Incredible images of traders at Stockport Market have sat gathering dust for decades. 47 years on, they are about to go on display in central Manchester.
Having endured several house moves and even storage in Scotland, a selection of shots – which recall the bustling market town during the late 70s – will appear at The Refuge and Kimpton Clocktower Hotel this summer.
They’ll be put up as part of a new time capsule exhibit curated by the British Culture Archive: Life in the UK shot exclusively through the eyes of northern women.
Developed from a mass of old negatives uncovered by photographer Heidi Alexander during the 2020 lockdown, the pictures tell a story of a very different time in Greater Manchester’s history. A time when you could buy meat for 4p a pound and when elder, or cow’s udder, was a popular choice on the butcher’s stall.
Captured in 1977, her Stockport street photography series was shot on just five rolls of Tri-X on a Leica M4 and brings back happy memories for Alexander.
One of her images, according to locals, even depicts a young Mark E Smith.
“I remember the bustle and the noise, especially the street pastors and their singing followers competing with the shouting traders for customers’ attention,” said Alexander, reflecting on her time in shooting in Stockport with the British Culture Archive.
“One or two noticed a young female with a camera, but most were too busy finding that bargain or exchanging the latest gossip. Despite the bleakness, the atmosphere was unmistakably warm and energetic and jolly.
“It was forty-seven years ago, but I wonder where some of those characters are now.”
The new exhibit will also celebrate work from acclaimed photographers Shirley Baker, Tish Murtha and Anne Worthington.
It appears as part of an artist-in-residence program in association with the British Culture Archive, continuing on from last year’s show on Hulme and Manchester’s club scenes.
Alongside Alexander’s Stockport shots, there will also be some iconic social documentary photography on display from Salford-born Shirley Baker – one of the most pre-eminent British photographers during the post-war era.
Best known for her street photography and street portraits in working-class areas of Manchester, Baker’s images give us a glimpse of washing-lined ginnels filled with playing children and the domestic drudgery for poor mothers stuck at home.
Tyneside photographer Patricia Anne “Tish” Murtha also captures the everyday of human life, documenting marginalised communities and working class life in the North East of England: showing everything from rubbish tips to sex workers.
Anne Worthington’s pieces, meanwhile, highlight conditions of housing and the effects of the social and economic changes that begun in the 1980s.
Curated by British Culture Archive, the ‘A Woman’s Work’ exhibition will open at The Refuge and Kimpton Clocktower Hotel from Monday 21 June.
Feature image – Heidi Alexander