Join us for the final Sankey exhibition of our 3-year, National Heritage Lottery-funded project ‘Seeing the North with Sankey’

We are thrilled to announce the launch of our final Sankey exhibition ‘Going Through the Mill’, created as part of a commission which will mark the culmination of the 3-year, National Heritage Lottery-funded project ‘Seeing the North with Sankey’.

These photographs raise all kinds of compelling questions about these women’s lives and history of the site of the former papermill, which itself may dramatically change over the next few years. It has been a real privilege to hear local women’s own stories of their working lives at the papermill – so very much within living memory.

Commissioned artist Nicky Bird


In-line with current government guidance, we recommend wearing a face mask if possible/preferable and we will ensure the space is well ventilated & hand sanitiser is available too.

All exhibition spaces are fully accessible.

*13th + 14th April 2022, please be aware the upstairs of the exhibition will be closed

Going through the Mill is a multi-media exhibition which will explore the history of Barrow’s Paper Mill through photography, film, objects and poetry. The new exhibition will include a unique selection of Barrow Paper Mill photographs from the Sankey Family Photographic Collection with reflective new work created with local groups in collaboration with artist Nicky Bird as part of a participatory Artist commission.  

exhibition open: wednesdays to saturdays
sat 26 Mar - sat 23 apr 2022*
11.00am - 4.00pm Location: cooke's studios, 102 abbey road, barrow-in-furness, la14 5qr

Going through the Mill was initially inspired by the never-before-seen, volunteer-curated photographs of Barrow’s Paper Mills featured in Signal’s earlier exhibition ‘Sankeys: Extraordinary and Everyday’ at the Dock Museum which ran during Oct 2021 to Jan 2022, where Bird was struck by the photographs of women Paper Mill workers captured by the Sankeys in the early 20th century.


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We’re super excited to present ‘Going through the Mill’ and cannot wait to share the incredible portraits of women working in the papermill that the Sankey’s took over a hundred years ago. These exquisite photographs allow us to see the papermill site through their eyes, to connect with people who worked there and to uncover their stories. The exhibition marks a bittersweet moment for Signal - as it bookends what has been a really special and unique project - with so much effort from people locally to bring this collection to life for generations to come.

Bird has been working with Signal Film & Media for over four months to develop relationships with the Sankey Volunteers and a new Women’s History group as well as ex-papermill workers to further explore the Sankey Family Photographic Collection.

Going through the Mill is the 10th exhibition to be curated as part of the Seeing the North with Sankey project, which began with an initial pilot postcard project in October 2018. Local volunteers supported the cataloguing and research of the collection throughout the duration and co-curated the mix of online and in-person exhibitions with the support of Project Manager Julia Parks. 


With thanks to support from: