Spring has sprung – in Manchester at least

Raqib-Shaw-installation-view-at-Manchester-Art-Gallery-February-2013-by-Creative-Tourist_narrow-472x264Installation view by Creative Tourist, Raqib Shaw at Manchester Art Gallery, courtesy the artist

Guest post from Creative Tourist’s Susie Stubbs

It may have been the most arctic of starts to spring (snowdrifts in April, anyone?) but when it comes to culture, the city has been blooming. The Whitworth kicked things off with its own “spring season”, five exhibitions that opened simultaneously and which are all loosely focused on landscape art. Chief among kings is British artist Richard Long, a man who creates sculptures from sticks, stones and the natural world he encounters while out walking. Close by hangs a series of paintings of The Mountains of Wales by John Piper while, downstairs and in a gallery whose floor-to-ceiling windows open onto a park, are the abstract paintings of Callum Innes. With two more exhibitions on display, and a café serving seasonal dishes, the Whitworth is the place to head for if you fancy an outdoor fix without, you know, actually spending any time in the arctic chill.

Have time to spend in town? Head to Manchester Craft & Design Centre; inside, small craft studios cluster around its central, glass-roofed atrium. We particularly like the studio and shop belonging to &made. Run by a former TV animator (a woman responsible for children’s TV classics such as Chorlton & The Wheelies and Postman Pat), it stocks an array of distinctive crafts, gifts and homewares. Nearby, you’ll find a café that we (and the rest of Manchester) have fallen in love with: TAKK, the Icelandic coffee house that strikes a balance between being the hipster’s hangout of choice and being stylishly cosy.

The spring theme continues at Manchester Art Gallery. As part of its solo exhibition by rising art world star, Raqib Shaw, the gallery has been decked out in flowers and foliage. Plants and blooms cover the front gates, wind up the entrance stairs and follow you through the gallery, a floral nod to the intricate paintings created by Shaw – though be warned: this is art with a definite dark side. The Art Gallery has also been at the heart of Wonder Women, a month-long project inspired by the Suffragettes who, 100 years ago, smashed artworks inside the gallery as part of their campaign for women win the right to vote.

One Wonder Women exhibition can be found at The Lowry, a photography show by Mary McCartney. This daughter of (very) famous parents knows a thing or two about celebrity, but her photographic portraits of stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Beth Ditto and PJ Harvey show that she also knows a thing or two about women.

And if all that art has left you in need of refreshment, may we point you towards a few of our favourite places to eat, drink and be merry? The Castle Hotel in the Northern Quarter is always a reliable bet for draft ales and live music; Spinningfield’s Neighbourhood restaurant is the place to head for if you’re after food in glitzy surrounds; or, if you’ve not yet had your fill of Easter bunnies, don’t miss pop-up shop, Bonbon Chocolate Workshop. Fed, watered and culturally enamoured: the weather might not be all that but at least you’re guaranteed a good spring in our fair city, eh?

Keep on top of culture in Manchester: visit www.creativetourist.com

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