Following my tour of the Winter Gardens Theatre in October I had a walk along the promenade to the artists wall. I’d noticed one or two new artworks as I’d driven along to the theatre and though several from last year were still there others had been replaced and I was quite surprised to see just how many new ones had been added since I photographed last year’s batch.
It was good to see that the artists wall is continuing to brighten up what is otherwise a redundant and derelict section of the promenade. Morecambe isn’t a place I would purposely visit in the winter months so it will be a while before I return but I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing some more new artwork on the wall next season.
While on my street art hunt around the city centre during the Hallowe’en weekend I was also on the trail of fourteen huge inflatable monsters situated on various buildings as part of the weekend’s family attractions. Not the sort of thing any normal adult without kids in tow would do but I was in the city centre anyway and they would probably make some amusing photos so why not?
Having made a note of the different monsters and their locations I found the first one close to Victoria Station just after I arrived in the city and the next one wasn’t too far from there, while several more were in locations fairly close together so I photographed those before embarking on my street art hunt.
At one point during the day it started to rain so I took shelter for a while in the Arndale shopping centre and was lucky enough to catch the Monsters Rock! Party Procession headed by a small brass band playing the iconic ‘Monster Mash’ song. With skeletons, stilt walkers and monster puppets the parade was very colourful and not having previously known about it I was glad I’d chosen just that time to be in the Arndale. Luckily the rain didn’t last for long so I was soon able to resume my street art and monster hunt.
A few of the monsters were spread out in locations well out of the main centre, three of them a fair distance away which contributed greatly to the total 8.2 miles I covered, and while it would have been easy to not bother looking for them I didn’t want to give up without finding all fourteen. Fortunately the final two were near Angel Meadow Park just a short walk from Victoria Station so once I’d added those to my collection I didn’t have far to go to for the train back home.
The Manchester monsters were all designed, created and installed by Luke Egan and Pedro Estrellas who, along with a team of highly skilled technicians, are known as Designs in Air, producing inflatable sculptures and installations for hire and commission, with Bloodoo Child being their newest creation. Do I have a favourite out of these? – probably the second one as it looks to be quite a happy creature. Coupled with my search for the latest street art and more than one occasion where I doubled back on my route it had been quite a tiring few hours but I came back home happy that I’d done what I set out to do.
A very dull Sunday on the Hallowe’en weekend saw me back in Manchester on another street art hunt. The first two advertising walls I came to were blank, presumably waiting for new paintings, but the double gable end wall round the corner was advertising ”a nautical-space nightmare” short 3-minute film for Hallowe’en by Beavertown Brewery – it’s on YouTube though it’s not really my cup of tea.
As it was the Hallowe’en weekend there were several spooky attractions in various locations around the main part of the city centre and as well as decorated bins and hand sanitising stations I found two great stand alone artworks in Exchange Square though I wouldn’t want to meet either of those two on a dark night.
As well as street art I was also looking for a few other things – which may or may not appear in a future post – and my quest took me away from the NQ for a while. Close to the gay village was Sackville Gardens and the statue of pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing, while just a couple of streets away was Vimto Park, a place I’d been meaning to go to for a while.
Now part of Manchester University’s science campus but open to everyone Vimto Park is a small green space situated on the site of the former factory where the Vimto soft drink was first produced. Originally marketed as a medicinal tonic known as ”Vimtonic” the drink was invented in 1908 by Blackburn-born herbalist John Noel Nichols using a mix of fruit, herbs and spices which gave it a medicinal tang, though by 1913 it had been modified and reclassified as a soft drink and the name shortened to ”Vimto”. In 1919 the Vimto trademark was registered in British Guyana and the company’s international division began; by 1930 the drink was available in more than thirty foreign countries including the Arab States and in 1970 it finally reached North America.
During the 1990s the Vimto brand was responsible for a couple of popular marketing mascots including Purple Ronnie though its most lasting legacy is probably the ”Monument to Vimto” which has given Vimto Park its name. Created by sculptor Kerry Morrison the monument features a giant Vimto bottle surrounded at its base by outsized versions of some of the fruits and herbs used in the drink’s production, all carved out of sustainable wood. Originally installed in 1992 it was refurbished and repainted in 2011 after suffering from 19 years of Manchester weather.
