Preview: Salford Museum and Art Gallery welcomes new Collier Street Baths exhibition

I’m as guilty as the next person at taking our streets of Manchester and Salford for granted.

Focused squarely on not tripping over my own feet (the great tumble of St Annes Square of 2003 – never forget), or striking out straight into the path of a tram, I, alongside many residents, workers and visitors to the area, never think to stop and look around at the many beautiful buildings in our midst, both old and new.

Ready to open our eyes and inspire an appreciation of such, an art exhibition has landed at Salford Museum and Art Gallery, celebrating the beautiful architecture of Collier Street Baths through a collection of paintings by local artist, Ian McKay.

Ian McKay c/o Salford Leisure

Just off Trinity Way in Salford, the Grade II listed building was designed by the city’s own Thomas Worthington, who designed many of the noted structures including The Albert Memorial and Memorial Hall in Albert Square, and the City Police Courts.

The oldest surviving public baths in Great Britain, Collier Street Baths (also termed ‘Greengate Baths’, opened in 1856 by the Manchester and Salford Baths and Laundries Company, but since closing in 1880, has remained derelict ever since.

The good news is that the building is finally to be redeveloped – watch that Salfordian space!

1856 was the beginning of the golden age for public swimming and the baths were used by 50,000 people a year at their peak. Note Oarsman, Mark Addy, who rescued more than 50 people from drowning in the Irwell (yes, that’s who the pub was named after, not the actor), indeed learnt to swim at Collier Street Baths.

Fascinated by the building’s Italianate architectural aesthetic (Worthington having been inspired by a recent trip to Italy), artist, Ian McKay, spent time on location producing a collection of drawings and colour studies of the exterior of the building, which eventually evolved into a series of abstract paintings.

Ian McKay c/o Salford Leisure

Ian says

Collier Street Baths to me is a crucial part of Salford and Manchester’s social history and I felt the building deserved to have its story told visually…the baths played a huge part in the health and wellbeing of people in both cities and gave people a lot of pleasure so i wanted to create this same feeling with an exhibition that is a tribute to this fine building.

Ian also runs Gorton Visual Arts, which teaches new skills to elderly residents, vulnerable adults and residents with learning difficulties, all in a safe studio environment.

The Collier Street Baths exhibition runs until 26 April 2020 at Salford Museum and Art Gallery, is free to visit and open six days a week (excluding bank holidays). A programme of activity will also run to support the exhibition.

For more details, visit the Salford Museum website.

And next time you’re pounding our glorious streets, paved, of course, with Mancunian and Salfordian gold, remember to look around you (check for trams first)…