A Tale Whose Time Has Come:
Dark Days, Luminous Nights

Simon Buckley, Smedley Road, 9.04pm-web

“We are all part of these bricks and mortar, and it is our story to tell.” As a new immersive audio-visual experience prepares to open in Salford, Mike Pinnington takes a look at the project’s beginnings: a series of painterly photographs by artist Simon Buckley…

A security light blinks and pops into life. At the same time, you hear a shriek. Foxes, you assure yourself. Just foxes; fighting, or mating, or whatever. At least that’s what you hope. But what if that howl was something else, something more sinister? Looking around, the rattle of cans that follows it does nothing to steady your nerves. Nor the adrenaline pumping through your veins. It’s 4am and the world, you’d think, is still asleep. Things look, sound, even smell and feel very different in this not quite light of twilight. It is a time of fear, wonder, and the uncanny, a time in which anything can happen.

Simon Buckley, Smedley Road, 6.51am-web

Artist Simon Buckley is a master at capturing such qualities, his painterly photographs of Manchester’s hinterlands, evoke this blurry period – and the feelings we associate with it – to eerie, yet beautiful effect. Waters are still even as shadows loom, fog hangs in the air, almost meeting the low moon. A single light appears somewhere in a tower block; shortly afterwards a kettle is being filled for the first cuppa of the day, even as golden slumbers are rubbed from tired eyes.

The series of photographs, began five years ago, is called Not Quite Light. They were an attempt, says Buckley to become reacquainted “with the city I’ve known and lived in for most of my life, at a time of huge transition both for myself and for Manchester.” The photographs have since acted as inspiration and departure point for a new ‘immersive audio-visual experience’, Dark Days, Luminous Nights (see trailer, above), opening this week at Salford’s The White Hotel, and for which Buckley has made a new film work.

Simon Buckley, Catherine Bridge, 6.26pm-web

Drawing on themes of regeneration, displacement, ghosts and isolation, the project is the result of a partnership with Manchester Collective, purveyors of innovative and intense experiences inspired by music. Rakhi Singh, the collective’s co-founder and Music Director, explains that “Dark Days, Luminous Nights is the story of what we’ve all been going through, not as individuals but as a collective experience.” In Buckley, they found a kindred spirit, someone who, Singh continues, “has a similar connection with cities that we have with music – looking for spaces that are passed by, in the darkness and ignored.”

Simon Buckley, River Irk, 4.20pm-web

Developed during and then curtailed by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, the time for Dark Days, Luminous Nights’ tale to be told has finally come. Fittingly, Singh says, the project is “about our journey as individuals – as musicians, producers, directors, photographers… We are all part of these bricks and mortar, and it is our story to tell.” With the belated arrival of this new work blending music, dance, photography, and film, we can perhaps all begin to find hope in the old saying that it’s darkest before the dawn, even as we contemplate different lives in these most uncertain times.

Mike Pinnington

All images courtesy Simon Buckley. See more of Simon’s work

Dark Days, Luminous Nights premieres tomorrow, and is booking now

Further Reading: Manchester Collective Playlist

Posted on 02/06/2021 by thedoublenegative