Exactly a week after my first walk round Blackburn town centre I got the 7.30am train from the nearest station to home and arrived back in Blackburn less than half an hour later, so my Monday walk this week features my continued wanderings to find more of the murals in various parts of the town. First was the Alexandra Gallagher mural at the back of a car park, which I couldn’t get last time as too many cars were in the way, and bingo! – my early start had paid off as this time there wasn’t a car in sight and I was able to get shots of the whole thing. Next was the coffee shop window and again my early start proved to be a winner as the place wasn’t yet open so there were no tables, chairs or people outside to get in the way.
From the coffee shop I had to cover some ground I’d already covered on the previous visit but the next two murals were in roughly the same area and I didn’t want to double back on myself any more than I needed to. Given the title ‘Cottonopolis’ the first one was done by a female duo well known in the street art world and it paid tribute to Lancashire’s cotton mill workers of the past, some of which were young children only six years old.
The second one wasn’t the easiest thing to photograph as it was on one of the staggered side walls of a modern building surrounded by high railings and security gates – I had to put my arm through the railings, point the camera and hope for the best, and just as I was getting my shot a nearby intercom buzzed into life with a disembodied voice asking if it could help me. Presumably I’d been picked up on cctv, in which case the voice would have seen that I was only taking a photo so I ignored it, got a couple of shots and went on my merry way.
Back up the road again and near the car park mural I managed to get a shot of one I missed on my previous visit as there were cars parked in front of it, then it was on to a road junction where I should have been able to find two more murals but it seemed they no longer existed. That wasn’t the case with the next one though – I’d found it on the internet since my first visit, it featured a couple of Hayley Welsh’s whimsical creatures and I just had to find the real thing if it was still there so I was really pleased to see it covering the whole of a gable end wall overlooking another car park.
The next mural was on a wall by a car park behind the Hayley Welsh mural but this particular piece of rough land was seemingly being used as a bit of a site storage area for the nearby roadworks. It was cordoned off with tall barriers and there was so much stuff around that I couldn’t even see the mural properly, however the barrier gate was open and though there was a notice saying ‘Construction site parking only’ I figured out that as I wasn’t parking anything and there was no-one around anyway it would be okay to nip in and get the best shot I could. So that’s what I did, without getting caught, and also got a corner shot from outside the barrier.
From there it was only a short distance to the next one which was done for the Open Walls festival last year. This particular mural was huge, taking up the whole wall and boarded-up windows of an old building although part of it was obscured by trees. Painted by Sheffield artist Phlegm (I’m sure he could have picked a better name than that!) it’s a homage to the town’s cotton workers of years gone by and features a fantasy creature sitting at a loom. A local vote after the event picked it out as being the town’s favourite, but though it’s a brilliant piece of artwork there are others which I personally prefer.
Just down the road from ‘Loom’, and on the side wall of a bar, was a mural by an English-based Malaysian artist. It was done in the style of a fine arts piece depicting a dressmaker at work, but the wall was in a closed-in alley and once again several commercial wheelie bins were in the way so I could only get a partial shot of it.
Having had no breakfast before I left home I was feeling rather peckish by this time so I broke off my mural search and went to look for a café – a proper café where I could get a decent breakfast at a reasonable price, not one of these ‘in’ places of the moment which sell vile looking green smoothies and ‘healthy options’ costing an arm and half a leg – and I eventually found one in one of the pedestrianised shopping streets. A quick look at the menu and I chose a ham omelette, which was made with four eggs and came with a salad, and a mug of milky coffee, and I must say I was quite impressed. The omelette was so filling I only just managed to eat it all and the coffee was really good, so that’s a place to remember if I ever go to Blackburn again.
Heading back to where I needed to resume my mural search I cut down a short narrow alley and came across the rear yard of some business premises protected by a high steel fence and a very colourful gate ; I don’t know if the gate was supposed to be part of the art thing but it was worth a quick shot anyway. Not far from where I hoped to find the next murals on my list I had the surprise of finding one which wasn’t ; it was on a hoarding on the corner of a narrow back alley and was very amateurish in comparison to all the others, also some moron had scribbled over part of it with a few rude words but I managed to get most of it.
Round the corner from the water voles were the next three murals on hoardings, one of which celebrates Lancashire’s farming heritage, and down the street was a large mural high up on a gable end wall. Below the wall, at street level, was an enclosed private bit of land with a wooden shack type of a building and on the front of it were two more murals which I didn’t expect to see as they weren’t on my list – there was no clue to the artist(s) but one of these I recognised as being the face of the well-known 1930s, 40s and early 50s Blackburn contralto singer Kathleen Ferrier.
By this time I needed to find a loo but wasn’t sure where there would be any, however across the far side of the nearby large car park was a Morrisons store and as I needed to get some bread at some point that day I though I may as well kill two birds with one stone, which actually worked in my favour. The store had an off shoot like a very mini shopping mall and high up over the door into the street was a clock – not exactly street art but it amused me enough to take a photo of it as I was on my way out. I’ve since learned that it strikes every quarter of an hour and the monkeys swing down from the tree – if I’d known that beforehand I would have waited another five minutes just to watch it.
Back to the mural search and the next one, which would have been the last on my list, was just across the road from Morrisons. Painted by Mr Christa it ran the full length of a long hoarding at a road junction and was quite difficult to photograph all in one but I managed to get most of it. Back across the car park and I found the final few, a group of five murals all done by the same artist but each on a separate section of wall. These were really lovely and personally I felt they deserved to be in a much more prominent location than in a side street on the high wall of a shopping centre car park.
Satisfied that I’d finally found all the murals on my list – or most of them at least – I headed back to the station and the next train home. There were four murals I hadn’t managed to find but it wasn’t for the want of trying ; I’d been in the right location each time but it seemed that these had become non-existent, probably painted over or otherwise removed, however over the two separate days I’d found and photographed a total of 41 murals and a café window so I was happy with that. And having seen how much different Blackburn town centre is now compared to the last time I went there ten years ago maybe, just maybe, I might return sometime for a general look round.