What to see
You’ll find accounts of Scunthorpe’s tourist attractions in Towns of Two Halves (and of 91 other places: order the book now for £8 from email@example.com). For additional information plus shopping, eating out etc there’s Visit North Lincolnshire. Links to local points of interest include:
20-21 Visual Arts Centre
North Lincolnshire Museum
Pink Pig Farm
Most town squares are flat. It’s an obvious advantage if you want to put on an event – a market or a festival, for example. Scunthorpe’s Church Square, the largest open expanse in the town centre with the possible exception of the West St carpark, undulates irregularly.
That isn’t the result of subsidence. The paving is not distorted. The square’s shallow wavelets must be deliberate features. And yet Googling ‘scunthorpe church square undulations’ yields only five results, none of which includes the word ‘undulations’. You would almost begin to wonder if you’d imagined it. I asked a member of staff in the 20-21 Visual Arts Centre (at the eastern edge of the square) about it; she replied that she knew of no explanation, but added that in icy weather people take very great care crossing it.
In almost every other respect the 20-21 Centre might reinforce your susceptibility to wild imaginings. You’ll find magnificently unusual things there. In the summer of 2019 the main exhibitions were:
* Mythomania, Ian Kirkpatrick’s vivid sculptures in which the subjects come from mythology, the formats are traditional but the materials and treatments are dazzlingly modern
* Human Machines, a collection of ‘kinetic’ sculptures by Johnny White and Amanda Wray. Their ingenious models come to life when you press a button. Apparently they represent a number of physical and mental processes but aside from that they’re great fun.
The venue is unusual too. The entrance takes you into the shop and café. From there, through the short Linear Gallery and Link Gallery, you move into the main body of the kirk, formerly St John’s Church. The nave is perfectly proportioned and lit for its new secular purpose.
Back through the town, past the touching Scunthorpe Steelworkers sculpture and in the direction of the railway station, you’ll come to the North Lincolnshire Museum. This is as well-presented a local museum as you could hope to find. The emphasis from the first display cases is on the local region, and most of the items assembled are either from or relevant to north Lincolnshire. Steel is prominent, and the changing role of women in various contexts. There’s a certain amount of taxidermy, as is to be expected, but also some startlingly good recreations of life in different eras. It’s not an enormous museum but it uses the space cleverly.
One of the temporary exhibitions when I was there covered a tradition known as Plough Jags. Jags is thought to be a corruption of Jacks, groups of farm labourers who dragged a plough around the countryside in early January – the off-season for farm labourers. They performed folk songs and plays that some date back to Viking times. After an interval of perhaps 40 years the practice was revived in Lincolnshire in the 1970s, but any funds raised are now given to charity rather than to brewers of ale, as formerly.