Perhaps an apt metaphor for the inconstant nature of any city is street art; just as buildings rise and fall, as people come and go, so too does the art that appears sometimes out of nowhere. MPLG Ltd was founded in 1976 in Salford, the industrial centre of the city. In nearly 50 years, we’ve watched the city evolve and grow. We consider Manchester to be an integral part of our identity and hope to share a piece of it with our followers not fortunate enough to live here!
The Worker Bee
Though the worker bee has long been one of the city’s principal icons since the industrial era, it saw a renewal in popularity after the tragic arena bombings in May 2017. In the days following, local tattooist Sam Barber launched the Manchester Tattoo Appeal in response to the terror attack with all funds supporting the victims and families of the victims. The Appeal gained incredible traction, raising over £500,000 on JustGiving.
Similarly, bees appeared in street art. Artist Russell Meeham – also known as Qubek – paid tribute to the 22 victims of the bombing with this mural in June 2017, now quite famous:
‘Modern mural artist’ Peter Barber created the geometrically-patterned bee (above left) on Houldsworth Street, appearing in September 2017. If the bee could represent social unity in the trying times following the attack, it certainly embodies the efforts of the country to join together to tackle the coronavirus pandemic (above right). We particularly appreciate the visual effect of the block colour theme using the NHS’s rainbow flag.
Political street art
There’s certainly no lack of politically charged pieces amongst the street art. Many of these pieces were painted for Cities of Hope, an art and justice project that aims to “raise awareness of social issues, challenge injustice and champion the voice of the powerless”. Nine world-renowned artists were invited to Manchester in May 2016, transforming the status of the city in its social art standing. Sadly, some pieces have now been covered up but you can read about them all here.
War Impact in Children’s Lives (top left) is perhaps one of the best known murals throughout all of Manchester. Argentine artist Hyuro said of this piece:
Both armed conflict and violence that trigger affects the lives of many children in different parts of the world. In addition to the direct consequences of war and armed violence they are also indirectly affected by displacement, loss of family and trauma caused by the acts of violence they witness. This wall is intended to give voice to all the lost innocence, all children who are fighting for their own survival, unable, in front of the eyes of all, to live a childhood as they deserve.
For his contribution to the Cities of Hope project, Polish-born artist Tank Petrol dedicated his mural (top right) to the author Anthony Burgess , in a dedication to freedom of choice. The ever-relevant novel A Clockwork Orange tells us – in Burgess’ own words – “it is better to be bad of one’s own free will than to be good through scientific brainwashing”.
A Hopeful City
The Cities of Hope project returned in 2018 to see the Suffragette mural (bottom left) named ‘Serenity’ appear to commemorate 100 years since women could first vote. Manchester is, after all, the birthplace of Emmeline Pankhurst. Deduce what you will of the blood red dress and subtly pointing finger.
Making recent political history were the Black Lives Matter protests, sparked by George Floyd’s tragic murder in the US. Artist Akse painted the portrait in the middle of the Northern Quarter in Stevenson square, through which the Manchester BLM marches passed.
This very recent Akse piece needs little explanation, though it’s worth mentioning that this portrait is of Debra Williams who works at Manchester Royal Infirmary. She was one of the responders to the 2017 bombing as well as having worked through the pandemic; a true testimony to the value of the NHS.
Street art to see
Why care about street art?
There’s something special about creativity manifesting itself on buildings otherwise devoid of life. Street art is a wonderful tribute by and for the community and an aspect of Manchester that certainly brightens our days. We think it’s especially important to recognise and appreciate the work artists do during trying times to articulate some things hard to say with words.
In case you missed them, you can read our previous blogs about vegan leather here.
MPLG Ltd is a private label manufacturer of premium quality bags, backpacks and wallets, in leather, synthetics or textiles, for international brands. Established in 1976; we have capabilities and expertise in every area of sampling and production. We make all items in our own factory in Manchester, England.
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