Art Manchester

Exhibitions at the Whitworth

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Identity, belonging, nostalgia – The Reno at the Whitworth (exhibiting 15 March 2019 – 1 March 2020) is an eclectic collection of stories that re-imagine the life and soul of the Moss-Side nightclub years later. Through the interactive space holding photographs, video interviews, objects and memoirs from the award winning playwright and excavator Linda Brogan, and those who attended The Reno, the Mancunion mixed-race experience is illustrated. ‘Colonising the Whitworth’ and reclaiming this narrative are a seemingly mundane assortment of combs, makeup, a dented coke-can and glass bottles. Yet this display of ordinary and everyday objects forms a network of memories.

The exhibition speaks to the complex and alienated reality of the mixed race community in the aftermath of the controversial 1930 Fletcher Report which stigmatised mixed-heritage children. A recording of one ‘Reno Regular’ Alfonso Buller, emphasises the seminal role of the nightclub in contributing to a sense of inclusion and acceptance through networking and existing besides fellow mixed-race individuals, in addition to a chance for escapism from their tough childhoods. Describing his understanding of The Reno and his frequent visits there from the age of twelve, Buller highlights that he was not a so-called “wild-child”, but “a child among the moon and the stars.”

With a year long residency, The Reno exhibition requires multiple visits as its contents build throughout this period. Further information and full interviews can be found on the site:


Exhibiting 14 June – 10 November 2019, Beyond Faith is a collection of artwork addressing topics surrounding ‘identity, culture, otherness and belonging’. A way of altering common negative perceptions of Muslim women and bringing a more complex understanding of their experiences and creativity,  the diverse work of Robina Akhter Ullah, Shabana Baig, Fatimah Fagihassan, Aida Foroutan and Usarae Gul is displayed.

Arguably the greatest takeaway from this exhibition is the power of art. Not simply just as a tool to develop accurate and multi-faceted beliefs of under-represented individuals, but also for personal development. Most clearly seen in the work and interests of Shabana Baig, the role of arts in wellbeing is explicitly conveyed through the use of her art with clients as a means of therapy. Aida Foroutan also makes links between art and wellbeing; for her, creating art as a child in Tehran was a coping method often utilised during air-raids to combat fear (The National, 2019).

Beyond Faith exhibits at The Whitworth Art Gallery until 10 November 2019. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, it is part of a wider research project led by Dr Saskia Warren, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Manchester titled: ‘Geographies of Muslim Women in the UK Cultural and Creative Industries’.

The above exhibition discussion is part of a wider collection of content surrounding the final of the ‘Six Ways to Wellbeing’: Learn and Discover, which highlights the positive impact learning can have on personal development including confidence and social interactions. This week, the focus is on The Whitworth Art Gallery as a cultural institution and a place for wellbeing.