Artists recreate famous Bolton's famous Worktown Mass Observation project

Artists recreate famous Worktown Mass Observation project

A composite of a Humphrey Spender picture and a photograph taken recently by Caroline Edge

David Dunnico is exhibiting his surveillance photos including some of Bolton CCTV HQ

An original Humphrey Spender Worktown picture

An original Humphrey Spender Worktown picture

Artist Liam Curtin and his partner Bernadette Nouhy with the camera obscura in Newport Street

Bernadette Nouhy with children at the camera obscura

First published in News The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , education reporter

EVERYDAY life in Bolton is once again in the frame.

In a project inspired by the groundbreaking Mass Observation Project, a Worktown Observation Centre has been established and has been watching and documenting life in Bolton for a week.

Photographers and artists involved in several different projects have been working alongside the local community to create a new visual archive of Bolton — decades after Humphrey Spender’s Bolton Worktown, which captured life in the town, ended in the 1930s.

Modern-day “Spenders” set up their own observation centre in an empty shop on the outside of Bolton’s former market hall.

A giant surveillance camera and a Museum of Takeaway Menu Art formed part of the community arts project.

Bolton PhD researcher and project curator Caroline Edge said: “The original Mass Observers were criticised for being outsiders who came to Bolton to study ‘the cannibals of the North’.

“This project brings together local photographers with artists to represent their own community. We hope the Worktown Observation Centre will let people in Bolton see everyday life with new eyes, and that the resulting archive will become a useful historical record.”

In 1937 Mass Observation conducted a unique study of Bolton, collecting information on all aspects of life from political views to pints of beer.

The Worktown Archive at Bolton Museum holds photographs and other artworks created during the study by artists including Humphrey Spender and Julian Trevelyan.

Mark Page, director of the Museum of Takeaway Menu Art, said: “Bolton has always been an important source of menus with some of our finest examples coming from the town. It is with that in mind that we are very proud to bring MoTMA to Bolton, a town that has a great history of archiving the everyday.”

An exhibition has also displayed photographs submitted by the public and other featured exhibitions include public artist Liam Curtin’s, Camera Obscura, the Museum of Takeaway Menu Art and Robert Parkinson of Preston is my Paris.

The event also showcased community photography projects including Gene Watts’ In and Around Bolton and photographs taken by young people for the Observe Bolton project.

On August 31, a tour of the pubs features in Mass Observation’s classic book The Pub and the People, will take place led by researchers from the University of Bolton to find out the secret history of the town’s pubs recorded in the Worktown Archive.

And on the same day there will be a “Gander” a photo book workshop led by Robert Parkinson of ‘Preston is my Paris’ where people can make their own photo book about Bolton.

It will include a short tour of Bolton to collect photographs to create the book. All materials will be provided including cameras.

The Worktown Observation Centre is taking place in collaboration with Bolton Museum and the Centre for Worktown Studies at The University of Bolton.

It is supported by the Market Place Shopping Centre, and is part of an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project. To book the Worktown Pub Tour, starting at 7pm, or the Gander Photo Book Workshop starting at 2pm, email worktown

The attractions are for over 18s. For more information visit worktownobservation.

Comments (2)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

10:58am Mon 4 Aug 14

exboard says...

Been and seen it. Not very impressive!
Been and seen it. Not very impressive! exboard
  • Score: -3

4:56pm Fri 8 Aug 14

boltonladd says...

exboard wrote:
Been and seen it. Not very impressive!
Very enjoyable. bolton needs more of this type of thing. thanks
[quote][p][bold]exboard[/bold] wrote: Been and seen it. Not very impressive![/p][/quote]Very enjoyable. bolton needs more of this type of thing. thanks boltonladd
  • Score: 1

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree