From street art to serious art

Now for a start I have to confess that I’ve never really been an art lover – most well known paintings do nothing for me at all – but 15 years ago I went to the Sistine Chapel as part of a visit to Rome during an Italian holiday. To be honest I wasn’t terribly impressed – it was dark, it was crowded, photography was banned, and I felt distinctly underwhelmed by Michelangelo’s works, in fact I thought the colourful paintings which covered the curved ceiling of the nearby long map gallery were much nicer.
Michelangelo was first and foremost a sculptor and in 1505 was commissioned to design a tomb for Pope Julius ll, but a year later the Pope asked him to decorate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. With no experience at all of working with frescoes he felt his talents as a sculptor would be wasted on painting a ceiling but eventually he agreed to take on the commission and started the work in 1508. Contrary to popular belief he didn’t paint the ceiling lying down; a freestanding scaffold was built to his own specification which enabled him to work while standing upright, though he frequently complained to his friends about the physical discomfort he endured from craning his neck to look up at his work and having paint constantly dripping onto his face.
Although Michelangelo’s original commission had been simply to paint the twelve apostles in the corners of the chapel ceiling he was far from happy at being taken away from his preferred sculpture work so he demanded from the Pope complete artistic control over the work on the ceiling, enabling him to design the series of paintings which went far beyond his initial brief. The finished work was revealed on October 31st 1512 and shown to the public the following day, after which, at the age of only 37, he became recognized as the greatest artist of his time. It was a recognition which lasted the rest of his long life, with his Sistine Chapel ceiling always being counted among the ‘supreme masterpieces of pictorial art’
It was only a week ago that I found out about a recently opened exhibition of the Sistine Chapel paintings at Manchester’s Trafford Centre Event City so last Saturday I got my culture head on and went to see if these digital reproductions of Michelangelo’s work looked any better than the originals. Entry to the exhibition was in half-hourly time slots of limited numbers but even though I’d pre-booked for only the second time slot at 10.30am, hoping it wouldn’t be too busy, there were still enough people there to prevent me from getting an uninterrupted shot of the full exhibition so I’ve had to pinch one from the internet, though all the other photos are my own.
The 34 frescoes, reproduced from licensed high definition photos, are displayed on 16ft panels throughout the exhibition and have been brought to life using a special printing technique which brings out the look and feel of the original paintings, showing every detail, brushstroke, and colour of the artist’s work. The only work not replicated in its true size is The Last Judgement as the original, which completely covers the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel, is a towering 41 feet high.
Photo credit – Manchester Evening News
The Sistine Chapel ceiling
The exhibition starts with The Creation of Adam, the most famous of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling frescoes, with the point of focus being the implied but incomplete contact between God and his greatest creation, mankind. The Creation of Eve is the central painting on the chapel’s arched ceiling and depicts Adam in an absent minded sleep while Eve reaches out to her creator.
The Creation of Adam
The Creation of Eve
The panels along the exhibition’s side walls reflect the layout of the frescoes around the edge of the chapel ceiling, with the biblical prophets alternating with the Ancestors of Christ and the sibyls, although the sibyls themselves are not from the Bible. They originate from classical mythology and even though the women were pagan icons Michelangelo included them because they were said to have foretold the birth of a saviour.
The Prophet Joel
The Ancestors of Christ – Josiah
The Delphic Sibyl
The Ancestors of Christ – Zerubbabel
The Erithraean Sibyl
The Ancestors of Christ – Uzziah
The Prophet Ezekiel
The Ancestors of Christ – Rehoboam
The Persian Sibyl
The title of the next painting refers not to a fish but to a king descending from the House of David, with his name meaning “spark”. As Michelangelo depicted all the Ancestors in everyday scenes the focus of this painting is on the figure of the mother who is cutting fabric with a pair of scissors.
The Ancestors of Christ – Salmon
The Prophet Jeremiah, known as ‘the weeping prophet’
The Ancestors of Christ – Ezechias
The Prophet Zachariah
The Ancestors of Christ – Asa
The Prophet Daniel
The Ancestors of Christ – Jesse
The Libyan Sibyl
The Prophet Jonah
The Cumaean Sibyl
The Prophet Isaiah
Judith and Holofernes
David and Goliath
The central frescoes on the Sistine Chapel ceiling seem to be in reverse order when viewed from the entrance, beginning with the flood and ending in the creation of the world but it’s assumed that they were designed to be viewed from the altar, meaning that they do fall into the correct sequence, although the exhibition’s overhead panels seemed to have been arranged more randomly.
The central overhead panels
The First Day of Creation
God separates water from the heavens
The Original Sin and Banishment from the Garden of Eden
The Drunkenness of Noah
Sacrifice of Noah
The Great Flood
The Last Judgement
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Although, for me personally, the exhibition had a couple of unavoidable niggles – other people sometimes standing right in my line of shot and the position of some of the lighting meaning my camera flash didn’t always work – on the whole I was very impressed with what I saw. It was good to be able to wander round and take as many photos as I wanted, and seeing the artwork close-up and in detail was so much better than seeing the real thing. I may never become a true art lover and I have no wish to ever return to the Sistine Chapel in Rome but I really enjoyed this exhibition and I’m glad I went.
The exhibition is at the Trafford Centre Event City until Sunday March 27th, open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am with the last entry at 6pm, and it’s fully wheelchair accessible. Ticket prices start at £8.80 for children and £9.70 for seniors, students and NHS workers; each image has its own informative sign and optional audio guides are available to enhance the experience.

Afflecks, Manchester – all things weird and wonderful

During one of my many visits to Manchester’s Northern Quarter last year I finally went to have a look round Afflecks indoor market and emporium on the corner of Church Street and Tib Street; it was something I’d been meaning to do for quite a while but somehow never got round to it.
Back in the 1860s Affleck & Brown was started as a drapery business, with the original premises being in Oldham Street. Over the years the business gained a good reputation as a credit draper and was well known for its excellent range of cloth for home dressmaking. Eventually the store grew to occupy the whole block between Oldham Street and Tib Street, finally becoming a fully fledged department store and one of Manchester’s best.
After WW2 the business went into a gradual decline as shopping trends moved away from Oldham Street. In the 1950s Debenhams, who already owned Pauldens, another city centre department store situated near Piccadilly Gardens, took over the Affleck & Brown store but the continued decline of the Oldham Street area eventually led to its closure in 1973. In 1982 the store was re-opened as Affleck’s Palace, with separate units and stalls which could be rented at reasonable rates by entrepreneurs and small businesses on a week-by-week basis, and the atmosphere and colourful maze-like layout led to the building becoming a mecca for alternative culture.
During the 1990s, when local bands such as the Stone Roses and Inspiral Carpets were at the height of their popularity, Affleck’s Palace was the ‘go to’ place to get oversized flared jeans, tie-dyed t-shirts and all the latest underground dance tunes of the time. On March 31st 2008 the market and emporium ceased trading when its 25-year lease came to an end but it re-opened just one day later under new management and simply called Afflecks. With an eclectic mix of 73 small shops, independent stalls, boutiques and a cafe the emporium’s popularity continues to this day and it can attract an average of 24,000 shoppers per week.
It was quite by chance that just a few days ago I learned that this month the emporium celebrates 40 years of trading so I think now is as good a time as any to write this long-overdue post and feature some of the amazing amount of artworks which adorn the walls, doors, and staircases of the building’s four floors.
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George the Lion made his home in Afflecks after the 2016 Art Zoo exhibition of life-size zoo animal sculptures dotted around Sale, the home town of Chester Zoo’s founder George Mottershead. The exhibition not only showcased the work of local artists but also celebrated George Mottershead’s early 20th century achievements in creating a ‘zoo without bars’. Local schoolchildren were invited to contribute to the design of each sculpture and George the Lion was decorated by Dave Draws, a local artist and supporter of Afflecks.
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Up on the top floor was the cafe with its ceiling decorated in the style of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel paintings. I’d been hoping to get a coffee and a snack but unfortunately the cafe was closed, with a barrier formed from plastic chains fastened between strategically placed chairs. It was impossible to photograph the ceiling from outside the barrier but there was no-one else up there just then so I moved a chair to gain access, got my shots then put the chair back afterwards.
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Tucked in a corner on the floor below was a Japanese style anime-themed bar selling various flavoured iced teas and not much else – not my type of thing and no chance of getting a coffee and a snack there but at least I did manage to snatch a couple of photos while the young woman behind the counter wasn’t looking, then my last two shots were of one of the stairwells hung with many colourful decorations and streamers.
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Afflecks is an absolute rabbit warren of shops, stalls, staircases and corridors and I could easily have spent a lot longer in there than I actually did. The amount of artwork in various places throughout the building is incredible, it’s everywhere, and there’s no way I could possibly put everything I photographed in one post. I could quite easily have missed a few things too so as this visit was made last summer it won’t be too long before I’m going back to see what else I can find.

