Diverse, energetic and innovative; Manchester is rightfully considered the birthplace of the industrial revolution. Although famous for its accomplishments in science, sport, music and technology, Manchester is lesser-known for being one of Britain’s burgeoning street art hot-spots. Getting a train to Manchester has never been quicker or cheaper, so why not dive headfirst into the urban art show that is the great Mancunian Northern Quarter?


After the 2016 ‘Cities of Hope’ festival, some of the world’s leading street artists have been allowed to turn Manchester’s Northern Quarter into their own personal canvases.


Our illustrated map will guide you from spot to spot, so you can enjoy this tour in your own time, at any time.


Cats in the Northern Quarter

Whilst you’re on your tour, keep your eyes peeled for various cats peering out from behind the Northern Quarter’s bins and back alleys. These royal looking overseers are the handy work of C215, who we were acquainted with back at Hilton House.


For C215, cats are a metaphor for the nature of street art itself. They cannot be told what to do and they go wherever they please.



 Cats in the Northern Quarter  

@d7606

26-28 Hilton House

 Hilton House, Manchester

@cl_hk

If you retrace your steps and walk for two minutes around the corner, you’ll arrive at Hilton House. Here you’ll find two pieces that are stylistically worlds apart.


Both the image of the face sitting under the Tariff Street sign and the huge Quartz scrawled across the side of the building were commissioned as part of the 2016 ‘Cities of Hope festival. The festival works alongside international artists to produce pieces that tackle social issues, with each artist working alongside a relevant charity or NGO.


Let’s start with the Quartz. This piece, named ‘Inhuman Barriers’, was designed by Christian Rebecchi and Pablo Togni, a Swedish pair who go under the name NEVERMIND. You’ll see that this Quartz morphs into a jagged, grey-blue city. Below are faceless figures, climbing to and falling from the rock metropolis.


This powerful metaphor for the struggle of asylum-seekers was painted in support of the Women Asylum Seekers Together, a grass-roots organisation offering support to Manchester’s female refugees.

 

Opposite the Quartz is a face. This intricate stencil was painted by French-born street artist Christian Guémy, AKA C215 who many have dubbed the Parisian answer to Banksy. C215 typically paints portraits of the homeless, refugees, street kids and the elderly. This piece was also commissioned as part of the ‘Cities of Hope’ festival in support of Lifeshare, a voluntary Manchester-based organisation that supports the needs of the Manchester’s large homeless population.


The delicate impression of depth in this piece is all the more impressive considering it’s only a double-layered stencil.

 


Hilton House, Manchester 2
@wshankley

35 Port Street

A three-minute walk around the corner will take you to 35 Port Street. Here you’ll find one of Manchester’s longest standing pieces of street art; a delicately painted, large-scale Blue Tit gazing over a disused parking lot.


This was commissioned by Converse in 2011 as part of their ‘Wall to Wall’ campaign. The project encouraged local artists to transform barren, dilapidated walls into beautiful inner-city treasures. Although this is a commercial piece, it remains a local favourite.


The iconic Blue Tit was painted by Sarah Yates, who goes under the brilliantly-devised alias Faunagraphic, and mixes graffiti with graphic design to produce stunning, nature-inspired pieces.

 


Port Street, Manchester 

@paulcagna

Stevenson Square

Stevenson Square is a great place to start a walking tour of the Northern Quarter’s street art.  The three disused toilet blocks in the centre operate as a public space for local artists. The project is known as OuthouseMCR and is supported by the local Art Shop called Fred Aldous.  


This is a particularly dynamic spot because it gets re-painted on a three-month cycle with pieces that represent the local and national mood. Previously, the French artist Akse painted a moving photo-realistic tribute to David Bowie after his death two years ago.


More recently, the artist Russell Meehan, who goes by the name Qubek, painted a mural of a bumblebee in the centre of two hands making a heart-shape in the wake of the Manchester terrorist attacks on May 17, 2017.


