Festival of Imagination

The next time you’re in a department store, shop, even a supermarket. I’d like you to do something. Just stop a moment and look at it.

I don’t mean look at the clothes, or the shoes, I mean look at the space. How it’s laid out, the lines, the colours, the space. It’s all laid out cleverly to help you buy stuff and encourage you to buy more, but still, look again.


Can you see prettiness here? Can you see beauty? Can you see art in amongst the displays and rails? Or rows of tins? Or do you just see what you’re heading in to shop for?


This is what I did last week during one of the lunchtime sessions with the Festival of Imagination. I took a sketchpad and some pencils and headed over to Selfridges store (specifically Womens’ on 3) to learn to look again.

Meeting our guide, Simone, I joined a small group of ladies (no gents for this session, but that might have been due to us being in the ladies’ department) and we wandered around the department.

Though we started in shoes, some of the group soon spread to different floors and there were soon pads and pencils working furiously looking at different views and angles.

Simone Ridyard's work
Simone Ridyard’s work

I must admit, I did get slightly distracted by shoes. It’s hard not to, really given the choice in the store, but I tried to drag myself away and find a view of my own.

I did get distracted by detail though. A pair of Yves Saint Laurent shoes here, the heel on a pair of Sam Edelman shoes there. Distracted by studs, and beading, zips and stitching.


The results? Very mixed. I’m definitely a very rusty sketcher. But I don’t think that’s the point. The point is, I found art, imagery, interesting things to look at, without just thinking about what I was going to buy. I found I could just be in that space and admire it for what it is.

There are lots of other events going on for the Festival of Imagination which has been created by Maria Balshaw, Director of the Manchester Art Galleries and Whitworth Art Gallery. The festival is to encourage us to look at the world in a more creative and imaginative way.

Definitely not my work...
Also definitely not my work…

Events include a lunchtime Crafternoon Tea session (so very popular in the Whitworth Art Gallery) on 30 January, to a selection of events in the evening such as ‘Danger: Imagination at Work’ with Jeremy Deller, Mary Anne Hobbs & Dave Haslam on 5 February. The lunchtime events are free, and the evening events are a bargain at £10 and include a glass of wine and a tasting plate of San Carlo’s signature dishes.

A full list of what’s going on can be found here: Festival of Imagination Manchester Exchange[1]

If you’ve never stepped outside you’re comfort zone, perhaps it’s time for something a little bit different?

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