St Mary window (1980), Anthony Holloway
After years of driving up to Manchester, I'm resigned to the fact that at some point around Stafford, the sun will disappear, the skies will cloud over, and it will begin to rain. Greyness will descend, and I will view the North West just as I remember it from my teenage years (the summer of 1976 was a wonderful aberration).
I jest (but not entirely). It is greyer where I come from than where I live now, and it's probably what contributed to me being so keen on colour (so there can sometimes be silver-grey linings to the the clouds). This dull, diffuse light is also what makes stained glass work so well in northern European countries. So when you come into a place like Manchester Cathedral on a blustery, cold, drizzly day in February, the impact on the retina of the light coming through thousands of little pieces of coloured and painted and stained glass is spectacular.
Revelation window (1999), Anthony Holloway
I remember going to a talk years ago by the colour-mad Kaffe Fassett during which he said that his favourite colour was grey, and I thought he'd lost it. He explained that the greyness of the UK was what drew him and kept him here (after the brightness of California - I really did doubt him at this point). Then he showed slides of how well grey worked with other colours, how the light here complements and shows off yarn and fabric and needlepoint and mosaics. It's a lesson I've never forgotten and ever since then, I've viewed grey differently. (It even works as a glass colour (above) but mostly because it's next to those rich ambers.)
Creation window (1991), Anthony Holloway
The five west windows created between 1976 and 1995 by Anthony Holloway are some of the most interestingly colourful you could hope to find in a grey climate. They change all the time with the light (the sun does shine sometimes in Manchester) and they are big, bold, brilliant and modern. They also make me wonder why no-one has ever commissioned Kaffe Fassett to design some stained glass, because I am sure he would use greyness as his starting point to create some gorgeous effects.
And finally, this:
The Fire window by Margaret Traherne who was also an influential embroiderer, proof - if needed - that textiles and stained glass have a significant overlap. This window was created for the cathedral's Manchester Regiment chapel which was rebuilt after it was bombed in 1940. The glass was, in turn, destroyed by the IRA bomb in 1996, after which Margaret Traherne supervised its reconstruction. It has a phenomenal effect in a very dark chapel and floods the dark, shiny floor with orange. It's the antithesis of grey, and works precisely because of the Manchester greyness. Kaffe was right.