Manchester City Council

Iconic images from Manchester’s rock history go on display at Central Library

A free exhibition celebrating Manchester’s rock music history from the dawn of punk to the present day goes on display at Central Library from Thursday 11 October.

'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out' includes iconic, rarely-exhibited images of legends of the city’s music scene, including Buzzcocks, Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses 

The exhibition, presented by, has been curated by the photographer and founder of Rockarchive Jill Furmanovsky and the music writer Jon Savage.  It takes the punk era of the late 1970s as its starting point, moving on through the Factory Records and Madchester years, through to the rise of Oasis in the mid-1990s. 

Manchester was key to the rise of punk, with the Sex Pistols playing a legendary gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in 1976, before Buzzcocks independently released 'Spiral Scratch' in 1977.  The band’s decision to start its own record label is often credited with inspiring the ‘DIY’ ethos of indie music, which came to prominence in the following years. 

The images were taken by some of the UK's best music photographers, including Jill Furmanovsky, Kevin Cummins, Paul Slattery, Steve Double, Peter Walsh, Pennie Smith and Howard Barlow.

A wall of images is dedicated to newer Manchester artists, including shots of Bugzy Malone, The Courteeners, Elbow, Children of Zeus, Pins, Hurts, Pale Waves and more, with many of these photos taken by young, emerging photographers.

The exhibition also includes an image taken at the One Love Manchester concert, plus another from Noel Gallagher's fundraising performance as the Manchester Arena reopened following the tragic events of May 2017.

Artists featured in the exhibition include: A Certain Ratio, A Guy Called Gerald, Buzzcocks, The Charlatans, Chemical Brothers, The Distractions, The Fall, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, James, Joy Division, Magazine, New Order, Oasis, Slaughter & The Dogs,  The Smiths The Stone Roses and 808 State. 

Jill Furmanovsky, co-curator of the exhibition, said: “When my ‘Oasis:DNA’ exhibition finished showing at Central Library in 2017, the idea of a wider Manchester rock music exhibition seemed a natural follow-up.

“We decided to concentrate on showing gritty images of those bands and musicians whose music is so deeply rooted in Manchester that you can't imagine rock music, or the city itself, being the same without their contribution.  

“So long is the reach of the city’s collective musical talent, we could have created an exhibition twice the size of this one.”

Central Library is also home to the Henry Watson Music Library, which offers a wide range of rock and pop biographies for loan, plus musical instruments and recording software, which can be used for free. 

Executive Member for Schools, Culture and Leisure, Councillor Luthfur Rahman, said: “Following last year’s hugely successful Oasis exhibition, we were keen to work with Rockarchive again to host a free exhibition showcasing Manchester’s rich musical history.

“Central Library’s exhibition space is the perfect location for this remarkable collection of images, which will enthral Manchester music fans.”

The free exhibition opens on Thursday 11 October and will be open until 22 February 2019.

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