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Museum of Science and Industry

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From 29 September to 1 October, we welcome performance artist Nikhil Chopra to the museum.

Vulcan 3157
Vulcan Locomotive No. 3157 on display in the Power Hall

Chopra will create Blackening: 3157—a one-off, 48-hour performance based around one of the museum's most iconic steam locomotives, taking influence from that engine's own story and the role that railways played in the Partition of India, 70 years ago.

Well known for these long-duration improvised performance pieces, Chopra's work will include changing, costumed personas; a live soundscape from DJ Masta Justy; and a large scale, charcoal drawing that will take shape throughout the weekend. The performance marks Chopra's return to Manchester after his piece Coal on Cotton at The Whitworth in 2013 (pictured below).

Nikhil Chopra at the Whitworth
Nikhil Chopra, Coal on Cotton, 2013. Photo: Stephen Isles

Locomotive No. 3157 was built in 1911 at the Vulcan Foundry in Merseyside. Many locomotives built in the North West of England were exported around the British Empire. The Vulcan served on both the North-Western Railway of India before Partition in 1947, and on Pakistan Railways after.

Engines like this one would have moved some of the 15 million people that were displaced at that time. For Nikhil Chopra, whose own family were affected by that chapter in history, No. 3157 represents the glory of British ingenuity and the legacy of British rule in South Asia, but also the darker side of the fight for independence culminating in Partition. 

Here he is talking about this object, its history and his work:

Throughout the weekend, there will be a family-friendly drawing activity where you can try working with charcoal yourself, and there will be the chance to explore items from our archive on the locomotive, its history, and the use of railways during Partition.

The museum's Power Hall will also be open on Friday and Saturday evenings and overnight (over 18s only—book your free ticket from the link in the sidebar). There will be a bar open from 18.00 to 22.00, and on Saturday evening one of our archivists will be showing more of the artefacts from our collections.

Key Collaborators
Costume Design: Loise Braganza
Set Design: Ayesha Punvani
Sound Design: Masta Justy


This performance is part of New North and South, a three-year programme of co-commissions, exhibitions and intellectual exchange across a network of 11 arts organisations from the North of England and South Asia. The network, supported by public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England's Ambition for Excellence programme, will bring prominence to the work of leading Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and UK artists. It will include new artistic commissions, exhibitions and performances in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool and in Colombo, Dhaka, Lahore, Karachi and Kochi.

New North and South partners are: Manchester Art Gallery, the Whitworth, Manchester Museum, Liverpool Biennial, The Tetley in Leeds, Colombo Biennale (Sri Lanka), Dhaka Art Summit (Bangladesh), Karachi and Lahore Biennales (Pakistan), Kochi-Muziris Biennale (India) and the British Council.