Concerning ‘Crazy Mad’ by Magda Archer @ The Cornerhouse

The short journey on foot from UMIST multi-storey car-park to The Cornerhouse with my four kids was as stupidly stressful as watching them skip along a cliff edge in a high wind; bus engines roared and shuddered past, inches to one side, while adults, two and three abreast, barged into us from the opposite direction… and this was before the copy-cat riots kicked off… this was just a normal day.

By comparison with the narrow, noisy Oxford Road pavement, Magda Archer’s exhibition was a haven – not at all ‘Crazy Mad'; the pleasant music and low lighting set a cheerfully soothing mood, and the older kids immediately spotted the simple text on the walls and pictures and began to read it out loud without encouragement…

It was a bit like walking into an Enid Blyton story… engaging and reassuringly cheerful but with unsettling, jarring undercurrents, only some of which the children picked up on:

"Look, that's rude!"

Unexpectedly, I found myself enjoying the exhibition more for having the children with me; usually they have the opposite effect.

The experience began to feel like Christmas morning on an August afternoon:

This feeling was all the more remarkable for being free.

We almost missed the collections of Magda’s objects in the little room to one side of the gallery…

Pez Dispensers

We only spotted these on our way back down from the other galleries higher up the building, where the kids were fascinated by the piano playing on its own, the towel and thread sculptures and the broken lamp sculpture: ‘This one’s very dangerous!’.

I was really impressed by the Cornerhouse staff who were unphased by our noisy progress through the building and didn’t give us the usual disapproving looks. I’m very grateful to Magda Archer and The Cornerhouse for giving us this lovely experience, and to Geraldine for recommending the exhibition in the first place.

Unfortunately ‘Crazy Mad’ by Magda Archer finished on Sunday 7th August, but we’re going back to the Cornerhouse this week to watch a children’s film… Arrietty.

More work by Magda Archer can be found at and more details of events at The Cornerhouse can be found at

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Postscript – Wednesday 10th August – After the riot

We went to see Arrietty today at 2pm, to a showing which was dubbed in English; it’s another beautiful animation by Studio Ghibli, the makers of Ponyo, based on The Borrowers by Mary Norton.

The Cornerhouse was open as usual and there were no obvious signs of trouble in that part of town, apart from boards going up on Sainsburys’ doors over the road.