Continuing the street art hunt I found the skull outside a pub though it had no connection to the Hallowe’en weekend, then I was really surprised and pleased to find the lovely monochrome Geisha outside a premises due to open soon as a Japanese restaurant. Back in the NQ another surprise was waiting in the form of some newly decorated and very colourful window and door shutters for Giraffe Flowers and those were my last three photos.
Now I don’t normally take much notice of time and distance when I’m roaming around the city centre but this time I had my trusty pedometer with me and from leaving Victoria Station at 9am to getting back there at 2.30pm I’d walked 8.2 miles and done 28,598 steps – it was definitely time to chill out once I got back home.
On a visit to Morecambe in August 2021 I was very surprised to see that the long expanse of plain blue solid wooden fencing fronting the large area of derelict land once the promenade’s Frontierland amusement park, had undergone a makeover and most of the panels now sported a painting or a paste-up.
Frontierland wild west-style theme park started life at a different site in 1906 as the Figure Eight Park, named after the figure-of-eight miniature railway which operated there. The park operated successfully until the late 1920s when it suffered a downturn in fortunes due to various complaints from tourists and a mountain of bad press; in 1929 it was taken over by Blackpool-based Hitchens Ltd but in spite of much investment and a name change to Morecambe Pleasure Park the downturn in visitor numbers continued until the park was closed and the attractions dismantled in 1938.
Just months after being dismantled the amusement park was resurrected on the current site and was purchased in 1939 by Leonard Thompson, owner of Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Southport’s Pleasureland. An ice dome was built on the site and opened in 1949, the park underwent another name change to West End Amusement Park and new rides were added each year. Various shows appeared at the ice theatre until 1962 when the dome was made into a bingo hall and then an indoor amusement place called Fun City.
In spite of the regular addition of new rides over the years, by the 1980s visitor numbers were dwindling again so in an effort to save the park Leonard’s son, Geoffrey Thompson, set about giving the site a complete overhaul and Frontierland was born in 1986, though as a themed amusement park it didn’t have a good start. On November 14th that year a fire ripped through Fun City, burning it to the ground and creating £1m worth of damage, but the park recovered and rides like the Silver Mine, the Texas Tornado, and the Western Carousel saw visitors flocking back.
The Thompson family continued to introduce new rides and features to Frontierland throughout the late 1980s and into the 1990s, and in 1993 the Space Tower was installed. Sponsored by the company behind Polo Mints and commonly referred to as the Polo Tower the 150ft gyro tower was transferred from Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and although the ride resulted in a significant boost in visitor numbers it was to be the last major investment at the park. In July 1998 Frontierland hit the headlines when the old wooden Texas Tornado roller coaster set off while the safety bars were still up; several riders were put in danger and one man who was on the ride with his 6-year old daughter at the time later told the Daily Mirror ”we could have been killed”. Whether this incident was the final straw for the site or not that year signalled the beginning of the end for Frontierland and it began to downsize.
Three seasons of staged demolitions were planned across the site and while some rides were moved to Southport’s Pleasureland and rebranded other rides and attractions were sold on to various theme parks in the UK and other countries. The 62-year old Texas Tornado enjoyed its last outing in 1999 then remained dormant until being demolished in late 2000, leaving only the Polo Tower and Log Flume on site, along with a giant pile of rubble. The park’s entrance was sealed off using construction fences and the site remained in this state until Morrisons purchased the land in 2007. A supermarket was built on land adjacent to it and three retail outlets were built on the rear section of the park itself, opening in 2008, and though later plans were passed to develop the rest of the Frontierland site into an outlet village nothing came of them and planning permission eventually lapsed.
In 2009 the Log Flume, which had survived in situ for ten years after the park officially closed down, was finally removed, leaving the Polo Tower as the last element of the former theme park though its only purpose was to fulfil a 20-year contract, signed during its 1993 installation, for the positioning of a telephone mast at the top. The Polo Tower survived until 2017 when it was finally demolished in June that year.
