AWARD-winning artist Simon Buckley’s new photographic exhibition at the Weavers Factory reveals a hidden world very few of us ever see
“I grew up in Bolton in a house that respected and took part in local traditions because my step-father was a clog dancer. From a young age I always took part in local carnivals, and often watched the Saddleworth Rushcart.
I always remember feeling a degree of comfort in communities being drawn together and sensing shared roots. And as I’ve got older my curiosity as to why traditions endure, when the social and economic circumstances that inspired them have long since gone, has grown and grown.
“The Saddleworth Rushcart seemed an astonishing event to my young mind. Hundreds of men in strange costume would pull a rickety wooden cart up and down hills all day, whilst a drunken man swayed and rocked at the summit of a tower of woven plants.
The primal roar as the journey began in Uppermill caused me such excitement I’ve always felt drawn to come back and explore the area throughout my life.
“When I met Julian and Nigel from The Weavers Factory, it didn’t take long for me to come up with the idea of producing a new body of work which explored tradition, landscape and legacy.
Very quickly we settled on the idea of following the Dobcross Silver band because of its reputation and history. The concept of ‘We Play In Time’ was born.
“At the time I was in the early stages of my Not Quite Light project, for which I photograph the city streets at dawn, looking at themes of heritage, regeneration and transition.
It felt like a natural evolution to extend these ideas and look beyond the city streets and see how a group of people were navigating their way through the passage of time, maintaining an institution that was created in the times of mills, but exists in a digital age where local heavy industry has all but ceased.
“The project began on Whit Friday last year, where I followed the band through the rain soaked villages of Saddleworth, as they played their way from Denshaw to Scouthead via pubs and fields populated by smiling people happy to be part of something that was over a century old.
Being witness to this, learning about the members of the band, was inspiring and very quickly I found a path. I liked that the title I’d thought up had layers to it, and that I could sense connections to the past and future.
“As I worked over the twelve months, I was very aware that I was creating an archive of this specific moment in the band’s history, that I was talking to the future as I archived the concerts, rehearsals and musicians involved. Once I’d achieved that aspect of the work, I then felt it important to anchor the pictures with images of the local villages where the band tradition is still so vital.
And for this I returned to the concept of my Not Quite Light project, going out at dawn to discover a hidden world where the streets are simply the buildings, created by communities over decades, and free of residents who are in so many ways just fleeting visitors to this ancient place.
“It’s brought me a rich experience, and reminded me how important tradition is to we humans. May the band play on.
We Play in Time by Simon Buckley launches on Saturday June 1st with a month of themed events at the Weavers Factory, 13 New Street, Uppermill, OL3 6AU.
Exhibition Launch – 10am, Saturday June 1st
Live Concert – 1pm, Saturday June 1st & 1pm Sunday June 2nd
Whit Friday Open Day – Friday June 14th
The Dobcross Quilt Project – Saturday June 15th
Closing concert at Dobcross Church Fields – Sunday June 30th