The Manchester Academy of Fine Arts from 1859 to 2003

by Sheila Dewsbury

The book, published by MAFA, is a treasure trove of information from the Academy archives. It provides a comprehensive survey of art and artists in the north of England from 1859 to the beginning of the 21st century.

‘Entertaining and informative’, David Lee, The Jackdaw Magazine.

To mark the 150th Anniversary of the Academy in 2009 copies were donated to over forty libraries across Greater Manchester and are available for public reference.

The book is on sale at the Portico Library, 57 Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3HY.

Price £8.95

Also available by order from

(add £1.54 postage)

All cheques payable to MAFA

Manchester Academy Of Fine Art 2017 Spring Exhibition.

This years MAFA exhibition will be held at the Stockport Art Gallery

From Saturday 25th February until Tuesday 11th April 2017

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News From MAFA Member John Sprakes – Winner of the MAFA Travel Bursary 2015

 MAFA Member John SprakesMAFA Member John Sprakes.

” Hadrians Wall stretches approx. 35 miles from Wallsend in Newcastle to Bowness on the west. It snakes its way over some of the most dramatic landscape in England. It is the result of geological volcanic land movement causing substantial windsill. The views from each side of the Roman wall offer some exceptional visual vistas.This are has been a constant source of inspiration and the Bursary has enabled me to continue working in this area. I have been visually fascinated by the colours, textures, structures and rythms and the constantly changing moods and atmospheres.
This ancient landscape has inspired many of my recent paintings which are composed by looking down into the valley escarpments and ravines. It’s almost like viewing the scene from the air.
The movement of the shapes as they recede towards the horizon, folding upwards towards the sky, feature compositionally in many of my drawings, studies and paintings.
I have already exhibited some of the completed work in a one-man show at the Patchings Arts Centre, Nottingham. I was able to promote the work of MAFA both during the show and at two workshops/studio demonstrations.
During my stay in Northumberland I have used a converted Signal Box and Railway Carriage as a work base.
I intend to make two more visits to the location in September and March/ April next year.
This will allow me to watch the changing seasons.
The whole area is full of light and movement, the changing scale and the intense texture of the area are emotionally moving and inspiring and I hope my paintings will offer to the spectator a personal view of this remarkable landscape.
The ‘Artist Magazine’ are intending to feature a substantial article in the February edition  relating to the work produced in Northumberland.
In January 2016, some of the paintings will also be exhibited in Doncaster City Art Gallery from January to March and I will inform Members as to the date and time of the Private View. Anyone wishing to attend will be most welcome.
I will continue to keep the Academy informed as to my future progres”

“My second trip to the landscape around Hadrian’s Wall has enabled me to revisit areas and discover visually familiar elements seen during the season of autumn.
The landscape had changed, the colours, textures, patterns, light and atmosphere had deepened in mood, particularly the effect of the passages of light caused by the movement of clouds across the hills and valleys, changing the surface of the landscape.
It was a challenge trying to capture and record through drawing this visual experience.
I hope that I can translate these experiences on to canvas.
I plan to return in the spring to continue my investigation.”

MAFA President Gerry Halpin MBE talks about the MMU Graduate Awards

 Gerry Halpin MGE with Verity Howard Gerry Halpin MBE with Verity Howard

Visiting MMU on behalf of MAFA last week and viewing a superb and richly varied range of final year student Art exhibitions, was an exceptionally rewarding opportunity to begin my duties as your new President.
The work, in all areas of study was of an exceptionally high standard and congratulations must deservedly go to the teaching staff and to the enthusiasm of the students involved. It was very difficult to choose winners of this years MAFA Student Awards but with able assistance from Malcolm Taylor, our new Vice President and Dean Bland our Web Site and Friends Co-ordinator, the challenge was enjoyable and absorbing. My thanks also go to MAFA Members and MMU lecturers, Tony Ratcliffe and John Hewitt for their planning and smooth organisation of this event.
After much discussion we made a final selection and the Awards were presented to all but two of the students, the one being in America whilst the other was receiving further award in London.

