Blooms Hotel, James Joyce and James Earley

Returning to Ireland for today’s post and the 100-bedroom Blooms Hotel, which I came across while on one of my recent wanderings round Temple Bar in Dublin. Established in 1979 and located on the corner of Anglesea Street and Cope Street the building is certainly very striking, and presumably whoever it was who established the place must have been a fan of author James Joyce although I didn’t realise the significance at the time I was there.
Back in 1922 James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ was published, since then being considered to be one of the most important books of the 20th century. The story follows the journey of the two main characters, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus, as they criss-cross Dublin from south to north on June 16th 1904, where they meet other characters along the way and consume copious amounts of Guinness on what would be referred to these days as a marathon pub crawl.
Every year on June 16th many James Joyce enthusiasts, some dressed in Edwardian costume, re-enact this epic pub crawl, and though it’s referred to as a ‘literary event’ it’s basically an excuse for lots of drinking broken up by a bit of walking and the reading of various excerpts from the book. The event is known as Bloomsday and the first mention of such a thing was found in a letter from James Joyce to a Miss Weaver, dated June 27th 1924 and referring to ”a group of people who observe what they call ‘Bloom’s Day’ – June 16th”. The book itself must have made a big impression on someone back in the 1970s as the hotel was named after one of the story’s main characters.
Fast forward to the present day and we find James Earley, a Dublin artist whose works are based on his family’s artistic past within Irish stained glass art. James has been producing artworks in public spaces since 1997, playing an active role in the Irish graffiti movement, and from 2010 has developed abstract figurative works based on the principles and beauty of stained glass. He has travelled widely with his art throughout Europe, Asia and America and has worked on a variety of large-scale projects with various art-based organisations and multi-nationals which support the arts.
In 2014 James was commissioned to paint the exterior of Blooms Hotel ; the project took a full year to complete and to date is the largest public artwork in Ireland. When I first saw it I was quite surprised that this street art wasn’t just part of one wall, it was the whole exterior of the building. With my liking for bright colours and abstract, psychedelic designs I just had to take a few photos although the names on the pictures meant nothing to me at the time until I did a bit of later research and found the connection to James Joyce’s Ulysses.
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Looking at the hotel’s exterior it’s not surprising that it took a year to complete the artwork as it’s so detailed, and the pictures of the book’s characters are exceptionally well done. It may not be to everyone’s taste but personally I like it, and the whole building certainly brightens up that area of Temple Bar. I hope it stays like that for quite some time to come – and maybe, sometime in the future, I’ll track down a copy of Ulysses and read the story for myself.

Dublin street art

While on my recent days out in Dublin I came across many different variations of street art, most of them in the Temple Bar area, so join me on my Monday walk this week as I wander the streets, lanes and alleyways on the south side of the River Liffey. Most of the artwork is unfortunately ‘artist unknown’ although the names of some artists are underneath the relevant photos – mouse over or click on the multi-shots for names and/or locations.
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The Tara building, Tara street, Artist – Maser
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Temple Bar Laundry, Aston Quay/Aston Place
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The Icon Factory art gallery/cafe, Aston Place
The Icon Walk is a public art installation showcasing original work by local artists and featuring many Irish icons both past and present ; it’s also a way of brightening up the forgotten lanes and alleyways behind Fleet Street and discouraging senseless graffiti and the discarding of rubbish. Although I wasn’t really interested in photographing the faces of various Irish people, most of whom I’ve never heard of, I did like the multi-coloured murals along one side of Bedford Lane.
At the end of Bedford Lane was an artistic tribute to the famous greyhound from the 19th century, Master McGrath (pronounced Magraa). The smallest of a litter of seven born in 1866 and trained by a well-known Waterford trainer of greyhounds for coursing he performed so badly at his first trial that his trainer ordered for him to be given away. His handler took him on and he went on to win several courses, after which he was given back to his trainer. Master McGrath was the first greyhound to win the Waterloo Cup three times and he became such a celebrity that his owner, the 2nd Baron Lurgan, was asked to take him to meet Queen Victoria and the Royal Family.
Master McGrath’s success was so great that Lord Lurgan was able to build a terrace of houses in Walthamstow, London, with the proceeds from his wins ; the houses still stand, forming part of Shernhall Street, though at one end they are still clearly marked as ‘Master McGrath Terrace’. The dog died of heart disease in early 1873 and an autopsy showed that his heart was twice the size of a normal dog’s heart ; he was buried in the grounds of a house called ‘Solitude’ in Lurgan.
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Bricked-up doorway, Bedford Row
The ESB Central Distributing Station is a large building which wraps around the corner of Fleet Street and Bedford Row. Built in 1926-28 for the Electricity Supply Board it houses an electricity substation and offices ; representative of the design used by the ESB in the early 20th century it’s one of the few buildings of that style in the city and is a significant contributor to the architectural character of the Temple Bar area. The modern artwork extends right along the front of the building but unfortunately I couldn’t get a decent photo of it as there were too many people around to spoil the shots so I had to be content with a side view.
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Side wall of ESB Central Distributing Station, Bedford Row
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Side wall of Auld Dubliner pub, Fleet Street
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Side wall of Japanese noodle bar, Asdill’s Row
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Artist group – Subset
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A pair of very bright shop doors
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Rear of Café Rubis, Crane Lane
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Above the Jam Art Factory, Crown Alley
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Shop front, Fownes Street, artist – KinMx
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Kennedy art shop, Harcourt Street
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Traffic light box, Tara Street
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Building site hoarding, City Quay, artist – Leah Hewson
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Irish Wolfhound, City Quay, artist – James Earley
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Shop front, George’s Quay, artist – Decoy
These are just some examples of Dublin’s street art, there are many more which either I couldn’t find at the time or I didn’t know about until I got home. One which I did find though provided me with so many photos I think it deserves a post of its own which will follow soon. An internet search since I got home has provided me with a map of four different street art walking routes in the city which take in many of the works by named artists, and though I may not have time to do all four walks in one day I fully intend to do at least two of them the next time I’m in Ireland.
I’m linking up this week with Jo’s Monday Walk where she shows us some of the delights of Sao Bras de Alportel in Portugal – do pop over and have a look if you haven’t already done so.

Limerick street art

In my recent wanderings around Limerick, and just after I’d come out of the castle, I spotted a couple of small murals painted on the wall of an empty shop. Photographing street art wasn’t something I’d been thinking about on this particular occasion but these were quite sweet in an amateurish way so I snapped a couple of shots and thought no more about it. However not far from St. Mary’s church I saw another mural, a huge one painted on a gable end wall, so having seen that one I decided to see if I could find some more while on my perambulations around the city.
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A shame someone scrawled a black mark on this one
The first large mural I saw was on the gable end wall of a house not far from St. Mary’s Church, with the second one on the side wall of an empty shop premises opposite the main entrance gates to the cathedral – I hadn’t noticed that one earlier as I’d been walking in the opposite direction. The main road past the cathedral gates took me into the town centre and quite by chance I found a large mural of geometric shapes on a wall down an alley off one of the side streets. Presumably whoever did it must have overloaded the paintbrush as there were paint runs down the wall in several places.
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The next one I found covered the whole length of the side wall of a building off one of the main shopping streets. It wasn’t easy to tell at first but in among all the geometric shapes and pink splodges were actually two faces looking in opposite directions. I found the last mural just after I’d seen the Terry Wogan statue on Harvey’s Quay, it was on the door and shutter of a premises which didn’t seem to have a name.
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Mural by Irish artist Maser and New Zealander Askew One
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And so to the brightly painted cottages I’d seen from the far side of the river earlier in the day. Although from a distance they did look like proper cottages they were anything but – yes, they were cottages but they were derelict ones, last inhabited over 40 years ago and left to the elements since then. Back in 2014, as part of a Limerick regeneration programme, 15 volunteers from the King’s Island area where the cottages are situated stripped, cleaned and painted the cottage fronts over the course of a week. It would certainly have brightened up what had previously been an eyesore but now, five years later and obviously lacking attention, the cottages are looking a bit worse for wear – a shame really as they look quite attractive, especially from a distance.
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So there you have it, just a few examples of Limerick’s street art found by chance on my day out in the city. I’ve no doubt there are probably several more murals dotted about the place so my mission now is to do a bit of research to see if I can find out the locations of any more – and hopefully a future visit to the city will produce some more street art photography.

