Whenever I see Stockport’s famous Viaduct towering above our town, I never cease to be was struck by its imposing and majestic structure.
At the time of its construction it was the largest viaduct in the world and represented a major feat of Victorian engineering. It was a key pioneering feature of the railway age carrying trains, people and prosperity between Manchester and Birmingham.
The artist LS Lowry loved the Viaduct and used images of it in many of his famous panoramic industrial paintings.
This week the first major exhibition of Lowry paintings, to be held by a public institution in London since the artist’s death, will be held at Tate Britain.
It will include images of Stockport and the picture being used to publicise the exhibition – Industrial Landscape (painted in 1955) – features Stockport Viaduct.
The exhibition is being much talked about because, after years of being neglected by London’s art elite, it aims to re-assess Lowry’s contribution to art history and to argue for his achievement as Britain’s pre-eminent painter of the industrial city.
I would compare Lowry’s recognition and renewal in the London art world, after all these years, to the current “renaissance” taking place in Stockport and the fact that the same areas that inspired Lowry are the ones that are still inspiring us today and that we think are central to the town’s future.
Lowry painted some great pictures near the Underbanks and the market place and a very famous one of Crowther Street, off Hillgate, which he completed in 1930 and entitled: “A Street in Stockport”.
These are the very areas that are at the heart of the Portas pilot and Stockport’s exciting new regeneration. Attracting new independent businesses into the Underbanks and filling them and the market place with cultural and artistic events is top priority.
The comeback of Lowry reminds me that Stockport is making a comeback. We have many enduring and unique buildings; architectural and heritage sites, which we should be rightly be proud of and which can help propel us into a new era of growth.
Lowry recognised their power and Mary Portas recognised it too. The things that inspire us can be often be timeless.