Painting, drawing, soft sculpture, print making and ceramics were representative of the range of art work selected and the students themselves ranged from young people to more mature students. Each was one so very enthusiastic about their art and also very impressed by their success in being selected by MAFA for their outstanding work. It was a delight to meet them individually and to hear of their ambitions for their future, each one being thrilled to have the opportunity of taking part in our exhibitions over the next three years.
Undoubtedly, this is one of MAFAs major involvements. Students and new members are key to enriching our future exhibitions and in maintaining the perception of our importance as a vibrant, forward looking and effective Art Academy in Manchester.
As the 24th President of MAFA, I am looking forward to enjoying the support of all our members through social interaction events, a wider range of exhibition opportunities and, however possible, in attempting to re-establish the once major event in our and Manchesters cultural calendar, the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts Annual Open Exhibition.
It is a great privilege to have been elected your President and for the next two years at least I hope, with the unfailing support of both Council and Trustees, in whom I have the greatest confidence, that MAFA will continue to flourish and be respected as a prestigious membership of very fine artists.

With Kindest regards to all.

Gerry Halpin MBE

Discover more about the MMU Degree Show at

Discover more at degree courses at MMU at

Vicky Olivera MAFA MMU Graduate Award Winner 2015

 Vicky Olivera Vicky Olivera

I am a Textile artist and the overarching topic of my work is how life experiences and thoughts leave visible and invisible marks that influence our wellbeing.
The roots and origins of things and people have always interested me. My work is informed to a great extent by personal experiences, from where I reflect to propose new pieces. For example, the experience of moving from my homeland to another country was a turning point in my life, as well as my childhood memories; they all make me reflect about the past and the present. They contribute towards this reflection, generating ideas and influencing my current and future work directly and indirectly. I search for ways of making connections between those experiences and memories, translating the invisible marks that affect human wellbeing into tactile marks on the pieces I make. With each piece I intend to provoke a sense of identification and reflection by those experiencing it.
My aim is to develop my career by creating one-off pieces and site-specific installations. I am also interested in using my skills and learn new ones while working with communities.
Today I feel honoured and delighted by this distinction and would like to take the opportunity to thank M.A.F.A. for this award.
To find more about Vicky please visit her website here.

Verity Howard MAFA MMU Graduate Award Winner 2015

 Verity Howard Verity Howard

My practice explores using surface decoration techniques, such as monoprinting, and constructing form through slab building. I aim to create forms which are contemplative rather than functional.
I am fascinated by glimpses of everyday lives and activities. I am interested in capturing snapshots that convey a sense of stillness, absence of presence and being the outsider looking in. I aim to translate this interest through ceramic forms which convey the volume and depth of darkness in contrast to slithers of light emanating from window apertures.
I was very pleased to have been presented with the Ian Thompson 3D Design Award. I am very grateful for the prize money which has enabled me to secure a studio space in Hereford at Artsite3. This studio will allow me to continue developing my work and practice whilst allowing me to produce some new work for future exhibitions. My next exhibition will be at the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair in October. I am also very excited at being given the opportunity of exhibiting with MAFA in the future since it will be an excellent future showcase for my work. To find out more about Verity please visit her website here.

Patrick Jones MAFA MMU Graduate Award Winner 2015

 Patrick Jones Patrick Jones

My practice at present uses charcoal on paper and mono-printing. Sometimes I have installed the works so that time becomes an extra element in the works as the viewer’s eyes scan the picture surfaces from one focus to another. Being a musician as well as an artist I have seen some of my work as possible graphic scores that might be ‘read’ by a musician.

My drawing begins with direct observation or photography in my own local or domestic environment, and then I use a personal language of gestural marks often with my hand directly on the paper or inked surface.

I also have an interest in painting and film-making.

The MAFA award is very affirming for me at this later period of my life and very importantly as my present course comes to an end it gives me entry into a community of artists at a time when it is much needed.

Comments From Award giver Glenys Latham upon the MAFA Graduate Awards

Included in 2015 MMU Graduate Awards are four additional awards which are personal donations. Three from MAFA’s Trustees who are eager to give encouragement to new graduates and stimulate interest in the Academy from emerging new talent, and MAFAs President Award. Each award has been specifically focused by the donor toward an area of their interest. The Ian Thompson Award for Three-dimensional Art and Design is not necessarily awarded for sculpture, Ian being a sculptor himself, but for work that explores the language of three dimensions in any discipline, design or fine art. He hopes that it echoes some of the encouragement he was given, as a student, by an award made to him by The Royal Manchester Institution, to which MAFA was originally affiliated. For many years, John A. White (Canon Emeritus of Windsor) gave a Small Print Award to the MAFA Open Exhibition and wanted to reinstate this concept as an MMU Graduate Award. His interest is for the students work to show some evidence of concern to exploit the limitations and opportunities of the book plate size and format and some observable craft skill in the medium chosen, some design skill, and some creative imagination. Glenys Latham chose to donate two awards for Endeavour one to a Foundation Course student and one to a student graduating from a degree course in any art or design discipline. Experience as a lecturer in art and design and her personal story give her to believe that an individuals potential can be unlocked by endeavour in art and design. She shares with Ian the hopes that her awards give the encouragement such an award, at Bolton Secondary Art School, gave to her. The Presidents Award is a new catergory awarded for the first time this year. The award is for a Painter whose work shows an intuitive response to their subject, excitingly exploring the potential of their chosen medium, resulting in paintings which have personality.

