Putting It All Together


I had hoped to write this post during the week, but putting an exhibition up is unsurprisingly rather tiring! Today was the grand opening and reception, and I won’t give too much away as I’ll be writing another post about it but… it was worth the effort.

First, I’d like to go through the process of actually getting into the exhibition space and setting it all up. It really is at this point where it’s make or break. You think it’s going to work and you’ve put the effort in, but until you see everything up on the walls you can’t be completely sure.


As the Art Gallery is a busy space, we had to wait until Tuesday for the previous exhibition to be derigged. It was a stressful first day, as it wasn’t until the afternoon that we picked up all the pictures and object cards from the printers. We had no idea how they had turned out, but upon getting them back to the Artlink and opening them we were ecstatic to find them of great quality.

Why was it so last minute? It turns out that you can’t just send pictures to a printers and expect them to come out how you want. They need to be converted into a special format that will ensure a good printed image. As this required Photoshop to do, one of the Art Gallery staff kindly volunteered do this in her spare time.

The rest of Tuesday was spent tackling the Secret St Mary’s church drawing. Nick, another member of the Art Gallery team thought that we could project an image on to the walls and then sketch around it. After many different angles tried, we gave this up as a good in theory/hard in practice technique.

Happily, Nick is a talented artist and after the minor setback with the projector, he promptly got to work with a piece of charcoal and drew the church from an A4 image. It turned out brilliantly, much better than we anticipated!

Not wanting to be thought of as a spare wheel, I was put to work cutting up a few hundred pieces of velcro for attaching everything to the walls. Not the most glamorous of jobs but it saved a lot of time further on.


Wednesday morning came around quickly, and in a bid to steal a march on the rigging I came in early on to get started. Back in February, I’d started to draw some examples of what I wanted each panel to look like. We decided on six pictures for each panel, but when it came to layout I was undecided.


Susan, another member of the Art Gallery team who was in early too, suggested that I lay them out on a table to figure out the order of the images and the final design. After doing this and then fixing them to the panels with white tack, I quickly realised that a traditional 2×3 layout worked best. Someone once told me that plans usually change when rigging up, how right they were!

Putting the images and object cards on the walls was probably the most time-consuming task, and it took until Thursday evening to get everything up. I had to decide the order, tack the images up so I could see what it would look like and then velcro for final attachment. Everything had to be meticulously spaced, and a spirit level was used liberally.

Speaking of spirit levels, I quickly resolved to invest in one myself due to how useful it was. The Artlink is on a slope, which easily threw me off when I tried to make things level by eye.

By Friday, all we needed to do was set up the object cabinets and put up the A0 boards and header cards. This required another excursion to the printers (leaving it VERY late I know), but again everything turned out fine.


Well, mostly fine. The introduction board contained two errors but with no time left to reprint we gritted our teeth and hung it up. I actually felt quite sanguine about it, as everything up until this point had gone smoothly and the board still looked fantastic when in place.

After that, Phil from Stockport Museums (the chap who gave us the exhibition back in the dim and distant days of October!) gave me a hand with filling the cabinets, along with a few handy tips about using props to make the display better. All that was left to do was attach the incredible replica Shuttleworth painting, which was quick and painless.

Despite only finishing the rigging yesterday, it already feels an age ago. It was hot, sweaty and exhausting work but I loved every minute of it. Just like every other step along the way to this point, I learned a lot about what it means to curate an exhibition.

Today we had the open day, but that’s a tale for another day. Perhaps tomorrow?




Update: Almost there!


I know I’ve been suspiciously quiet recently, I’ve been working hard and attempting to venture outside every so often (I’m told this is healthy). I believe it’s time for an exhibition update, and as it’s been a while since the last this may ramble on a bit longer than usual but please bear with me!

Right, so the first major piece of exhibition news is that the marketing side of it is pretty much complete. I wrote an entirely separate article on this but I realised that even by my standards it was a little dry and it was duly scrapped. Myself and Jade designed some basic A5 flyers, which I have handed out to the libraries and heritage sites around Stockport.

They were much more basic than this when I originally submitted them, but Jade worked her magic and made them look much better. We ordered 1000 of the flyers and I’m happy to say that most of them have gone. We had to get creative at times (inserting them into the events guides at Bramall Hall for example), but it all helps.

I wanted to create a solid social media plan too, but as I’ve alluded to in the past social media is a bit of a turn off and in all fairness I’ve been rather busy. I’ll be hammering Facebook with scheduled posts on my next day off in order to create a bit more awareness.

Oh, we also have a reception and preview date coming up on the 17th June! Everyone is welcome to come and view the exhibition, eat and drink our nibbles and wine and hobnob with, well, us. We’ve invited the Mayor and his wife, who have confirmed their attendance and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it will be busy.

