Backstage at The Lowry: Paul Campbell – Galleries Assistant


I had always wanted to work in a gallery. But I used to work at a garden centre.

The garden centre was Prince’s Park in Irlam. I was potting plants and then I moved onto the tills. This was all in the 1990s. I enjoyed selling plants and receiving till training. A small plant pot would cost around £2.99 back then.

Then I was working for a time at Salford Art Gallery, just before I moved here in 2000. And I’ve been doing this job now for all of 14 years, starting when this place opened.

It was a very exciting time, that opening day. I wandered all around, having a good look at the Shop, the Box Office, the brand new galleries, the 20 minute Lowry film.

On my first day here I felt OK, not nervous or scared. There were people already trained and working here who looked after me, who showed me round all the paintings. It didn’t take me long at all to settle in my new job.

“I love it that, at the moment, the gallery is full of children. But I do have to keep telling the kids not to touch the paintings or to leave the Teletubbies alone…”

I do have learning difficulties, but I’m completely capable at my job.

I always know what’s going on with each and every exhibition. And when I tell people the information they’re always listening, always remarking: “Oh, that sounds interesting.” And then I’m happy. And I’m still happy working here, always have been.

As a Galleries Assistant, I talk to customers about the exhibitions, take them round and show them different Lowry works. At the moment I’m also being kept really busy by our BBC Children’s exhibition, Here’s One We Made Earlier.

I love it that, at the moment, the gallery is full of children. But I do have to keep telling the kids not to touch the paintings or to leave the Teletubbies alone. They keep climbing all over them, and on one occasion one was knocked over! It’s an important aspect of my job, and at times it can be really, really hard.

I sometimes do tours and talks, though I find the 12 noon and 1pm groups, which are always large, a bit nerve-wracking.

So I have memorised a script and keep telling myself to pace myself with my talking. And then I’ll begin: “This painting, owned by the PFA, is called Going to the Match, and is of Bolton Wanderers Football Club, which is now based in Horwich Parkway…”

I go out and take photographs in my spare time. I take landscape shots all round Manchester, and at one stage I even put on my own exhibition!

My favourite paintings that have ever been displayed here at still the Lowrys: Coming from the Mill, Going to the Match, St Simon’s Church and his self-portrait, the one with the flat cap that was painted in Berwick-upon-Tweed.

I like LS Lowry; he’s now a famous painter, but his paintings are all just of what he saw when he was out doing his job as a rent collector. He never even had a scrapbook; he created art on envelopes, bits of scrap paper. And he had all his pencils stuffed into his pockets, and then a sandwich stuffed in there too! And he’s a local lad, born in Old Trafford.

I want to keep doing this job for a long time. Well, I’ve already been here 14 years!