MAFA MMU Graduate Awards 

 MAFA MMU Student Awards Winners MAFA MMU Student Award Winners

Tony Ratcliffe and John Hewitt agreed to instigate a mechanism for MAFA to make awards to final year students in Manchester school of Art.

The intention of this was to promote new, young artists as potential members.
This involved looking at all the final year exhibitions in both design and fine art disciplines. It was emphasized that some of the design disciplines encouraged a fine art approach to making and drawing, especially Illustration , 3 dimensional design and textiles in Practice and photography.
We considered both the work and the potential for the student to engage in MAFA exhibition opportunities.
Having shortlisted 25 student shows, a representation from MAFA was invited to visit prior to the opening evening and select winners.
The president was invited to the VIP event on the opening evening and was introduced to the Dean of Faculty and various VIP guests.

The awards were labeled with ‘MAFA Fine Art Award’ labels and all recipients were photographed with MAFA President Gerry Halpin MBE as they received the awards.

What was very evident was the MAFA judging members surprise at the quality and organization of the undergraduate shows and the delight and appreciation of the winning students on receiving the prizes.

Tour of Anthony Ratcliffe Exhibition

Anthony Ratcliffe, MAFA Member and lecturer at MMU
Anthony Ratcliffe, MAFA Member and lecturer at MMU

MAFA Member Anthony Ratcliffe gave a tour of his exhibition ‘Shoreline and Watershed’ at the ‘MMU Special Collections Gallery’ to members of MAFA nd the Friends Society. The tour included an introduction to the ‘Artist Book Archive Library’ by MMU’s Education Officer, Louise Clennell. Anthony Ratcliffe has exhibited widely in the UK and his prints can be found in many public and private collections in this country and abroad including The British Council and Houses of Parliament. He has made commissioned prints for Manchester Airport, Manchester Royal Infirmary and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. His woodcut prints are formed from two blocks, the first laying down a series of colours printed using the reduction method , overprinted by a second block unifying the image with fluid linear drawing. We would like to thank Tony and the MMU for making us feel so welcome. Visit Anthony’s Ratcliffes Website

MAFA President Gerry Halpin MBE launches his Presidency

MAFA President Gerry Halpin MBE
MAFA President Gerry Halpin MBE

The recently elected President of MAFA, Gerry Halpin MBE, hosted a very successful ‘T’ Party for Members, Friends and Trustees as a new initiative whose purpose was to encourage informal conversation and as a means of getting to know one another, especially those of us who rarely have an opportunity of meeting together.
It was held at the very splendid ARTZU GALLERY in Manchester and was attended by 42 people all of whom had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, mingling, chatting and nibbling the tempting range of mini delicacies on offer.
The Director of the Gallery, Nick Betney spoke about his experience of managing a successful private Art Gallery in the city, talking about his artists, clients and the ways of winning commissions, whilst Jo Bennett, an art dealer, spoke about the more itinerant life of selling art through art fairs around the country. Each was very concise, informative and very supportive of the aims of MAFA.
It was decided, at a subsequent Council Meeting that informal events of this type should be repeated with the hope that even more Members , Friends and Trustees might be encouraged to join in and enjoy the opportunity of ‘conversation’ from which beneficial ideas for the future of MAFA might arise.
The President thanked everyone for their attendance and support and for those who helped with the organisation of an interesting Saturday afternoon interlude.

Research and Education

MAFA Research & education
Research & education

Derek Boak teaches Art at Rainford College.

He has been a member of Manchester Academy of Fine Arts since 2004. In 2007 he started a series of collaborative research projects between his school and Members of Manchester Academy.

