Sunday, February 8, 2009


This is one of the pictures that is part of the "Hidden Manchester" Exhibition at URBIS in Manchester. This picture, along with all of the other ones in this exhibition is the work of Andrew Brooks. You can see more of his work at the following website: I cannot recommend this exhibition too highly and, if you live in Manchester, go and see it. If you don't live in Manchester, then have a look at the website.

I went to see the exhibition a week ago. I was blown away by the photographs in general, but I find that this one, in particular, keeps forcing itself back to the forefront of my attention.

The information that goes with this picture reads as follows:

In the eastern spire of the Town Hall, overlooking Saint Peter’s Square, a battered pair of shelves holds the forgotten records of Manchester’s bureaucratic past.

As sunlight streams in from the hidden courtyard outside, these books lie and rot, slowly turning to dust as they see in their third century. Whether put here to be secured, or put here to be hidden, their contents, that must have at one time seemed so important, are now merely a curiosity in a forgotten corner of the city.

I think that it must be this mysterious side of things that appeals to me. Whenever I go to a "stately" home, or a Cathedral or somewhere like Manchester Town Hall, (and I have not actually visited Manchester Town Hall despite the fact that I've lived here since 1969, a lot longer than I lived in Kendal, my home town.) I always want to go through the doors that are, inevitably locked and equally inevitably marked "Strictly Staff Only"

As a matter of fact I did once get the chance to go through a locked door exactly as I describe above. It was while I was visiting an old place in the Lake District. I asked one of the Guides what was on the other side of a particular locked door and he let me look. There was no floor! So sometimes I guess that it is a good thing that you cannot always get through these doors.

Anyway, to get back to the point, what fascinates me is the fact that, somewhere in Manchester Town Hall is a door, leading to a steep set of rickety old wooden stairs leading to this room. I mean, look at the picture. Here is a huge room full of the dust of ages and these two rickety (must be a favourite word) old sets of shelves full of crumbling old books of documents. Don't you just want to pull the books off those shelves and read them, 'cos I most assuredly do.

And look at all those windows running floor to ceiling. The room is full of light, unless it's one of Andrew Brooks' trick photos. I want to walk up to those windows and look down. In the exhibition there are pictures of the hidden courtyard in the centre of the Town Hall. I mean, I didn't even realise that there was a hidden courtyard. In the exhibition all of the pictures show places that people like you and me never get to go, and I want to.

It also leaves me wondering if Mr Brooks sneaked into this room to take this photograph, or was he allowed in to take the photo in this hidden place. I mean, how many people in Manchester actually know about these secret, hidden places.

As I say, I desperately want to go and see these places, but I realise that I probably never will. I've looked at a couple of websites that talk about "Urban Explorers" but they are all young and fit and have names like Jazz and Bazz and Shazz. Something tells me that a 58 year old History Teacher who is fat, bald and called Kevin is never going to get the chance to go urban exploring. But I can dream.

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