Photo Essay: Northern Quarter, Manchester
It was a quiet Sunday morning on the streets of Manchester.
The debauchery of Saturday night was replaced with an eerie silence occasionally broken by the cawing of crows or the whirring brushes of the street sweeper machine. We were already feasting upon the morning spread at Double Tree by Hilton‘s Store Street Exchange by 8:00 in the morning and were ready for another round of urban exploration by the turn of the hour.
Top of the agenda was Manchester’s Northern Quarter, once the epicenter of the Industrial Revolution and now a hotbed for street art.
The booming textile industry created this neighborhood where extreme wealth and poverty somehow managed to coexist – a place where both the nobility seek their wealth and the proletariat struggle to make a living. The quarter collapsed almost a century later following the demise of the cotton factories but it pulled through by reinventing into a refuge for creative minds as chic cafes, independent bookshops and alternative record stores began to mushroom in the seemingly decaying buildings.
The missus put on a worried face as I just finished capturing C215’s solemn portrait of homeless man at the corner of Tariff and Hilton Street. The absence of any living person seemed to be freaking her out but I had this strange calmness that nothing untoward would happen to us (considering everyone is either sleeping or nursing their hangover). Sure, the quarter gives out this grimy feeling but what would you expect from the remnants of the Industrial Revolution?
Right across Fred Aldous is Stevenson Square and its revolving door of street art. Every three months, three brick and mortar blocks in the middle of the square would host an artist showcasing their craft. This outdoor project space by Out House Manchester has transformed a lifeless intersection into an area where visitors anticipate the next new installation. Although we missed David Bowie, we truly loved the Manchester-themed murals of strength, diversity and togetherness all encapsulated by the hardworking Manchester bee!
It was back into the streets as I stepped up my quest in search of the larger-than-life street art painstakingly drawn over the span of a whole building. There are over twenty of these around the Northern Quarter but I only found Faunagraphic’s humongous painting of a blue tit, Nevercrew’s thought-provoking vision of people trying to climb a quartz (and failing), and Nomad Clan’s blink-and-you’ll-miss vertical mural highlighting toxic masculinity.
We spent about an hour or so meandering the Northern Quarter and things began to pick up as the day progresses. The spring rain decided to say hello so we had to cut short our hunt and took refuge at Chapter One Cafe which served an array of scrumptious cakes and brownies. I was absolutely satisfied with the day’s catch of street art where we got to visually feast on one big creative party where each artist carry unashamedly carry their own message, style and size.
Keeping with the theme, Chapter One Cafe also has a wacky drawing crayoned on one of its window panes!