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 getlast 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.
After my recent foray into Manchesterto 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.
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 I’ve been unable to find out who the other artists are.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.