The Turnpike CIC was a bold, independent not-for-profit arts project with community at its heart, based in Leigh, Greater Manchester.

This web archive, titled Could this be paradise? reflects on our 5 years in Leigh, highlighting the community voices and artists who have worked with us to shape our organisation.

We want to say a huge thank you to our Turnpike family; the team members, volunteers, artists, community members, peer organisations, funders and supporters who have invested their energy, creativity and ingenuity with us over the years.

Chapter Two

Aware of the Turnpike Gallery’s impact on the local community, who’d wander wide-eyed around its shows as school children, and experienced their own breakthroughs there as artists, we were compelled to reignite the ambition in the space through our programme of contemporary exhibitions.

From 2017 to 2021, our exhibitions welcomed contemporary practice unapologetically back to Leigh, inviting artists to bring surprising perspectives and open up new dialogues around local issues, finding exciting ways to connect them up to a global outlook.

We initiated long-term local residencies which uncovered new renderings of place and heritage, such as Mary Griffith’s Wild Honey which drew upon the former colliery at Astley Green. Shows like Mohammed Bourouissa’s Horse Day brought a message of community empowerment and solidarity to Leigh from a different perspective, holding pertinent space for the beauty within hidden and forgotten places.

Some shows arose through a leftfield idea we embraced, such as the exhibition for Buzzcocks legend Pete Shelley, originally intended as a short-term pop-up which we soon amplified explosively into an all-out celebration of the Leigh punk icon’s life and creativity.

Continuously testing the meaning of contemporary art that takes a steer from a place and its people, we encountered endless courage and inspiration that proved it could work in a town like Leigh, and that there’s a defiant appetite for it.


Helen Stalker, Director, on the Turnpike CIC's ethos and exhibitions. Read the transcript