With the former Frontierland site being left unused for so long the 600ft-long blue fence was branded an eyesore by residents and town politicians, with one local councillor calling on Morrisons to do something about it. The fence remained as it was though, that was until March 2021 when a local artist took it upon himself to paint a mural of Dame Thora Hird on one of the panels; this inspired other local artists to want to add their own creations to the fence and through an art-based outreach project around 40 of them have used their artwork to decorate the hoardings.
In August 2021 the Frontierland site was bought by Lancaster City Council with the hope that the land can once again be put to good use but until such time as it is then hopefully the blue fence now known as the Artists Wall will continue to brighten up that part of Morecambe’s promenade.
My visit to Manchester towards the end of September produced more artworks than July and August put together. One of the gable end walls which carry advertising murals had been repainted with a brightly coloured advert for Clarks shoes and round the corner was an ad for Dr Martens boots while the other two gable ends were painted plain grey, obviously waiting to be repainted with more advertising. The bull (best viewed from a distance) was on the shutter of the butcher’s shop on Tib Street and though it’s been there for quite some time I’ve never managed to photograph it before as the shutter has always been raised whenever I’ve gone past.
On the wall above a cafe and vintage clothing shop in Oldham Street I spotted four tile mosaics. They had obviously been there for quite some time though as I don’t often walk along that particular section of the road I hadn’t seen them before, but they were quite attractive so I was glad I spotted them.
Having eventually veered away from the NQ I found some rather attractive hoardings around the site of what will be a new hotel and another set of brightly painted steps, these ones having a flower covered bicycle halfway up. I was also really pleased when I later found five artworks by the same artist (Hammo) in a side street I’d never been along before and also unexpectedly found a more recent artwork by Qubek which I’d seen on Instagram but which gave no indication of where it was.
The Qubek artwork was only a relatively short walk from Deansgate/Castlefield station and tram stop so I made that one my last shot then went to get the tram round to Victoria station in time for the train back home. It had been another successful street art hunt, and knowing how quickly some of these artworks get replaced it won’t be long before I’m back in the city once more.
A couple of visits to Manchester during the last few weeks didn’t produce as many new artworks as I expected so for this post I’ve combined the photos I took in July with those taken on the August bank holiday weekend. Following my usual route from Victoria station on both occasions my first two ‘finds’ were on the gable end walls used for advertising in Salmon Street; I really liked the bright colours of the first one although the bottom part was hidden by a fence, while round the corner a bunch of quirky animals were advertising Chester Zoo
The centre of Stevenson Square had undergone one of its regular makeovers, this time by the current artist in residence at Fred Aldous art and craft shop, though it still irks me slightly that the old toilet block is always surrounded by metal barriers and I can never get a clear and unobstructed photo of whatever is on the walls at the time.
Deserting the NQ on one occasion I meandered down to Castlefield – more of that in a later post – and found some more quirky artworks en route. A shutter with its decoration left over from the Jubilee weekend, colourful steps leading to a residential area, and outside a pub a board with the face of a rather sad looking dog which I just couldn’t resist.
Although on each of my two most recent visits to the city I didn’t find as many new artworks as I thought I would I was happy with those I did find, though by the time I’d walked a zig-zag route from the NQ all the way to Castlefield and back to Victoria Station I was certainly ready to relax for a while once I got home.
My original intention on Sunday was to head to the coast but a look at the webcam for where I wanted to go showed dull skies with lots of grey cloud so I decided to go to Manchester instead even though it’s only a little over a month since I was last there. Now the first train from my nearest station to Manchester Victoria is usually so empty on Sunday mornings that I can almost pick my own carriage but this time it was heaving and I only just managed to get a seat. Speaking to the woman sitting next to me it transpired that the Great Manchester Run was taking place and the city centre would be awash with thousands of runners and spectators, although I didn’t think they would be frequenting the side streets and back alleys I would be wandering round.
