Band playing vegetables open first open day for Salford culture and arts centre

By Andrew Nowell

A Salford culture and arts centre based in a 200-year-old cotton spinning mill hopes to draw the local community together after successfully staging its first Open Day.

Islington Mill, on James Street, attracted around 100 people to speak to volunteers about the centre’s range of events and enjoy music from a band playing vegetables.

Chakra meditation, tours of the mill’s 49 music studios and leaflets for the venue’s gig were also on offer.

Director Mark Carlin, 33, said: “The day has gone well, and a lot of people came down here for the first time.

“It’s brilliant to have new people here, especially as we’re down a side street, so we have no passing trade.”

He added: “Islington Mill is an alternative space, we don’t deal with big companies.

“It doesn’t often repeat itself, which can make it confusing but also exciting.

“It’s an unusual thing in Salford, or even in Greater Manchester.”

Mark says the mill’s activities attract a diverse audience.

He said: “As we are an events-based venue, the people who come here are into alternative scenes.

“If you are into what is happening, it appeals to a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds, but it’s not totally across the board.”

The afternoon courtyard performance from the Veggie Band drew a large crowd in the sunshine while showing the serious messages at the heart of Islington Mill’s activities.

While the band’s bizarre range of improvised music played on carrot pan pipes, percussion pumpkins and a large metal cooking pot both entertained and mystified onlookers, the performance also spread ideas about environmentalism and vegetarianism.

One of the Mill’s biggest projects is Art Academy, a free art school run by a group of students disillusioned with university art courses.

The academy has links with artists across Europe and its activities include reading groups, regular critiques of student work by outside artists and collaborative projects.

Maurice Carlin, 35, who helps run the Art Academy, said: “It could be seen as a political gesture, going against the mainstream.”

Recent projects include work on 1980s protest T-shirts made with the help of the Working Class Movement Library,  and a Library Theatre exhibition called Craftworks exploring obsolete technical processes such as letter press printing.

Maurice helped found the academy three years ago after becoming dissatisfied with the comparatively rigid boundaries of the alternative music scene.

He said: “Art seemed open with possibilities in a way that music didn’t.”

The venue will mark the Royal Wedding with a series of events called Off With Their Heads, including an attempt to make the world’s longest wedding dress from plastic bags.

The mill is also starting its Sunday Market, involving local people bringing home produce or skills down to the mill.

The first market will be held on April 24.

Organiser Camille Smithwick, 23, said: “We’ve got people who make their own clothes, soaps, jams and vintage traders coming down.

“I want it to be for everyone, for students, people from Salford, old, young, anyone.

“I want the market to offer something for everyone, not just vintage or just craft.”

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