Budding photographers could be in line with a chance to have their work permanently displayed in Rochdale Town Hall, as part of a new project ‘Rochdale at work’.

The project will see residents invited to take photos of people at work across the borough to create a snapshot of Rochdale today, the work its people do and the industries which predominate in 2022.

It is inspired by a ceiling inside the town hall, which depicts people at work in the year the building opened (1871). The aim of the new project is to create a contemporary record, to complement this historical one, which is already so beautifully depicted inside the building.

The photography competition is one of a number of public engagement events organised as part of the ongoing restoration of the grade I listed Rochdale Town Hall, which is being funded by the council and Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and delivered by Rochdale Development Agency (RDA).

All photos entered, which meet the guidelines, will feature on the RDA website. But a lucky few, which are selected by a panel of judges, will see their photos grace the town hall itself, as part of a permanent digital display.

The panel will be led by Rochdale-born professional photographer, Paul Webster, who runs the Wolfgang Webster gallery, and has had his photos displayed in the National Portrait Gallery in London. His project ‘Made in the North’ saw him photograph a number of well-known figures from the area including Brian Cox, Alan Bennett, Jeremy Paxman and the late Tony Wilson.

Councillor John Blundell, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “Rochdale Town Hall is not only a spectacular building, but the intricate detailing you see inside, like its stained glass and painted walls, tell us the history of the borough and its people, including the work they did when it was built over 150 years ago.

“We want to complement this rich history by creating a record of Rochdale at work today, so this wonderful space will continue to tell the story of Rochdale and its people and illuminate the present as well as the past.”

The project will chart the huge changes that have transformed the labour market in the last 150 years. In 1871, textiles was the predominant industry in the borough. By 1874, more than half of children over 6 years of age were listed as half timers, with the youngsters spending half of their day at school, while the other half was spent at work. In total, 4,253 children in Rochdale were listed as half timers in 1874.

Caroline Storr, engagement manager for the town hall restoration project, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for people to not only create a photographic record which will stand the test of time, but to have their photos displayed in one of the most loved buildings in the north of England, through a permanent digital gallery and temporary physical display.

“This will stand as a contemporary record of Rochdale at work today, so we welcome anything from jobs we would typically expect to see, to more unusual, lesser seen roles, particularly those which we may think no longer exist in 2022. We would love to see a mix of different people and roles, particularly those in jobs that may surprise. People don’t need to have any photographic experience and we’d encourage anyone who fancies giving it a go to be part of it.”

The competition is part of a wider programme of town hall related activities for residents in the coming months, which will also include free photography masterclasses with Paul Webster, conservation volunteering placements and opportunities to research the town hall’s history.

People have until 30 June 2022 to submit their entries
Anyone entering a photo will need to gain the written permission of the subject and their place of work.

People taking part also need to follow all coronavirus (COVID-19) rules in place at the time the picture was taken. A maximum of 10 photos can be submitted per entry and black and white or colour photos are all welcome.


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