On your tour, you’ll notice lots of bumblebees along the way, (many of which will be painted by Qubek). The bumblebee has represented the industriousness of Manchester since it appeared on its crest in 1842. Since the terror attacks, the bumblebee has served as a potent symbol of Manchester’s indomitable spirit.


When you visit Stevenson Square, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for pieces by local artists above the local shops and on the arches.


No matter when you visit Stevenson Square, you’re bound to find an expression of Manchester’s beating heart.

 


Stevenson Square, Manchester 

@adamrumble

The Koffee Pot

If the high-percentage craft beer at the Port Street Beer House has left you slightly snoozy, your next stop provides an ideal opportunity for a mid-tour pick-up. Along the side of the Koffee Pot cafe, you’ll see another commission by Qubek, whose bumblebees we saw at Stevenson Square.


Qubek’s ‘22 bees’ frieze was a result of two days of solid painting. The 22 bumblebees each represent one of the innocent people killed in the 2017 bombings.  Dozens of onlookers applauded as the piece was finished.


The bumblebee has since been used across social media alongside slogans like ‘Unity is Strength’ and #WeStandTogether. When asked about the Mural, Qubek said: “I did a piece following the bombing to put a positive message out there to represent the community in Manchester and a tribute to those who lost their lives that wasn’t too morbid.”

 


Koffee Pot, Manchester 

@mari_mercedina


33 Spear Street

Next up is Spear Street. This spot is home to a stunning yet startling portrait of a boy from West Papua. The piece is by Dale Grimshaw, one of Britain’s leading street artists. His work is strongly inspired by his humanitarian outlook.


Commenting on this piece, Dale said: “I like the regal feel of this colour combination, implying the people in the paintings are kings and queens in their own right.” The gold is also in reference to the Grasberg Mine in West Papua,  the largest gold mine in the world. The red can be thought to symbolise the brutality found at the border of West Papua and Indonesia, where innocent protestors are routinely tortured and imprisoned.


This highly political piece is a gem of the ‘Cities of Hope’ festival and a cultural treasure of Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

 

Spear Street, Manchester

@write_there_then


5 Little Lever Street

Three minutes around the corner from 19 Dean Street, you’ll find a homage to the Suffragette movement. This piece, named ‘Serenity’, is a stone’s throw away from Stevenson Square, where the Suffragettes gathered 100 years ago to celebrate women being granted the vote. This piece resonates with the women of Manchester and nationwide, packing a powerful symbolic punch.


The piece was painted by the male-female duo named SNIK. Where others have moved onto modern laser-cutting techniques, SNIK has remained true to the heritage of the art form, cutting all their stencils by hand. With that in mind, you only have to look at the scale of the image to picture just how many painstaking hours went into it.

 


Lever Street, Manchester 

@robby.rent

19 Dean Street

After a two-minute stroll, you’ll arrive at 19 Dean Street. Walking tours can be thirsty work, but luckily you’ll walk past the Port Street Beer House which just so happened to win the Best Beer Selection award at the 2018 Manchester Beer Awards. You know what they say about being in Rome.


When you arrive at Dean Street, you’ll see another ‘Cities of Hope’ piece’ by the Brazilian-born artist Mateus Bailon. Mateus’s illustrations are inspired by his childhood, watching the Atlantic forest being slowly eroded by humans. He aims to raise awareness for conservation through his immersive pieces of street art. This piece makes you feel like you’re peering through the jungle into Mateus’s fictional world of mythical birds. This walking tour is both a glimpse into the history and the future of this dynamic city. The density of world-class street art in this bubbling cultural melting pot makes for a free art tour that is as real as anything you’ll find enclosed in a gallery.


 

This walking tour is both a glimpse into the history and the future of this dynamic city. The density of world-class street art in this bubbling cultural melting pot makes for a free art tour that is as real as anything you’ll find enclosed in a gallery.

 

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