On the trail of Manchester’s street art

After my visit to Manchester’s Cat Café last week I was wandering idly round a few nearby streets when I came across something which gave me a great idea for a Monday walk – a huge mural painted on a gable end wall. I’d heard, or maybe read somewhere, that there was quite a lot of street art in various places around the Northern Quarter so back at home I did some Googling, made a list and printed out a street map, and went back to Manchester the following day to track down as many examples as I could.
My walk started from Piccadilly Station where I got off the train, and I found my first art example as soon as I emerged from the building. Not exactly ‘street art’ it was a sculpture by Johanna Domke-Guyot, commissioned by the charity Blind Veterans UK, formerly known as St. Dunstan’s, and unveiled in October 2018 to remember the returning blind veterans of the First World War. Thinking back to the impressive war memorial I saw at St. Anne’s a while ago it was a sculpture that somehow was impossible to ignore.
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‘Victory over Blindness’ by Johanna Domke-Guyot
Walking from the station towards Piccadilly Gardens a quick glance to my left unexpectedly found my first piece of street art on a gable end wall down a narrow side street. It wasn’t on my list but it was a good start and with the aid of my printed out street map of the area I roamed around for almost three hours along main roads, side streets and back alleys, gradually working my way round and down in the general direction of Victoria Station. Some of the things on my list proved impossible to find, maybe because they’d been painted over, and in a couple of cases major new construction work was covering up the murals, but I also had the bonus of finding some things which weren’t on my list.
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Waldorf pub – Gore Street
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‘Serenity’ – Little Lever Street
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Window shutter – Newton Street
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Tarriff  Street
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Even the bins get decorated
I had to trespass on a building site to get the next shot as the mural is set back between two buildings with the one on the left undergoing a lot of work. The front of it and half the street were cordoned off with tall barriers and I couldn’t get a proper shot from across the road, however there was a convenient gap in the barrier just in the right place so looking round to make sure that no-one was watching I stepped through, got my shot, then got the hell out of there before any of the workmen saw me. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the full height of the mural – just above the cross is a crown shape in gold – but I got the best part of it. Titled ‘King of Nowt’ it’s supposed to highlight male suicide in the younger age groups but to be honest I can’t really see the significance.
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‘King of Nowt’ – Port Street
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Port Street (car park)
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Bluetit – Newton Street
As I’ve never watched Game of Thrones – it’s definitely not my cup of tea at all – I had no idea who the next face belonged to until I Googled it when I got back home. David Bowie’s face had adorned this wall previously, which is what I’d been looking for, but it had been painted over and replaced with this ; I did like the happy dogs on the wall of the old public toilet block though, it’s a mural to make any dog lover smile.
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Arya Stark (Game of Thrones) – Stevenson Square
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Stevenson Square
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Stevenson Square
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Stevenson Square
The next mural was painted by a UK artist for the Cities of Hope street art project in 2016 ; featuring a child of Papua New Guinea it’s dedicated to those people fighting for independence in New Guinea. The following mural doesn’t seem to have a title but it’s supposed to represent someone with mental health issues trying to overcome the difficulties faced while attempting to make some positive life changes.
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‘Tribal’ – Spear Street
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Swan building, Cable Street
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‘City in a Bottle’ – Swan building
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Cross Keys Street
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Cross Keys Street
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Cross Keys Street
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Substation wall, Tib Street
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‘War Child’ – Brightwell Walk
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Rip ‘n’ Dip skate clothing store, Tib Street
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Tile mosaics, Tib Street – I can’t think why the one on the left should feature a Warburton’s Toastie loaf!
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Tile mosaics, Tib Street
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Section of painted hoarding, Church Street
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My Thai restaurant, Tib Street
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Olivier Morosini hair salon, Tib Street
The next picture wasn’t actually a mural, it was one section of a multi-section advertising hoarding round a vacant corner plot but I took a photo of it just because I like pugs.
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Section of advertising hoarding, Thomas Street
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Café-bar, Tib Street
The next mural must surely be the most significant of all the ones I found. Commissioned by the Manchester Evening News it was painted by graffiti artist Russell Meeham, otherwise known as Qubek, and is a true Mancunian tribute to those affected by the 2017 terror attack at the Manchester Arena, with each bee representing one of the 22 people killed in that attack. Unlike many street artists who use stencils for their work Qubek painted this freehand using dozens of cans of spray paint and taking two days to create it.
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‘Manchester Bees’ – Oldham Street
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‘Earth, fire, wind, water’ – Church Street
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‘Tyger Tyger’ – Thomas Street
And finally, the last one isn’t really street art, it’s a pavement sign outside a coffee bar, but it amused me enough to take a photo of it – and I think I could quite probably put myself in the last category!
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Ezra & Gil coffee bar sign, Hilton Street
All these murals and signs were found within a few streets of each other in a relatively small area of the city ; I did find a couple of others but I didn’t like them enough to photograph them or want to put them on here. I have no doubt that there are probably many more tucked away down various side streets and alleyways I didn’t go down, and I know that some of the ones I found will eventually be painted over and replaced so who knows? – I don’t ‘do’ cities but I may very well be tempted to go back there another time to see what other street art I can find.


 

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10 thoughts on “On the trail of Manchester’s street art

  1. Thanks Jules, though it’s not so much my photos that are great it’s the street art itself. There’s some brilliant stuff in quite a reasonably small area and probably much more that I didn’t find – I believe some get changed every three months or so though the ‘earth, fire, wind, water’ one is absolutely huge and has become something of a landmark so will probably stay around for a while.

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  2. I like the bluetit too but my favourite is the tiger one – the photo doesn’t really do it justice, it’s quite spectacular ‘in the flesh’, just a shame I couldn’t get it without the cars in the shot.

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  3. Great photos. You are right in saying that although some of the murals – e.g. the blue tit ( my favourite) – have been there some time, others remain for just a few weeks or months. I wrote a post on the same theme about a year ago ( though not as expansive as yours) and some of the works you have featured weren’t around then. I walk around the NQ about three times a year and there’s always something new to see.

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  4. Glad you like the photos ; I’ll have a look through your blog to see if I can find your post, no doubt you saw quite a few different ones to these. To say I don’t ‘do’ cities I actually enjoyed my few hours there but then I was there for a purpose – I can’t imagine just going for a mooch, that would be my idea of a nightmare.

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  5. I think every city and large town centre should have some murals dotted about, they certainly brighten things up. Apparently you can do a walking tour in Manchester with a guide, it costs £10, but I don’t see the point when a bit of internet searching will give enough information to find things yourself.

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