Nathan Coley: A Gathering of Strangers © Alan Williams

When I moved to Manchester last September to continue my studies through an MA in Arts Management, Policy and Practice at the University of Manchester, I was a stranger in a new city. Whilst I embraced this and decided to explore as much of the city as I could, it is also nice to have somewhere where you know you are welcome regularly, where you can explore and engage with different themes through different events. I soon found out about the Thursday Lates programme at the Whitworth Art Gallery. These are a series of eclectic late night openings, aimed at adults, with events planned throughout the spaces. I began to attend whenever I could, sometimes with my new course-mates, but most often, alone. I became a regular, and would confidently stride through the gallery for various events, adding one more stranger to the Whitworth’s gathering of strangers. Because of this, when I found out there was a work placement for an Engagements Assistant for the Thursday Lates available, it seemed like the obvious choice.


In my role as Engagements Assistant, I am working within the learning and engagements team in order to assist in coordinating the events every Thursday night as well as programming future Thursday Late events. The programme for the Thursday Lates consists of larger events programmed by the Engagement Manager, Ed Watts, for the Whitworth. These may also consist of collaborations with artist groups and festivals as well as the Whitworth Young Contemporaries. These are programmed well in advance, so my roles in these events were more to do with marketing through listings and social media and co-ordination on the event night.


As the gallery is open late every Thursday, and it is not possible to plan a large event every week, we decided to reach out to the public to give the opportunity to smaller local communities to host events as part of the Thursday Lates. This was done through a proposal form, which can be accessed via the website: These events are generally programmed through in kind support, in which the gallery gives their support through the use of the space, marketing efforts and staffing on the night in return for the organization of the proposed event. This has the added benefit for both parties to share audiences that they might not have previously reached.


Submitted proposals are collected and discussed by a focus group that consists of staff from across the gallery, including volunteers in order to choose events that are relevant and we feel will complement the values that underpin the Whitworth personality; accessible, confident, intelligent, quirky & fun, as well as our current collections on display. A major part of my role consisted of ensuring the proposal form was circulated to as many community groups as possible, in order for communities to know that the Whitworth wants to collaborate with them, as well as bringing together members of the focus group in order to discuss all proposals. My overall aim to accomplish before finishing my internship is to have this system up and running, so that is it more easily maintained for future focus groups.


I started the scholastic year as a stranger, but I now feel privileged to have been welcomed into the Whitworth and hope that my efforts allow others to engage with the gallery and other community members in the same way- Let’s keep this gathering of strangers growing!