Derek has this to say about the research:
“The research section of our website is aimed at students and will show studios, working methods of artists and further examples of their work. The work of students who have attended workshops with the artists will also be shown and members of the academy have answered a questionnaire drawn up by students who attended an exhibition of one of our members work. The section will be a work in progress and it is hoped it will help students inform their future practice.”
Derek Boak 2011


MAFA Research and Education - Campbell Research
MAFA Research and Education – Campbell Research

These collaborations were recorded and have been made available as an online educational resource . This resource is not only of great value to students of art but also gives testament to the artistic lives of the Academy Members involved . These collaborations are on going . If you like to visit Derek’s Research Site please click on this link:

Visit MAFA Research Site

150th Anniversary News & Events

In 2009 and 2010 M.A.F.A. celebrated its 150th Anniversary. In this section of our website you can see an archive of the celebratory events that marked this historic time.

Website news

As part of our celebrations in October 2010 we launched our new website. The website now includes many new features including a News Page , links to YouTube and interviews with M.A.F.A. members about their practice. We hope this will be helpful, informative and interesting to anyone who would like to know more about our members and how they produce their work.


Virginia Tandy Opening the 150th Celebrations Virginia Tandy Opening the 150th Celebrations

The year started off with a very successful exhibition at the Portico Gallery, Manchester, which was officially opened by Virginia Tandy, the Director of Manchester City Art Galleries, and President of the Museums Association. Virginia Tandy wished the Academy every success for the future and especially in their 150th year, and she praised the new programme of taking M.A.F.A. exhibitions to a wider audience throughout the North West.

The HeArt of the North

Ashton-Under- Lyne Central Art Gallery

Exhibition ran from the 28th of August 2009 until 31st of October 2009.

Opening times:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 1p.m. to 7.30p.m.
Saturday: 9.30 a.m. to 12.30p.m. 1p.m. to 4p.m.
Sunday, Monday: Closed.

Manchester Cathedral

Preview at Manchester Cathedral

This pinnacle 150th anniversary event was a combined Thanksgiving Service and Exhibition in Manchester Cathedral on Saturday 14th November. The Service was led by Canon Andrew Shanks and the readings, prayers and hymns were chosen and read by Members of the Academy. The Preview of the exhibition, which immediately followed the Service, was well attended by members of the congregation which included Michael Oglesby, Vice Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, who formally opened the exhibition. Also the Lord Mayor of Manchester Councillor Alison Firth; the Mayor of Salford Councillor Roger Lightup and his Mayoress, Mrs Valarie Fleet; the Mayor of Oldham Councillor Jim McArdle and the Oldham Youth Mayor Mohammad Adil and Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council. The exhibition ran until 28th November 2009.

montage of Manchester Academy's 150th celebrations event

Selected images from the Manchester Cathedral event.


History Book Presented in Celebration of 150 Years

Copies of The Story So Far: The Manchester Academy of Fine Arts from 1859 to 2003 written by MAFA archivist Shiela Dewsbury have been presented to libraries and individuals as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations. Each book has a commemorative book plate designed and printed by MAFA member Philip Withersby.

In excess of forty copies of The Story So Far have been presented to both Local Studies and Central libraries in each of the ten Greater Manchester Authorities and are now available for public reference. The book makes full use of the treasure trove of information held in the Academy archives and provides a comprehensive survey of art and artists in the north of England from the Victorian era to the twenty-first century.

Features and Articles

To coincide with the 150th anniversary of Manchester Academy of Fine Arts, articles and images of members’ work have been published in the following magazines and newspapers:

  • Artists and Illustrators
  • The Jackdaw (March/April)
  • Lancashire Magazine (April)
  • The Portico Library Quarterly (April/June)
  • City Life/Manchester Evening News
  • Leisure Painter (August)
  • Art of England (July)
  • The Jackdaw (September/October)

The Big Screen Manchester

Exchange Square on the Triangle

Screening times:
28th March to 10th April 2009
30th May to 12th June
13th June to 26th June


History of Mafa: Publication

The story of art and artists from the Victorian age to the 21st Century.

Price: £8.95 plus £2.48 p&p Cheques made payable to “MAFA”.

If you would like a copy of this book, please send your cheque for £11.43 to :

Manchester Academy of Fine Arts
c/o The Portico Library
Mosley Street

Manchester, M2 3HY

History Book Presented in Celebration of 150 Years

In excess of forty copies of The Story So Far were presented to both Local Studies and Central libraries in each of the ten Greater Manchester Authorities on it’s publication and are now available for public reference. The book makes full use of the treasure trove of information held in the Academy archives and provides a comprehensive survey of art and artists in the north of England from the Victorian era to the twenty-first centurys.  


Manchester Academy Of Fine Arts is the leading art organisation in the North West

The MAFA websites keep Members, Friends and Graduate Members up to date with all the latest news, activities and events of MAFA and MAFA Members.