The Knife Angel story

The National Monument Against Violence and Aggression, known as The Knife Angel, is a collaboration between artist Alfie Bradley and the British Ironwork Centre in Shropshire. Created to raise awareness of knife crime it also stands as a memorial to those whose lives have been affected by it.
When the idea of a sculpture made entirely of knives was first discussed the Home Office was contacted for permission to collect knives from police forces across the country in the hope that this co-operation would bring about the introduction of new knife amnesties, with the Ironworks offering to supply each force with knife banks completely free of charge. Permission was granted by the Home Office and the ”Save A Life, Surrender Your Knife” campaign was born.
The Ironworks created a total of 200 knife banks and during nationwide amnesties in 2015/16 over 100,000 knives were both confiscated by, or handed in to, every main constabulary across the UK. The collection of knives included machetes, meat cleavers, swords and ordinary household kitchen knives, with some even arriving at the Shropshire workshop in police evidence tubes and still with traces of blood on their surfaces.
To create the 27ft tall sculpture Alfie Bradley constructed a steel supporting frame and formed the basic angel shape using steel sheeting which the knives could be welded onto. Every knife was disinfected and blunted before being welded onto the sculpture; the wings were created using only the blades which produced a feather-like appearance, while the facial features were a mix of Alfie’s great grandad, grandad, dad and two younger brothers.
During the angel’s creation families who had lost loved ones due to knife crime and violence were invited to send a personal message of love and remembrance which Alfie would engrave onto one of the blades to be fixed on the angel’s wings. Messages were also sent from ex-offenders who had since seen the error of their ways and gone on to support the fight against knife crime and violence in a bid to stop it happening on the UK’s streets.
It took just over two years to create the sculpture and in December 2018 the Knife Angel began its official National Youth Anti-Violence Educational Programme across the UK, beginning its journey outside Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral then moving on to Hull in February 2019. Since then it’s moved on to a different town or city each month – until the end of this month it’s in Blackburn, Lancashire, which is where I saw it just a couple of days ago.
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To say that the photos don’t do this angel justice is an understatement. It’s a brilliantly designed and expertly crafted sculpture which I found very sobering and thought provoking, but regardless of what it stands for it’s a truly beautiful piece of art in its own right and I’m glad I got to see it before it moves on.

Salford Museum and Peel Park

Salford Museum & Art Gallery started life as Lark Hill Mansion, built in 1809 by Colonel James Ackers and situated in extensive grounds. After 40 years as a private house Salford City Council purchased the building to be used as an educational site, planning to turn it into a public museum and library, and in 1849 Mr John Plant was appointed museum curator and librarian. The building opened as the Royal Museum and Public Library in April 1850, the first free public library in England, and after less than five months was attracting an average of 1,240 visitors per day; extensive refreshment rooms were then opened on the basement floor and two adjoining rooms were added to the library, allowing it to accommodate nearly 12,000 books.
In 1851 three of the East rooms in the museum were knocked into one with proposals to turn the space into an art gallery, then in 1852 a large extension was added to the back of the building, creating a reading room on the ground floor and a museum room above. Between 1854 and 1856 the North and South galleries were opened along with a lending library of 2,500 books, and by 1857 visitor numbers had risen to an average of 3,508 per day. On his death in 1874 Edward Langworthy, a local business man, former Mayor of Salford and an early supporter of the museum, left a £10,000 bequest to the museum and library and this was used to build the Langworthy wing which connected the north and south wings; it was finished in 1878 and officially opened in August that year.
Fast forward almost sixty years and by 1936 the fabric of the original building, the former Lark Hill Mansion, was found to be structurally unstable so it was demolished and replaced by a new wing to match the Langworthy wing. It took two years to complete and was opened in 1938, then in 1957 part of the ground floor of the new wing was turned into Lark Hill Place, a reconstructed Victorian street named after the original Lark Hill Mansion. Although the museum originally had a wide remit when it came to collecting artefacts from different parts of the world it now focuses on social history with a Victorian gallery and hundreds of Victorian objects on display in Lark Hill Place.
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The main entrance to the museum took me through a foyer and into a large and bright reception space with a shop area and a pleasant café beyond it, and on the right was the local history library and a magnificent staircase leading up to the galleries above. After looking round Lark Hill Place, which was my main reason for going to the museum, I went to have a look upstairs; unfortunately a couple of the galleries were closed while the various collections and displays were updated but I had a pleasant wander round the Victorian Gallery, and though I’ve never really liked Victorian paintings I did like the sculptures and the various objects on display.

