Manchester Histories Festival

Sketching stories: An approach to recording places, people and events

Monday 25 April 2016

The Manchester Histories Festival 2016 programme is out and you may well have spotted brochures appearing across the Greater Manchester and if you've leafed through the pages we hope one or two of them may of stood out! Over the past months, we've been delighted to work with reportage illustrator, Liz Ackerley, to help bring our brochure and our other marketing material to life.  Liz has been traveling around Greater Manchester capturing just some of the venues, sites, and people that tell our histories, and most importantly are making our future histories.

Here, Liz has written about the process of creating the sketches for Manchester Histories Festival 2016:

As a keen urban sketcher and reportage illustrator (a visual storyteller), I was thrilled to be contacted by Claire Turner in the summer of 2015 with the idea of getting involved with the Manchester Histories Festival and recording some of the events and activities through drawing.  Urban sketchers go out and draw what they see, on location, in real time, as it happens, and share their drawings on line, so I am really excited about the opportunity to carry out my drawing approach, for the Festival.  Claire had seen my work on Twitter (Link: and Instagram (Link: and had liked what she saw and the rest as they say (and quite appropriately!) is history!!  Having met on several occasions, I have also now attended a couple of the Festival’s planning meetings.  MHF2016 Planning MeetingI did simple quick sketches at those initial meetings.  The first was at the Friends Meeting House and the second in Chethams library. These were necessarily fairly rapid drawings, done in my notebook with a fountain pen and waterproof ink.  Watercolour was added later.

6 Drawings

I have now completed 6 drawings for the Manchester Histories Festival 2016 brochure and online material.   All of these drawings were done on location during March and April 2016.  Watercolour was added later.  

The first is of Manchester Fire Service Museum in Rochdale, a fascinating place with a stunning original fire station building and tower.  Sitting behind is the museum that houses so many different historic items from original fire engines to water pumps and clothing.

Manchester Fire Service Museum

The second one completed is of the wonderful Central Library in Manchester with the majestic Midland Hotel in the background.  What stunning buildings these are and contrast and compliment each other in both structure and material.

The Midland & Central Library

The third is of the world famous Stockport Viaduct, with 27 arches and 33.85 m high.  At the time it was built it was the largest viaduct in the world.  I have drawn it with the Crown pub nestled under one of the arches.  This gives the viaduct a sense of scale and context.

 Stockport Viaduct

The fourth is of Gallery Oldham with its distinctive curved structure and juxtaposition adjacent to older historic buildings. 

Gallery Oldham

The fifth is of one of one of the many interesting displays in the People’s History Museum in Manchester.  You can see how engaged people are with the paintings, room setts and information about the women’s vote and feminism.

Peoples History Museum

Last but certainly not least, I attended a wonderful concert at the Band on The Wall in Manchester to see Akua Naru and her band.  Some wonderful hip hop jazz music to listen to whilst I drew the scene!  As with several of the locations I have drawn, this venue is actively involved in the festival activities.

Band on the Wall

Reportage on the opening event and Celebration Day

In addition to the drawings completed, I will also be attending the opening event on 2nd June and the Celebration Day on 11th June where I will be drawing and recording activities on paper and in sketchbooks as well as blogging about my experiences.   If you see me scribbling away, pop over and say hello!


Finally, I will also be running a series of 4 urban sketching workshops, both before and during the festival sharing my experiences of urban sketching .  I will also be sharing some key tips to get you started and we will be doing some hands on urban sketching during the sessions so you can get a taster of what its all about.  Check out the MHF2016 programme and perhaps sign up for a session.   Like me you may well get hooked!

Please watch this space for further updates from me about sketching and reporting on the Manchester Histories Festival 2016.  Lets get this party started!  

Liz Ackerley

Reportage Illustrator.

We use cookies to help us provide you with a better service, but do not track anything that can be used to personally identify you.

If you prefer us not to set these cookies, please visit our Cookie Settings page or continue browsing our site to accept them.