Exhibition – There Is A Light (Manchester Central Library)

Exhibition, Manchester Central Library, 11th Oct 2018 – 22nd Feb 2019
There is a Light that Never Goes Out

(Header shot: Buzzcocks © Jill Furmanovsky)

Amidst the early furore of punk, Manchester’s Buzzcocks created arguably the first DIY record with their independently released Spiral Scratch EP. It is apt then that the opening photo in this exhibition of the local music scene is one of Buzzcocks, now complete with hastily scribbled neon post-it notes stuck to a board below, tributes to the late, undeniably great Pete Shelley. The picture shows the band standing in front of rows of library books – subjects Fiction and Romance, begging the question was the location carefully found to match the song or is this maybe where the title came from?

Mark E Smith © Howard Barlow

Featuring artists past and present, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (‘a photographic celebration of Manchester’s rock music history’) is currently making its home in the first floor exhibition hall at Manchester Central Library. Presented by Rockarchive, it is curated by their founder and acclaimed photographer, Jill Furmanovsky and music writer Jon Savage, a noted journalist and author of the rise of punk narrative England’s Dreaming. Here, Jill explains how the exhibition came about…

‘Manchester is a city inextricably linked to its musical heritage.

When my Oasis DNA exhibition finished showing at this library in 2017, the idea of a Manchester rock music exhibition seemed a natural follow up. So in collaboration with writer Jon Savage and with help from the Manchester Digital Music Archive, we pulled together this unique collection of photographs.

We decided to concentrate on showing gritty images of those bands and musicians whose music is so deeply rooted in Manchester, one cannot imagine rock music or the city itself being the same without their contribution. Many of these are the bands and musicians that formed in the wake of punk, at a time when Manchester’s music scene was expanding in a unique and inimitable way.

So long is the reach of the city’s collective musical talent, we could have created an exhibition twice the size of this one. However, sadly we have not been able to feature every band or image we would have liked and the curators had some hard decisions to make.

We are thrilled to be showcasing work by many of the UK’s most talented music photographers, including Manchester based Kevin Cummins and his brilliant colleague, Pennie Smith, whose pictures of The Stone Roses shown define the very essence of a band that gel together effortlessly. Other contributors either lived locally and recorded the scene, or worked extensively with Manchester bands. They include Paul Slattery, Steve Double, Peter Walsh and Howard Barlow, who all had strong relationships with the musicians they worked with. A number of historic photographs from my own Manchester archive are also shown here.

The final section of the exhibition reflects Manchester’s vibrant and diverse current music scene, with photos of many of the contemporary acts who continue to keep the flame of Manchester music alive today. We have also devoted a wall to the musical outpourings and audience response that helped people express their grief and defiance after the tragic events at Manchester Arena in 2017.

Manchester’s musical legacy continues to dominate even to this day in a city whose light will never go out.’

(Jill Furmanovsky and the Rockarchive Collective)

Oasis © Jill Furmanovsky

An excellent collection documenting artists who have had a huge impact on music in the UK and internationally, There Is A Light offers an opportunity to see first hand some classic, instantly recognisable shots of the likes of Joy Division, The Fall, The Stone Roses, The Smiths and Oasis as well as lesser seen photos and numerous other acts who have played a part in the colourful history of the city’s music scene.

The final wall gives an indication of the ongoing talent in Manchester, including contemporary photos of Blossoms, Jane Weaver and Pale Waves to name just a few. Through the punk clubs and Tony Wilson’s Hacienda days with Factory Records, there are numerous reference points that will be of interest to fans of the music and the city alike. And for any music photographers out there – a chance to consider how some of these most memorable shots were conceived before the multitude of editing software available today came into play; lots to think about and take inspiration from.

A Guy Called Gerald and Graham Massey from 808 State play live at Victoria Baths during Tony Wilson’s Other Side of Midnight show © Peter J Walsh

Unsurprisingly, the exhibition has already attracted thousands of visitors and there’s still plenty of time to drop in. Oh, and that Buzzcocks photo? Back to Jill…

‘It was a typical music press type shoot in August 1977. No assistants, no lighting. Just me and the band with their press officer, in this case supremo Alan Edwards, walking about, stopping to take pictures by road signs, street art, in a fish and chip shop, on a climbing frame in a children’s playground, and finally in a local library where the band stood in front of two book shelves labelled Fiction and Romance. As scholars of punk will know, there is a Buzzcocks song of that name. The question that has still not been answered definitively, not even by the band themselves, is which came first, the picture or the song? I still maintain the picture came first…’

Joy Division © Jill Furmanovsky

Many of the photos in the exhibition can be purchased as prints from Rockarchive – with some already iconic images in the mix there’s no doubt these will be collectors’ pieces of the future. Further details are available on their website.

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out runs until 22nd February 2019 – free entry

Manchester Central Library, St Peter’s Square M2 5PD
Opening times: Monday – Thursday 9-8, Friday – Saturday 9-5, Sunday closed – please check the website for further details of this and other exhibitions before visiting

All images are reproduced with permission from Rockarchive and are copyrighted by the photographer credited

Additional words by Siobhan

8th January 2019