Sculpture on Salford Quays

To celebrate it’s 10th anniversary in 2010, the Lowry commissioned a number of artists to work with local people to create a number of sculptures that are located around Salford Quays. The sculptures are meant to represent aspects of the history of the Quays – at one time the third busiest port in England. The project – Unlocking Salford Quays – was funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund.

Nine Dock by Mor (a team of experienced landscape architects, public artists and spatial designers) celebrates the history of what was, at one time, the largest and most important of the Docks in Salford

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It opened in 1905 and was home to the passenger and shipping company, Manchester Liners. At over half a mile in length 9 Dock was big enough to hold 10 large container ships, enabling the Port to remain internationally competitive.

The dock is quite different now – with the Lowry on one side and the concrete and glass structures of Media City on the other.

My favourite work was Casuals by Broadbent.

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The work comprises large scale representations of dock workers union cards, which were needed for them to qualify for work on the docks. However, they were casual labourers and had to turn up to the docks in the morning while the employers selected which particular individuals they would employ that day. The rest returned home disappointed, without a wage. Unfortunately, we’re effectively seeing a return to such awful practices with the growth of the so called “zero-hours contract”.

A number of former dockers and their families gave interviews for this project and some of them are featured on the individual “cards”.

This is Erie’s Rest by Ingrid Hu

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The sculpture, which is decorated with ceramics showing drawings of dockers at work, is meant the ebb and flow of the Canal. The artist was inspired by stories of an ancestor who claimed to have walked on both the Canal floor during its construction, and the Canal surface when it froze to ice.

Where the Wild Things Were by Unusual, was created with the involvement of children from Primrose Hill Primary School, Langworthy Road Primary School and Seedley Primary School.

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It takes the form of giant blades of elephant grass which are meant to suggest places beyond the Canal, where ships sailed to and from. Each steel base is engraved with drawings by local children, who imagined the landscape and wildlife of far-off lands.

Factory Girls by David Appleyard celebrates the women workers of Metropolitan Vickers, once the largest factory in Western Europe.

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The forms are inspired by products made at the electrical engineering firm in Trafford Park. Each enamelled figure is named after a former employee.

Just down from the Casuals sculpture, there was a large collection of objects representing the type of good, materials and equipment that would have been found on the quaysides during the hey day of the docks. They’re very realistic and look as if they had been left behind when the docks were finally closed.

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They’re not part of the Unlocking the Quays project and I couldn’t find any information on the artist. However they’re a pertinent reminder of the decline of a once important, major industry in Salford and how the area has changed.

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