manmade Waterways. 91.9 miles walked. Rochdale (Key II), 2017

Rachael Clewlow (b.1984)
Acrylic on board

Rachael Clewlow meticulously records her movements in diaries that she then translates within her paintings as coloured lines and forms, creating intricate abstract maps.

Examined closely, they reveal precise attention to detail, both in their making and in the walks that precede them. The viewer is invited to consider the ways in which landscapes can be represented and the different meanings journeys can take.

With each walk, like this one through the Pennines around Rochdale over five days, Clewlow captures and records everyday life, from the banal to its more interesting aspects, before capturing each movement or moment in paint.

55. Selection of walking sticks, date unknown

What's Changed? 55. Selection of walking sticks, date unknown

56. Boxes of shells

Collected by Robert Law

Robert Law (1840–1907) was a local geologist, born in Hollingworth.

From a young age he had a fascination for natural history and was an avid collector of rocks and fossils. Despite working in the mills, he became a teacher of geology and member of the Scientific Association in Todmorden. He travelled extensively to add to his collection and to present his research.

In 1886 he was elected a fellow of the Geological Society in London and in later years made important discoveries in the Rochdale area.

Upon his death, his wife Elizabeth donated his collection to several local museums.

57. Cultural Roots project developed with over-fifties persons from Rochdale Borough, 2020

Choreographed by Ruth Jones
Video, 11.01 minutes

The Cultural Roots project began in December 2019, with funding from GMCVO’s Ambition for Ageing, to support and develop the skills of local creative people over the age of fifty. They in turn developed and delivered a series of dance workshops, inviting local participants to join in the artistic process.

This video is the result of their work and, despite COVID-19 interrupting the original schedule, the women involved were quickly able to adapt and utilise online technology to see the project through to completion and continue with the development of their performance skills.

YouTube may set cookies when you view this video.

58. C6-04, 2004

Manijeh Yadegar (1951–2016)
Oil on canvas
Donated by the Contemporary Art Fund

Mannijeh Yadegar used paint in different consistencies, layered onto the canvas to create veiled washes of colour, giving her paintings a hazy, worn appearance.

The textures laid down initially with impasto recall her observations with the natural world – bark on trees, eroded stone and sand formations – and are the starting point to create abstract painted landscapes.

With their soft layered hues and subtle textures, Yadegar’s paintings evoke a sense of calm contemplation in the viewer.

59. Morning Fog in the Mountains, 1998

What's Changed? 59. Morning Fog in the Mountains, 1998

Mariele Neudecker (b.1965)
C-type photograph
Donated by the Contemporary Art Fund

Mariele Neudecker is a multi-disciplinary artist who uses sculpture, photography, film and installation to address ideas about landscape and humanity’s relationship to it.

She works with scientists and engineers to develop her interests in both the natural environment and modern technology, creating three-dimensional landscapes cocooned under glass whose compositions are often based on landscape paintings from the nineteenth-century German Romanticist art movement.

This photograph by Neudecker captures one of her landscapes, meticulously sculpted and submerged in a cloudy chemical solution to evoke an atmospheric mountain scene.

60. Study of Cumulus Clouds, probably 1820s

What's Changed? 60. Study of Cumulus Clouds, probably 1820s

Circle of John Constable (1776–1837)
Oil on canvas

John Constable is widely considered one of Britain’s greatest landscape painters. He had had a particular talent for capturing the weather in his depiction of skies, a notable feature of many of his famous works.

In the 1820s he painted a number of studies of cloud formations, adopting a scientific approach to observation and working quickly with oil paints in the open air. This was a revolutionary way of painting at the time, but quickly became highly respected and influential.

An unknown artist was inspired to create this work in Constable’s style.

61. Woollen swimming costume, 1930

61. Woollen swimming costume, 1930

Before the invention of nylon, wool was the material of choice for making swimwear.

The elasticity in wool meant costumes and swimming trunks could be knitted to fit the wearer tightly. It was relatively cheap and straightforward to make swimwear from wool, which proved particularly important in the 1930s as swimming increased in popularity. However, once these garments got wet they became heavy and often sagged, and by the mid-twentieth century, wool was replaced by artificial materials that held their shape better.

This particular costume was donated by a local Rochdale woman whose aunt wore it in the 1930s.

62. Cigarette cards illustrated with different swimming strokes

What's Changed? 62. Cigarette cards illustrated with different swimming strokes

Cigarette cards were illustrations that came with packets of cigarettes and were very popular collectables from the 1870s until the mid-twentieth century.

It now seems strange to associate smoking with sport.

63. L.S. Lowry-inspired community art project developed by Beam Irwin, delivered in partnership with the Co-operative Society and Arcon Housing

What's Changed? 63. L.S. Lowry-inspired community art project developed by Beam Irwin, delivered in partnership with the Co-operative Society and Arcon Housing

Inspired by paintings by L.S. Lowry on loan to Touchstones from the Co-operative Society collection, local artist Beam Irwin developed a creative kit that was subsequently delivered to Arcon Housing tenants across Rochdale during the most recent lockdown.

Taking creative projects out to local communities has been one way that Touchstones has overcome the challenges of being forced to close, as well as ensuring the continued development of our relationships with, artists and partners and the people of Rochdale.

64. Gloucester Gate, Regents Park, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring, 1977/1979

Adrian Berg (1929–2011)
Oil on canvas
Purchased with support from the V&A Purchase Grant Fund

For over twenty years the focus for Adrian Berg’s work was the view of Regents Park from his studio window and home at Gloucester Gate, London. In this observational painting of the park landscape, Berg has played with the composition to offer seasonal strips of the same view, using bold colours and different levels of detail and texture to signal the changing seasons within the narrow field of view. These iridescent bands make the painting at first appear abstract. However, by looking closely the viewer can begin to differentiate distinct moments in the repeated yet changing landscape.

In the last decades of his life Berg lived in Brighton with his partner Mike Osmund and travelled frequently to paint other great British gardens and parks such as Derwent Water in the Lake District, Kew and Syon. Capturing sweeping panoramic views of the landscape in front of him these works, along with his compositions of Regents Park, make up some of his most important works.

65. MG Montego 2014 (Heywood), 2017

Clare Kenny (b.1976)
Photo print on glass
Presented by the Art Fund

Drawing from her memories and experiences of growing up in a working-class neighbourhood in Heywood, Rochdale, Clare Kenny’s work is deeply personal with regard to her childhood and family history.

In her ‘Puddle’ series, Kenny’s glass sculptures recall her memories of the oil spills from old cars parked on the streets where she used to play as a child. She would marvel at the way the light diffracted on the dark puddles of liquid to reveal a rainbow. Each piece is named after a different car her family owned when she was growing up.

66. School desk and PC, 1880-1985

What's Changed? 66. School desk and PC, 1880-1985