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Backlit is a two storey independent art gallery located in the heart of Nottingham, UK. It provides affordable studio spaces for contemporary artists; supporting early career graduates, emerging artists and international touring practitioners.

Backlit provides a dynamic public programme of national and international artists including original artist commissions, workshops, screenings and live debates. It has a strong working relationship with regional and national organisations and universities. It is committed to supporting community engaged projects and provides unique critical sessions for artists working in the city.

Open Thursday to Sunday 12-5pm during exhibitions.

Our Team

Rosemary MacLennan
Studio Manager
John Harris
Assistant Curator
Bo Olawoye
Development Director
Rhiannon Jones
Marketing Manager
Matthew Chesney


The House Of The Flying Wheel


June the 7th 2014 –  7th of September 2014
Curated by Matthew Chesney and John Harris




Director Matthew Chesney began a research enquiry into The House of The Flying Wheel:former manufacturing centre for Morley’s textile empire based in Nottingham. Now home to Backlit, Matthew has unearthed the astonishing historical value of the building and in 2008 began to collate an archive. The 19th Century name given to the building was due to Morley’s innovative approach to technology. House of The Flying Wheel became inspiration for this exhibition supported by Arts Council England and Nottingham City Council.

I&R Morley was founded in Nottingham towards the end of the eighteenth century by two brothers, John and Richard Morley who were from Sneiton. The firm later expanded to have warehouses in Both Nottingham and London. In london John Morley became leader of the nonconformist society and his three sons took an active part in affairs in the firm one of these being Samuel Morley who raised credit of the brand I.R. Morley.

The exhibition is based predominately on Samuel Morley and his radical approach to social activism. He was a fair and generous man who was a renowned  philanthropist and supporter of arts and culture who gave financial support to Nottingham School of Design ( now Nottingham Trent University) and the University of Nottingham (University College), Nottingham Castle, The Old Vic Theatre and in his memorial to the Morley College in London in 1889. Morley was also a notable abolitionist who wrote the foreword to the autobiography of freed US slave, Josiah Henson (which was later immortalised in Uncle Toms Cabin), political radical (Liberal), and statesman, model employer supporting fair wages and Member of Parliament and finally, Mayor of Nottingham.

Since the mid 20th century living memory of Morley has diminished and unfortunately his legacy has subsequently become forgotten. Backlit has begun collecting original Morley artifacts, to provide a historical  framework for contemporary art works. House of The Flying Wheel is a new portrait of Samuel Morley through contemporary artist and in the long term, Backlit wishes to drive his legacy forward in Nottingham. Samuel Morley deserves to be remembered and revered in order to ispire new generations of people as it opens debates that are just as applicable in today climate as in the 19th century. It is our quest as a small organisation to not only connect and understand the buildings we occupy and the locations we populate but re-establish successful models for social activism, encourage development in creative industries and philanthropic support in the 21st Century.

Artists included in the exhibition

Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA), Julian Wild, Darren Banks, Mark Davey and Tracey McMaster.

5th September 7pm – 8pm Import X port, performance by Traci Kelly

Import X port, is a live tattooing taking place in the workroom of the Morley factory. The tattooist’s gun will once more fill the space with the sound of machinery as it pierces the skin as a textile. Gradually a letter ‘X’ will appear, initially as an outline of intersecting lines, developing into an inky presence that will mark the artist’s body as ‘other’.

Samuel Morley was an ardent abolitionist and a respected member of parliament. The letter X will be symbolic of the mark historically made by enslaved people as a stand-in signature for an alien and unfathomable language marking the end of freedom. In the 20th century Malcolm X rejected the insertion of a European surname into his personal history. Unable to return to his African name, obliterated by white masters and no longer remembered or recorded through relocated generations, X became the mark of his non-compliance and insistence on self-determination for fellow ‘othered’ citizens.

X is the marker of citizenship, inextricably liked to notions of nationhood, conveying the right to vote. Histories of Morley’s work to abolish slavery parallel the radical protesting of the suffragettes to gain equal citizenship for women via the right to register a political voice through the ballot box. The forced labour of slavery and the forced feeding of the hunger-striking suffragettes expose the power drive of wealth and consumption. Histories of trade, occupation and resistance intersect in the marking of  X.

The performance takes place on the 112th anniversary of Morley’s death


Workshops & Courses

Workshops & Courses



Young People

Young People

Backlit Learning Vision

Backlit is an artist-led venue, offering an inspiring learning and engagement programme that creates an open dialogue between artists, communities and the wider public.

We are committed to delivering high quality contemporary exhibitions, events and activities to the widest possible audience

We actively consult with local residents, community centers and not-for profit organisations when developing creative outreach projects.

We are the only artist- led studio based in one of the most economically deprived areas in Nottingham creating workshops and activities that directly respond to the needs of local audiences.

We develop innovative participatory projects with community groups creatively collaborating with a range of partners, national and international artist.

We are working towards creating a learning and engagement programme, led by our studio artist’s providing them with an opportunity to share their skills and encourage public participation with their practice.

We support critical debate for local artists, students and new and existing audiences.

If you would like to find out more please contact   Bo Olawoye, Development Director/Learning Curator on 0115 837 2426 or email info@backlit.org.uk


«Rotations» solo show by Zimoun
Museums at Night, Mat Collishaw
Alignment curated by Leila Al-Yousuf
Taste of Stone, Frank Kent
Ensemble curated by Dave Charlesworth and Ben Judd
The Art of Conversation facilitated by Rhiannon Jones
Sisyphus Happy, Robert Luzar and Rachel Maclean
Hyper real
Paul Heijnen, Folding walls
Disclosure, Mark Titchner
Grotesque, Jonathan Baldock


We have 21 studio spaces and house 25 artists, spaces range in size and start from £60 per month

Unfortunatly we have no available studios but we do hold a waiting list for more information on studios please contact rosemary at rosemary@backlit.org.uk

Full Studio Membership

With full membership you get:

24 hour access

Internet, heating and electricity all inclusive

Regular critical sessions

Profile on the website

Access to any member only opportunities generated by the group including exhibitions and events

Priority over non-members to workshops, talks and other critical sessions

A diverse and exciting studio community

Associate Studio Membership

This member is designed for an artist that doesn’t need a physical space

An associate membership includes:

Regular critical sessions

Profile on the website

Access to any member only opportunities generated by the group including exhibitions and events

Priority over non-members to workshops, talks and other critical sessions

Associate membership is £7 pcm


Don't hesitate to contact us at Backlit or phone us on 01158372426


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Supported by Arts Council England, Backlit is not for profit limited by guarantee, Company No: 8329205