New Shirley Baker exhibition set for take off

11th Oct 2017

A new exhibition has launched at Manchester Central Library showcasing how Manchester Airport used to look 30 years ago.

Shirley Baker, the famous Manchester photographer, spent a day at the airport in 1987 capturing the experiences of passengers using the airport and a collection of 60 photographs will go on display in the library from October 5.

The exhibition includes photos chosen by the public and Manchester Airport staff. As well as capturing various areas of the airport, Baker’s photographs also show how people passed the time before a flight by playing cards and board games – a far cry from smart phones, tablets and kindles! The style of passengers is also brought into focus with big hair and plenty of shell suits on show.

The airport’s famous chandeliers that used to hang in Terminal 1 also make an appearance, along with people smoking indoors and purchasing Cinzano in duty free.
It marks three decades since the photos were taken and visitors will also get to see what the next 30 years at Manchester Airport will look like.

The exhibition comes as the airport is embarking on its £1bn investment programme that will transform the passenger experience. As part of the exhibition a number of old photos have been blended with CGIs of how the new terminal building will look in its place. Visitors will also be able to find out more about the developments that will see Terminal 2 more than double in size.

Born in Salford, Baker was famed for her street photography of working class inner-city areas. The photos of Manchester Airport were discovered in the library archives. They explore work created in the summer of 1987 after Shirley Baker was approached by the Documentary Photography Archive (DPA) who were seeking to commission photographers to grow their collection of contemporary work.

All the images are held by Archives+ at Central Library and the full commission can be viewed at

Tricia Williams, Chief Operating Officer for Manchester Airport, said: “When we were contacted by the library about the photos we knew it was an opportune time to exhibit them to the public. The photos really showcase the airport and our passengers in the 1980s and how much the airport has changed over the last 30 years. As work continues on our transformation programme, the exhibition also gives the public the chance to see what’s to come for the airport.”

Executive Member for Schools, Culture and Leisure, Councillor Luthfur Rahman, said: “This engaging exhibition features just one of the countless fantastic collections of images held at Central Library’s Archives+ Centre.

“As you’d expect from photos taken during this period, there are giant mobile phones and plenty of classic eighties fashion statements to enjoy. And if you were jetting off from Manchester Airport in the summer of 1987, you might even spot yourself or a family member in the frame.”

The exhibition will run from Thursday 5 October at Manchester Central Library. Opening times: Mon-Thurs 9am-8pm; Fri & Sat 9am-5pm. Free of charge.