More of Blackburn’s street art

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.
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Artist – Alexandra Gallagher
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A strange but cute creature
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.
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‘Cottonopolis’ – artists – Nomad Clan
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Artist – Tank Petrol
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The full mural – only half a face
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.
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Artist – Marcus_Method
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Artist – Hayley Welsh – the balloons represent inner thoughts drifting from the mind
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.
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Artist – Cracked Ink
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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.
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‘Loom’ – artist – Phlegm
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.
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Artist – Caryn Koh
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.
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A very colourful gate
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Artist – unknown. The banner in the creature’s paw reads “Water voles are in rapid decline due to the destruction of their habitat by humans”
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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.
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Artist – Mr Tea One
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Artist – Jay Sharples
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A paste-up from photographer Taylor Rianne
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Artist – Case Maclaim
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Artist – unknown
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Artist – unknown
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.
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The Morrisons clock
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.
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Artist – Mr Christa
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Artist for all five murals – Alexandra Gallagher
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Yes, this is meant to be upside down
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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.

In search of Blackburn’s street art

After my recent foray into Manchester to seek out some of the street art in the city’s Northern Quarter I remembered reading a few months ago that Blackburn also has various murals dotted around the town centre so I decided to do a bit of internet research to find out more about them.
Blackburn Open Walls was started in 2016 by Blackburn-born international artist Hayley Welsh as a 3-year project starting that year to bring street art to some of the town’s forgotten walls, and several local, national and international artists have created a collection of large scale murals on a variety of buildings. It took a while to find out where most of these things are and after much studying of Google maps for street names I made a list and set off recently in search of some of them, so join me on my Monday walk this week as I wander round Blackburn town centre looking for art.
Leaving the van at home I went to Blackburn on the train and as I came out of the station I saw my first art piece – not a mural but the sculpture of a young woman holding her child’s arm while he tries to reach for a teddy bear dropped on the ground. A short walk from the left of the station found the first four murals, two of them by Hayley Welsh herself ; Hayley is apparently well known for her cute, whimsical and often sad looking fantasy creatures and I really loved the second one I found. From those first four murals it was just a matter of following the street route I’d written out for myself and ticking things off my list as I found them, although I ended up doing more than one deviation.
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Blackburn Youth Zone building – mural by Lucy McLoughlin
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Artist – Curtis Hylton – stork hidden down an out-of-sight storm drain
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Artist – Hayley Welsh
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Artist – Hayley Welsh
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Artist – Annatomix
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Artist – Add Fuel – This one is so realistic I had to touch the wall to check that it really isn’t layers of torn wallpaper
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Artist – Curtis Hylton
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Artist – Boo_Who_Up_North
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Artist – Goya Torres
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Artist unknown
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Artist unknown
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Artist unknown
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Artist – Cosmo Sarson, mural painted June 2019
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Artist – Dale Grimshaw
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A search for one of Curtis Hylton’s works, the colourful head of a bird surrounded by roses, proved to be a bit frustrating as I couldn’t find it anywhere even after several checks of my list and the street name, but I did find some works by other artists. A later internet search proved that I was in the right location and looking at the right building so the bird must have been painted over and replaced by one of the other works, though so far apart from one I’ve been unable to find out who the other artists are.
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Artist unknown
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Artist unknown
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Artist unknown
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Artist – Trik 09
The next mural was down a narrow back alley, covered the full rear wall of three separate businesses and reached from ground to roof. Unfortunately several commercial-sized bins were lined up alongside the wall making it difficult to get a full photo – so I wheeled three of them out of the way and the following five shots are the best ones I could get.
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Artist – Jerome Davenport
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Jerome Davenport
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Jerome Davenport
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Jerome Davenport
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Jerome Davenport
The next mural covered the full length and height of the single storey extension to a business premises but unfortunately the wall was at the back of a car park, so with cars parked all the way along it was impossible to get a full photo. I waited around for a while and eventually one car moved and I was able to get a shot of the centre part of the mural but I was disappointed not to get the whole thing as it looked really colourful.
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Artist – Alexandra Gallagher
Not far away from there was a coffee shop with rather a cute picture on its window. Okay, it wasn’t exactly street art but it was worth a photo though there was only one problem – people were sitting at tables outside, making it impossible to get a good shot of the window whichever angle I tried to take it from. So I came to a decision – I would split the walk into two parts, give up for the time being and return to Blackburn another day but very early in the morning. Hopefully then I could get a shot of the full mural with no cars in the way and also take a photo of the coffee shop window with no people in the way – so with that decision made, and happy with the shots I’d got so far, I headed back towards the station and the train home.
To be continued next week….

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.