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In an octagonal glass cabinet was the orrery, a mechanical model of the solar system named after the fourth Earl of Orrery, and though the first one was made for him around 1713 the one on display dates from the early 20th century. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any really clear shots of it as there were reflections and things in the background on all sides, also I was careful to obey the instruction of ”please do not lean on the glass”
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A section of the fabulous ceiling

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In another gallery was the Superlative Artistry of Japan exhibition, a range of works including paintings and ceramics and several contemporary pieces representing food samples. In the middle of the floor was a wire mesh waste basket crammed full of empty cans – it seemed a strange place for visitors to discard their rubbish but it was actually part of the exhibition.

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Sashimi Boat food sample in vinyl chloride resin, courtesy of Maiduru Co. Ltd

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By the wall in a partially closed gallery was a glass case exhibiting a huge fish, a tarpon caught in the West Indies. There was no date on it, possibly due to some of the exhibits being moved and updated, but the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company operated between 1839 and 1932 so the fish would have been caught sometime during those 93 years.
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The museum building is situated on the edge of Peel Park which was once the extensive grounds of Lark Hill Mansion, so after coffee and cake in the very pleasant café I went to look round the park itself. Following a 7-year campaign by Sir Robert Peel and Mark Phillips MP for a public park it was agreed that part of the Lark Hill estate should be used, and after winning a design competition in 1845 Joshua Major & Son laid out the park. Paid for by public subscription it was the first of three Manchester and Salford parks to be opened to the public in 1846. In 1851 the park was the main public venue for the royal visit of Queen Victoria to Manchester and Salford, a visit which was attended by 80,000 people; in 1857 a statue of the Queen was erected in the park then in 1861 a statue of the Prince Consort was erected after his death.
The peak of the park’s popularity came in the 1890s; by then there was a lake, a fountain, a bandstand, a bowling green and cricket pitch, a skittle alley, seating areas and pavilions. It was the place to see and be seen but years later, in the aftermath of both world wars, many people moved away from the area and the park was no longer the focal point of a community. In the years between 1954 and 1967 it underwent a major redevelopment and landscaping then in 1981 it became part of The Crescent conservation area. Unfortunately the park fell into disrepair in the last few years of the 20th century but after receiving a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2016 it underwent a second redevelopment and reopened in 2017.

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Some very early blooms in a sunny corner

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The River Irwell and some of its residents

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Unfortunately I didn’t get to explore the park as much as I would have liked; although the sun was still shining the blue sky of earlier had been replaced by clouds which were getting darker by the minute so not wanting to get caught in a downpour I cut my visit short and made my way back to the station a couple of minutes walk away. It proved to be a good move as I was just crossing the road near the station entrance when I was hit by a heavy shower of hailstones. I didn’t mind too much though, I’d had my few hours out and got plenty of photos, and now having recently seen photos of the park in full bloom I’ll certainly be going back later in the year when the leaves are on the trees and the weather’s good.


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.

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.

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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Winter Hat – 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

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 thought 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 – artists, SnikArts

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Window shutter – Newton Street

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Tarriff  Street – Artist, C215

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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 – Artists, Subset

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’10 Birds’ – Faraday Street – Artist, Mateus Bailon

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‘Bluetit’ – Newton Street – Artist, Faunagraphic

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 – Artist, Akse P19

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Stevenson Square

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‘Silence Is Golden’ – Stevenson Square – Artist, Lowdown

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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 same artist also painted a similar work on a gable end in Blackburn. The following mural is 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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‘Two Worlds’ – Spear Street – Artist, Dale Grimshaw

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“Human dignity is inviolable” – Swan building, Cable Street – Artist, Case Maclaim

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‘City in a Bottle’ – Swan building, Cable Street – Artist, Phlegm

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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 – Artist, Hyuro

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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 – Artist, Qubek

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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’22 Bees’ – Oldham Street – Artist, Qubek

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‘Earth, fire, wind, water’ – Church Street – Artists, Subism Collective (UK)

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‘Tyger Tyger’ – Thomas Street – Artist, Jim Vision

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.