By Emily Oldfield

Salford and Manchester are ever-changing, constantly evolving and turbulent places. This is something that local artist and photographer Simon Buckley knows all too well.

“The violent change in the two cities' personalities with the industrial revolution causes me to think of them as places that share the atmosphere of battle grounds,” he says. Simon’s photography work has already been profiled here at HAUNT Manchester, both in the form of a photo essay and also featured  in ‘A selection of photographers celebrating Manchester's underground culture’.

Simon has lived between the cities for most of his life, and as the creative force behind Not Quite Light – he has celebrated their under-covered times and spaces through enigmatic photographs for a number of years.

Not Quite Light

The appetite for this artistry was clear, and in 2016 this evolved into the first Not Quite Light weekend; a mini festival upholding alternative creativity, not just in photography, but a range of forms. With Not Quite Light Weekend 2018 also under his belt, now Simon is back with an even more extensive line-up for Not Quite Light Weekend 2019 (28-31 March): with a running theme of the long-weekend’s eclectic creativity being Hauntology.

Just some of the features of a packed 2019 event include a whole Hauntology-inspired evening of performance at The White Hotel, the chance to be part of ‘Sleep Like a Tudor’ at Salford’s historic Ordsall Hall, Heart & Soul (in which Dave Haslam and The Option (Paris) perform their ambient soundscape ‘Breathless’ live for the first time in the UK), the specially-commissioned ‘Beneath These Tarmac Cracks’ and the world premiere of John Ludden's new play "Once Upon A Time”, along with poetry from JB Barrington and music from Jess Kemp.

Not Quite Light

But what about hauntology? Hauntology as an approach seeks to delve into the histories of place and culture, considering how the past informs, inspires and re-occurs. Whether that is thinking about the number of people over time who have occupied a certain building, or how photography preserves a certain version of a location; it is a diverse and fascinating field. It also the focus of a panel discussion in which Simon is included, in a precursor event to Not Quite Light 2019: Following Hauntology: twilight streets and dark horizons.

Presented in association with HAUNT Manchester at Manchester Metropolitan University, the panel will take place on Wednesday 27 March, featuring a number of academics, artists and innovators discussing ideas and themes around the subject at No 70 Oxford Street, Manchester (6-8pm). Ahead of the occasion, we spoke to Simon to find out more…

Hello Simon. You are the creative force behind Not Quite Light and NQL 2019. Why did you decide to partner up with HAUNT to have a precursor event focusing on the discussion of 'Hauntology'?

Simon Buckley

“The inspiration for the Not Quite Light project came from standing in Angel Meadow, and considering what the souls that lay beneath my feet would make of the city we'd created today. I think the lingering energy of a city's past is fascinating. It's perhaps beyond our understanding. However, there is clearly a force which means that being able to say someone is 'Mancunian' or Parisian, or wherever has some meaning that we all feel we can relate to. So, what is that continued spirit travelling across time?

“Hauntology allowed me to pursue these ideas, and share the journey with others. It's a point of consideration and inspiration. We live amongst energies that we don't really understand, and often societies demonise those that think we do. I think it's important to retain an open mind as to how we all interact with the past, present and future.”

You are an artist and photographer, with your images often encountering the darker or more obscured angles of the cityscape. Can you reflect on 'Hauntology' and how you think it links to photography?

“I often think of my photographs as film stills, and in a way, therefore 'life' stills. I like the idea that as we don't really know what's going on, my photographs can reflect that uncertainty. There is, on an immediate level, an obviousness about the content: “There is a wall”, “There are cars” etc. But I am acutely aware that there are layers to any scene before me, and I want the viewer to be able to fill in the blanks with their own imagination. I'm talking to the future in my photographs, as their production consigns them immediately to the past, to an archive of the mind and heart.”

Why do you think Manchester and Salford are particularly ripe areas for exploring Hauntology?

“The violent change in the two cities' personalities with the Industrial Revolution causes me to think of them as places that share the atmosphere of battle grounds. There was so much depravation and misery as Salford and Manchester became ‘great’ that I feel as if both places are ripe with the ghosts of our ancestors. The old architecture now has to fight with changes being brought about by the dynamic city. And this will create a clash of energies. And within this lies the magic for me to feel and capture.”

Not Quite Light

Can you tell us a little bit more about some of your current creative work - and plans for after NQL 2019?

“The Not Quite Light Festival will be on the cultural calendar in Salford for a few years to come, so that's going to take up a bit of time, making that become something for the city to be proud of.

“In terms of my other work, I hope to do more with writing and performing. I recently read new work out alongside musicians, and I really enjoyed that. I'm going to start work on writing some short stories later this year, inspired by the themes of Not Quite Light.

“I’ll be beginning work on the last of the city centre based Not Quite Light projects in the summer too, photographing from Regent Road back round to where I started in New Islington, or Beswick as it used to be called. I'm hoping to make a book happen in 2020. And then there is my radio show and podcasts. So much to explore in the city, and in life. It seems as if there will never be an end to work that can be produced.”

To find out more about Simon, he also has a website.

All images within this article: credit to Simon Buckley/ Not Quite Light

Not Quite Light