Rise Transcript

Audio Transcript

Rise by Liam Curtin
Duration: 03:30


Riseby Liam Curtin was commissioned for this new building on the site of the former Transport and General Workers headquarters.

Because that had been a very distinctive building and a bit of landmark with a great history, the council were very keen that there were some commemoration of either the T&G or the Trade Union Movement more broadly. I felt that there are many different trade unions. There are many factions within them and I didn’t really want to kind of favour any one of over any other. So I thought let’s go back to a time before trade unions and in fact the Peterloo Massacre and the great poem that Percy Shelley wrote when he heard about the Peterloo Massacre The Masque of Anarchy.

In 1891 thousands of peaceful protestors gathered at Manchester’s St Peters fields, demanding parliamentary reform. The authorities panicked and ordered a cavalry charge into the crowds, resulting in hundreds of casualties.

It starts and it finishes with the words that really are encouraging people to stand up for what’s right.


'Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number -
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Ye are many - they are few.'

I like the ‘rise like lions’ I like the image of the lions coming from their sleep and are shaking their manes and being fearless but the ‘ye are many - they are few’ in a sense is the essence of trade unionism.

Liam’s starting point was literally the words themselves.

I got pictures of the building and I spaced out the words ‘Rise like lions’ and thought ‘right that’s quite nice’. I thought it wasn’t really enough so I liked the idea sometimes of having something you can read at one level and then something close to has a lot of detail in. So it can still be bold but on closer inspection it’s quite detailed. The obvious thing to do really was to go through the various archives. Basically got loads of pictures, pictures of protest.

Started with the painting of the Peterloo Massacre and went onto the Suffragettes and so on all the way down to the kids party at the Miners Strike in ’86 and more recent stuff. Those images were put on the letters, the letters were put up and then I think the Irwell Valley people said ‘Can you do some lighting on it?’ so then I come back with an all sing, dancing, colour, change LED system which was quite new at the time. So in a way it’s a bit odd really that the work has this over layer of an extra colour light thing, that was really an after thought.

I think one of the tragedies of making art is that the moment of having the inspiration (the idea) is quite short. It is really project management, that’s it after that. Whether people actually read it and look at it, I don’t know. Some do, some like it. It’s hard to know, it’s a block of flats after all but for nearly ten years on the streets of Salford we’ve had Percy Shelly’s incitement to stand up for your rights which is good enough I hope.

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