Northern Soul


Sparks Brothers

Film Review: The Sparks Brothers

July 21, 2021 No Comments

We seem to be living at the tail end of a golden age for the music documentary.

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1940s wedding dress for Grosvenor Museum's Curated Closet exhibition (taken at Stretton Mill), Credit: Kat Hannon Photography'.

Image Gallery: vintage fashion inspires exhibitions at Grosvenor Museum and Lion Salt Works Museum

July 21, 2021 No Comments

In recent years, second-hand and vintage clothing has enjoyed a resurgence of interest.

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A scene from The Global Playground by Theatre-Rites @Great Northern Warehouse. Part of Manchester International Festival 2021. Directed by Sue Buckmaster. Guy Hoare, Lighting Designer, Ingrid Hu, Designer and Gregory Maqoma, Choreographer (Opening 2-07-2021) ©Tristram Kenton 06-21 (3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550 Mob 07973 617 355)email:

Review: The Global Playground, Theatre-Rites, Manchester International Festival, Great Northern

July 17, 2021 No Comments

If Manchester International Festival (MIF) has any raison d’être, this has to be it.

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Emily Williamson, Aurum publishers

Looking for Emily Williamson, RSPB founder

July 14, 2021 Comments Off on Looking for Emily Williamson, RSPB founder

Who was Emily Williamson?

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No Haircut by Grant Wilson

Review: Stand Close and Breathe Me In, Oceans Apart, OA Studios, Salford

July 14, 2021 No Comments

Located on a temporarily blockaded King Street West in Salford, just a mere stride across the river near Blackfriars, the building that houses Ocean’s Apart is both gallery and artists’ studios.

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Baltic, Sutapa Biswas, Rob Harris. 

Review: Lumen, Sutapa Biswas, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead

July 12, 2021 No Comments

We are beginning to emerge from our 15-month hibernation. For many of us, our priority is being able to access the arts in a physical way, close-up and in-person, as opposed to a screen  

BALTIC, the iconic former flour mill situated on the south bank of the River Tyne, is one of the most important centres for contemporary art globally and its latest exhibition, LUMEN, chimes perfectly with current societal shifts.

LUMEN is a major new solo exhibition, which spans the extensive career of Bengal-born artist Sutapa Biswas. Biswas’s work first received acclaim in 1985 when she exhibited as part of The Thin Black Line at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts. The artist has an encyclopaedic interest in the relationships between colonial histories and gender, race and class and her work explores both personal and historical narratives. Eager to claim the label of a disrupter and challenger to established Western art history, she acknowledges this was a challenge while studying Fine Art and Art History at the University of Leeds, because she describes herself at 21 as “a really good artist – and cute”. 

Her 1985 work Housewives with Steak-knives, in which she re-imagines a housewife as Kali, the Goddess of Destruction, established Biswas as an influential member of the Black Arts Movement and with tectonic change occurring because of a Thatcher government, civil rights action and apartheid, a new moment for questioning the status-quo through art had arrived.

Baltic, Sutapa Biswas, Rob Harris. Lumen is a carefully curated selection of moving images, photographs and drawings that are connected by themes, which have been at the heart of Biswas’s work for almost 40 years and include motherhood, migration, memory, loss and temporality. Her works invite us to consider time and space in relation to our own histories and relationships, while simultaneously highlighting unsettling truths around Empire and power.

With Remembrance of Things Past (2006), Biswas created a sensitive piece of film that recorded the thoughts of young people from Toronto. The film asks what they imagine the world expects from them, while observing them from a distance, a moment highlighting the often-difficult transition through adolescence.

Baltic, Sutapa Biswas, Rob Harris. Synapse 1 (1987-92) is a series of hand-printed black and white photographs, taken during the artist’s first trip to India since leaving in 1966. Biswas uses her own naked body as a screen for projection. The title references the synaptic structures of the body’s nervous system responsible for transfer of information. The images were taken in locations that Biswas yearned to reconnect with in a bid to explore family history, belonging and desire.

Time Flies is an ongoing project, which began in 2004, and is a beautifully arranged collection of bird drawings – some real, some imagined. The drawings reflect on a passage in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. Biswas examines taxidermy and colonial art where birds were a familiar subject. The work also considers grief and loss and is a direct tribute to her own father, who clearly played a huge part in informing her view of the world and who she describes as being ‘birdlike’.

Baltic, Sutapa Biswas, Rob Harris. Light Rain (2014-21) is a two-screen installation shot in Beppu, Japan. Clouds of steam are captured rising from between buildings, that with the ambient sounds of traffic, provide a contradictory vision. The staggered timings of the neighbouring films accentuates the passing of time, together with providing a sharpened awareness of ongoing volcanic activity in the region.

Birdsong (2004) is another dramatic two-screen installation, capturing a moment that was inspired by the artist’s son’s first words. Incredibly precious images also reference George Stubbs Shooting at Goodwood from 1759, which includes a black servant in yellow and scarlet livery, seemingly staring beyond the immediate activity, perhaps into an imagined future.

Baltic, Sutapa Biswas, Rob Harris. Lumen (2021) is Biswas’s most recent work, which deploys monologue to tell (semi-fictional) stories of her mother and grandmother’s lives. Inspired by the family’s journey from Mumbai to Dover, stories of displacement and migration are interwoven with colonial histories from the British Raj. Shot on location in India and Bristol, the film references maritime histories very similar to those associated with the River Tyne.

The final element of the exhibition is Magnesium Bird (2004), which is a beautifully shot film that observes fantastical birds sculpted from magnesium ribbon ignite in the evocative setting of a walled garden at Harewood House, the Yorkshire seat of the Lascelles family. Filmed in a location created directly from the wealth garnered through Caribbean sugar plantations, the work is a meditation on the fleeting nature of our existence.

By Colin Petch

Image credit: Rob Harris. 


Lumen is showing at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead until 20 March, 2022. Tickets, which are free, can be booked at

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The Hound- of the Baskervilles, Pamela Raith Photography

Theatre Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles, Bolton Octagon

July 7, 2021 Comments Off on Theatre Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles, Bolton Octagon

This is extremely silly.

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Henry Normal

How I learned to love London: Henry Normal writes for Northern Soul

June 30, 2021 Comments Off on How I learned to love London: Henry Normal writes for Northern Soul

While writing The Royle Family up in Manchester with Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash, some days, just for a joke, Caroline would announce “it’s raining in London” and we would all cheer.

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Choose Joy by Linnet Panashe Rubaya

Review: Inviolable – Joy as a form of resistance by Linnet Panashe Rubaya, Saul Hay Gallery, Manchester

June 24, 2021 Comments Off on Review: Inviolable – Joy as a form of resistance by Linnet Panashe Rubaya, Saul Hay Gallery, Manchester

It’s rare for me to visit a gallery and immediately think ‘oh, these are good’. More often, it’s ‘hmm’ or even ‘what?’.

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Use Hearing Protection

Review: Use Hearing Protection – The Early Years of Factory Records, Science & Industry Museum, Manchester

June 22, 2021 Comments Off on Review: Use Hearing Protection – The Early Years of Factory Records, Science & Industry Museum, Manchester

Back at the start of last year, Northern Soul spoke to curator Jan Hicks about the then-forthcoming Science and Industry Museum exhibition about Factory – that’s to say, Tony Wilson and co’s now-legendary northern music empire.

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