In all honesty, whilst I’m looking forward to the reception I’m also filled with trepidation. “What if they don’t like the exhibition, or what if I’ve made a mistake?” seem like usual fears in this situation but it makes them no less valid. As Jade has pointed out, there’s nothing we can do about it now!

I’d also like to mention that Jill Trumble from the Stockport Heritage Trust (who has been helping us from day one) has agreed to provide an hour-long talk at the Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery on the 24th June at 11am. I’ve had a sneak preview and I’m really looking forward to hearing it live. We’ll have more details soon about this, so stay tuned.

In one week, we’ll be in the Artlink to begin the process of setting up the St Mary’s 200th Exhibition. It’s come around quickly, and all we can do now is hope that you all like it, or at the very least learn something new about this incredible embodiment of Stockport’s history.

Thank you for reading,




Update: Funding and Deadlines



As you may have read if you’re keeping up to date with our Facebook page, we managed to secure partial funding from the Vernon Building Society. This is great news as it gives us the opportunity to improve the quality of the exhibition and do things we would otherwise be unable to do.


Going into this further, it’s been a fairly stressful few weeks. From constantly revising our vision of what the exhibition would look like to approaching printers and hounding them for quotes, it’s probably been the most transformative part of the process.

Admittedly, we had some grand ideas that in retrospect were rather unfeasible but it is at this stage where we’ve had to cut things out we would have loved to have done, change often what we’re doing and come up with new ideas to compensate. Not that I’m complaining, as I’ve loved every minute!

So, what has changed? These are the two biggest casualties of the process, I won’t bother you with the minutiae!

  1. We were planning on creating see-through coloured vinyls for the Artlink windows that would have mimicked the stained glass windows at St Mary’s. This would have looked great but it was just too costly to do.
  2. The information about the objects and images on display were going to be displayed in a booklet, so that if a visitor just wanted a quick browse free from text they could do that. This too was costly, and it would be quite troublesome to adapt for when the exhibition moves to the church as they can’t display everything the gallery can. We’re going to use object cards, which was the original plan.

Thankfully the Vernon have been great. I was worrying that the application was left too late, but within two weeks we had the answer we hoped for. The Art Gallery have stepped in to organise the printing so we’re now free to concentrate on the next part… DEADLINES.

The staff at the Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery are fantastic. It’s high praise but they deserve it as they’ve provided so much great advice and often pointed me in the right direction (or kicked me up the rump) when needed. At a recent meeting, they set deadlines for us to submit content by.

This was necessary because as I’ve said (often and loudly) this is our first exhibition and we lack experience, especially with knowing how long things take to do. It’s also a little scary as it really hit home that we’re almost at the finish line.

We can’t wait to cross it and show you what St Mary’s has to offer!





The Exhibition Space


Hello again,

Before I start talking exhibition, I need to announce that Antia, one of our colleagues has had to withdraw. I would like to thank Antia for the insights and excellent research she has provided, and I hope she visits us when we go live!

Ok, exhibition.

My last post was all about the inventory and why we did it the way we did. I’d like this post to be about the exhibition space and how we’re approaching it. First off, it’s going to be held from June to July inside the Artlink at the rather excellent Stockport War Memorial and Art Gallery (as pictured above).


The Artlink is an interesting, if unusual space. Essentially it’s a wide curving corridor with a large inset cut in to provide more surface space. When we started out, the entirety of the Artlink was ours to play with although with recent developments that’s now no longer the case.


That might sound like the proverbial spanner in the works, but I think it’s a positive development. Look at the floorplan of the Artlink above. The entry section will now be housing the Stockport Air Disaster exhibition, and from I’ve seen it will be rather interesting. It will certainly draw a larger, more varied crowd which can only be a good thing.

It also condenses our space, which means we can fill it much more easily. That’s certainly a win, although we now have to be that little bit smarter with what we can and can’t do. It’s all a part of that fun learning curve I mentioned in a previous post!


Something that I’m really looking forward to is using that large inset (I & J on the floorplan). I won’t give anything else away, but for those two panels we’re doing a Secrets of St Mary’s section. We’ll be showing off all the little hidden rooms and areas that visitors never get to see. It’s a shame, because those hidden areas are just incredible.

In other news, I’m starting to get quotes back on the printing so hopefully we can get a proposal knocked up in the next day or two. Jade also suggested we use an exhibition guide that contains all the information about the objects and pictures we’ll be using, which I really like. It’s cheaper to do and if a visitor only wants the visual experience, they can ignore the text.

Busy times.