Manchester is most well known for its football teams, but head over to NQ aka the Northern Quarter near Piccadilly station and you will discover a more hipster arty side to this city. Lots of great cafes and eateries to explore, alongside some great art on its walls – it’s a once dodgy area that’s now the place to see and be seen.
One main festival responsible for the influx of many street art works is called ‘Cities of Hope‘ (CoH) where international artists each created a piece themed on key social issues like disability, sustainability and gay rights, just to name a few. The 2016 festival was held form 21-29 May 2016, just a few weeks before I was there – would have loved to be able to see the artists in action! It also involved several local Manchester artists which I will point out below.
Also of note – Outhouse MCR around the Stevenson Square area where artists are invited to paint on the walls of old public toilets. It’s regularly refreshed so you can always look forward to new artwork in this area.
As always, handy Google Map for anyone exploring the streets on their own.
I plotted some recommended routes to see some of the more interesting works, but feel free to wander because you never know what you might find around the corner!:
ROUTE 1: Back Piccadilly Street > Tariff Street > Great Ancoats Street > Port Street
Back Piccadilly Street
First up – a quirky bee by Qubek
TankPetrol is a Polish street artist based in Manchester – you’ll see a number of his works around the city. It’s usually monochromatic and super detailed, very pretty
This is a CoH piece called Inhuman Barriers that Swiss duo Nevercrew – Christian Rebecci and Pablo Togni – created to highlight immigration issues
Facing the Nevercrew piece is this one by C215 whose cause was homelessness. I’ve always loved the evocative faces that he does – they are very recognizable and you’ll see a number of his works in the NQ
This is a pretty long wall you’ll see as you turn the corner on Tariff Street
Great Ancoats Street
One of my favourite pieces from the whole COH is this one by Faith47 for the gay rights issue. Very striking but still very tasteful. It’s called 722-481 BC and you actually see a different picture in the dark (just the line drawings pop out), so make sure you check it out at night as well
Across the road from Faith47 and a bit of a walk further up the road – It’s hard to miss this large bird along Great Ancoats Street by Brazilian Mateus Bailon whose work specialises in birds, fishes and plants. This is the Guardian of Ancoats. Sadly I missed his latest Cities of Hope piece that he did in July 2016!
Double back down Great Ancoats Street and turn into Port Street – The Spanish duo PichiAvo (that’s Pichi and Avo) took on the theme of Conflict – this features 2 Greek gods in battle – Hercules and the centaur Nessus. Their current work features a lot of this style.
On the other side of the same building with the Pichiavo artwork. Jay Sharples is a born and bred Manchester street artist – at first glance you might not even think this is street art as it just looks like pretty sharp graphic design. It apparently is meant to be kinda trippy – those lines seriously look like they are moving, and according to the artist, meant to replicate the feeling of a night in Manchester’s famous Hacienda Club.
On the opposite side of Port Street to the works above is a carpark, and there you’ll find this rather ramshackle building structure and this work by Italian artists Kladi and Chekos.
Keep walking down Port Street tlll you pass the junction with Hilton Street and you should see this quite stunning work by Nomad Clan – which is really made up of 2 English female artists CBloxx and Aylo. Titled ‘King of Nowt‘, its theme highlights social pressure on younger men and that suicide is the number one cause of deaths for this group. It might not be immediately evident, but it’s a really beautiful piece
ROUTE 2: Newton Street > Stevenson Square > Hilton Street > Tib Street > Brightwell Walk
Start at the junction of Newton Street and Faraday Street – right opposite the Police Station is this row of street art by various artists on shutters. If you pop down Faraday street, you can find some random graffiti in the dumpster area
Further down Newton Street past the Hilton Street junction on the side of Hatters Hostel is this great blue tit by Faunagraphic. This is quite an old piece commissioned by Converse back in November 2011!
This stretch of road has a lot of the OuthouseMCR works on what used to be public toilet structures in ‘islands’ in the middle of the road. There are just way too many to document and they are meant to be ever-changing, but here are some highlights from my time there in June 2016:
Bowie Tribute by Akse. This Manchester-based street artist is famous for his portraits and you’ll see a lot of his work around the NQ
Along the Spear Street alleyway you’ll find a whole bunch of smaller graffiti works, and this portrait again by Akse. It’s a bit unusual because he usually does famous faces, but this is apparently his son!
At the junction of Spear Street and Stevenson Square – I really dig TankPetrol’s aesthetic – I wondered why they seemed familiar, then realised I had seen these works before in Penang!
If you go in the morning, you’ll see lots of the shop shutters with various graffiti and murals painted on them!
Near the corner of Tib Street and Thomas Street are more OuthouseMCR works. Guess who did this Prince portrait?
Other side of the outhouse
Just off Tib Street is a little lane called Brightwell Walk – and in the carpark here you’ll see 2 massive CoH works. The work on the left is by Argentian street artist Hyuro addressing the issue of the impact of war on children’s lives. It’s a very starkly haunting image. On the right is a TankPetrol freehand (!) portrait featuring Anthony Burgess who wrote A Clockwork Orange. The quote reads: ‘We can destroy what we have written, but we cannot unwrite it.’
An old piece by Invader who leaves his iconic space invader tiles everywhere he goes. This is Man_47 from way back in 2004 (and worth 50 points!)
C215’s distinct style is evident in the portraits! He does a lot of cats as well – spot them around the city if you can!
At the junction of Warwick Street. This C215 work is actually based on a photo by local photographer Lee Jeffries who is known for his intimate portrait series of homeless people
UK artist Dale Grimshaw‘s portrait of a Papua New Guinea child for CoH is dedicated to the people fighting for the independence of West Papua.
This next bit is a bit further away – cross Great Ancoats Street, walk along Oldham Street still you get to this piece.
Axel Void‘s work is recognizable because of his font type and the dark close up nature of his portraits. It’s hard to imagine how a theme like ‘Existentialism’ can be adequately portrayed, but do check out his write up of his CoH piece to understand a little bit more about why ‘Sisyphus’ (that’s a greek god) and why her smile is being forced.
On the next parallel street on the front of Swan Buildings is this piece by German artist Case whose work tends to focus a lot on hands. His CoH theme was disability, and I think he made an interesting choice to focus on mental health issues with this piece ‘Human Dignity is Inviolable‘
English artist Phlegm had the CoH theme sustainability, and portrayed it with this city in a jar. I love the absolutely amount of detail in there and it’s amazing how much you can portray in just black and white!
I really enjoyed this intense walkthrough of Manchester’s Northern Quarter, and I definitely haven’t seen all the street art works this city has to offer. Guess I gotta come back again some time to see what new works pop up in future.
Looking for more street art? Check out my other street art related guides: