Manchester today

First stop was the Art Gallery, where there is an offshoot of the exhibition I saw this last year at the Barbican: “Strange and Familiar“. This time round, Shinro Ohtake’s photographs from his first visit to Britain in 1977 stood out. Other photographers in the exhibition – mostly European – focussed on what they or their viewers might find interesting, sociologically significant, quirky or entertaining: 1960s fashion, amusing juxtaposition of signs. Ohtake purely recorded his daily impressions of this new visual world, so there are photos of double white lines or guttering and downpipes. Somehow, this time, it was his images which captured my eye.

Lunch was in the old Refuge Assurance building opposite Oxford Road station. I’d never been inside, so I was delighted with the bright tiled interior (Burmantofts faience). The food was OK, and the waiting-on was of the studiedly informal, over-friendly style. Nothing wrong with it, but it’s not the way I was bringed up.

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Barbara Brown’s designs for Heals

Then a quick visit to a couple of small textile exhibitions at the Whitworth. One was of Lucienne Day’s designs and the other by Barbara Brown, so together they spanned the 1950s-70s – and hence were the backdrop to my childhood. Their large, bold patterns perfectly suited the spacious, big-windowed public buildings of that era such as schools and universities. Design and mass production in harmony.

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