Sunday was also the 5th anniversary of the arena bombing when 22 people tragically lost their lives after an Ariana Grande concert and the usual corner of the station concourse contained recently placed photos, poems, cuddly toys and flowers, while festooned along the nearby railings were hundreds of hand crafted hearts made by people from all over the UK and as far afield as New York and Australia as gifts for anyone who wanted to take one or two.
The #AHEART4MCR group/campaign was set up in the days following the terrorist attack on the Manchester Arena on May 22nd 2017. Crafters from all over the globe came together to show their love and support for the city by making handmade hearts, with the group receiving a total of 26,435 which were then distributed throughout the city, handed to members of the public and sent on to the victims’ families. The campaign is run every year and strings of hearts are distributed in various places around the city centre on May 22nd. Each heart has a small ticket attached with the name of the person who made it and where it came from – of the two I selected the dark blue one came from Mary Jane Lennox in Hamilton, Scotland and the light blue one came from Vanessa in Stockport.
Now although I don’t normally photograph advertisements the first mural I found was so colourful I just had to include it in this collection. Round the corner from this one was a huge mural of Marcus Rashford, whoever he is, advertising something on a double gable end wall; now I don’t know what the guy himself looks like but this mural was seriously ugly so it was one I definitely didn’t photograph.
Round in Thomas Street the wooden hoardings surrounding a derelict plot of land had been given a makeover with a very colourful mural which stretched almost the full length of them and really brightened up that part of the street.
Unsurprisingly, as it was only just over a month since my last walk round the NQ, I didn’t find much new stuff but wandering round had occupied my time for a while and with no wish to go anywhere in the city where I might encounter hoards of people I made my way back to Victoria station and got the next train home, arriving back just over three hours after I set out.
After several cold, rainy and windy days the weather over the recent weekend turned out to be glorious and as I’d recently got wind of some new street art in the city’s Northern Quarter I took an early train on Saturday to go in search of it. Stevenson Square was looking very bright in the morning sunshine and though some of the artwork hadn’t changed from when I was there in January I saw that the previous parade of dogs had gone from the back wall of the old toilet block and had been replaced with a colourful geometric pattern.
Down in Thomas Street the hoardings surrounding a vacant plot of land had some new artwork; I don’t know what the first one was supposed to be but it was quite amusing. The second one looked like one big mess of paint at first but viewed from across the street it did look marginally better and I quite liked it, though it was hard to make out the name of the artist. I was also surprised to see that the pre-Christmas spaced-out chihuahua was still on a Hilton Street shop shutter and this time there were no barriers in front of it so I was able to get a shot of the whole thing.
Deserting the NQ for a while I made my way to a section of the Rochdale Canal to find some street art painted on the ground by artist Vanessa Scott. Part of the Rochdale Canal art trail which runs from Castlefield to Canal Street, the artwork is ‘inspired by the diverse wildlife and waterway plants and wildflowers found along the canal’, though unfortunately quite a large section of it was in the shade.
Heading back to the NQ I took a quick detour down a side road and found something which was so colourful I almost felt like I was somewhere in the Caribbean. The last time I’d seen this place, about two years ago, it was a cocktail bar owned by some z-list ‘celebrity’ from The Real Housewives Of Cheshire reality tv series (not something I ever watched) and it was decked out in pink, pink, and even more pink, but it now seems to have had a change of ownership and was undergoing a transformation.
While I was taking photos from the outside I noticed a maintenance man working inside and when he saw me struggling to take a photo with the camera through the railings he said he would unlock the gate so I could go in and get as many photos as I wanted; that was certainly an unexpected privilege and an opportunity I wasn’t going to miss. He went back to his work and left me to wander wherever I wanted although as the place was still undergoing work I could really only photograph the wall art, which was what I was originally trying to do. I didn’t get his name but he was a nice guy and it was really good of him to let me in to get my photos.
Back in the NQ I got my last two shots on the corner of Tib Street and Thomas Street. The kingfisher was done by Brezaux, an artist I hadn’t previously heard of, and though I couldn’t make out the artist’s name on the other artwork the vibrant swirls certainly made it stand out.