The unique artworks hidden around Manchester’s ginnels and backstreets
Manchester is home to so much beautiful art, from the masterpieces hanging in its impressive galleries to the statues and murals that line its streets.
Wander around its back alleys long enough, though, and soon you’ll discover that what’s on the official tourist trail only scratches the surface.
Beyond the main thoroughfare, there’s more to seek out – with pieces of art sequestered on hidden backstreets, down city centre ginnels, and even up high on the top of buildings and – sometimes – carparks.
Keep reading for a true local’s guide to the hidden unique artworks you won’t find on the official maps.
Sound Bites on Oldham Street
Created by Manchester-based artist Tim Rushton, it’s highly likely you’ve walked over this piece on a Northern Quarter pavement without noticing it’s there.
Comprised of 20 cast iron triangles, it is essentially Manchester’s very own Hollywood Walk of Fame – set into the pavement outside Fig and Sparrow.
Commemorating the greats of Manchester’s music industry, it honours the likes of Oasis, the Twisted Wheel Club, and The Hacienda.
The brainchild of anonymous French artist Invader, these alien artworks can be found dotted in various locations around the city.
Known locations include Salmon Street, Dantzic Street, Canal Street, Newton Street, and Bunsen Street – but there could be many more.
Invader calls themself a UFA, an ‘Unidentified Free Artist’. Invader explores international densely populated urban areas and “invades” them. Displaying 20 to 50 pieces per city, Invader sometimes returns several times deploying different “invasion waves”.
The Ancoats Peeps
More urban myth than reality nowadays, a few of the Ancoats peeps remain in the area but sadly most have disappeared.
Initially designed to preserve a glimpse of history into the area’s days as a leading powerhouse of industry, unfortunately, many have been swallowed up in to new build apartment complexes.
That said, if you look really hard you can still discover a few – with maps online to guide you.
Spring Gardens Post Office Murals
The mystery of the Spring Garden Murals is one that has puzzled many art lovers.
Brutally bold murals sit above the counters of Spring Gardens Post Office but are often unnoticed by busy Mancs panic-mailing their Christmas presents or scribbling away in birthday cards.
It seems strange they are so overlooked, as it’s hard not to notice them once you know they are there. Even stranger, however, is that no one knows who made them to this day.
Apparently, they were a gift from Manchester University when the Post Office opened in 1969, but some are not convinced.
There is no credit from an institution, student, or artist – and they sit unclaimed and unnoticed.
Can you solve the mystery?
Perched Exotic Birds
The Northern Quarter is bustling with art and colour, its streets are literally paved with art. So is the sky.
Roosting above John Street, watching the shoppers go by, is Guy Holder’s sculpture ‘Perched Exotic Birds.’
The Brighton-based artist sculpted a cluster of ornamental birds and parrots to sit on old fire escapes and window ledges above the streets of the Northern Quarter.
At first glance they look like your standard street pigeon, however, closer inspection shows they are brass and have a much more interesting story.
Moving into the Victorian Era, Tib Street residents shaped the trading community by featuring live animals in their muddy markets – at one point it’s believed 20,000 people descended on the area in one evening to enjoy the sights.
The idea behind Holder’s birds is that although the markets are gone, the birds are not – they escaped capture and fled to the surrounding streets. Today they live freely and forever above our heads.
You wouldn’t know they were there unless you were told. Now we’ve told you – you won’t unsee them.
Manchester is one of the chosen ones, and we feel honoured.
This ginnel just off King Street, adorned with plasterwork umbrellas, is dedicated to famous Mancunian John Dalton – also known as the father of meteorology.
There used to be four metal umbrella tops hanging overhead too, but these have since been removed.
Nearby, you’ll also find Dalton Entry and Mulberry Passage – also dedicated to the meteorologist.
Big Boys Toy
A 12-meter-high art installation on the top of a Northern Quarter car park? We have so many questions.
Located in an NCP car park, Peter Freeman’s installation often goes unnoticed, but its purpose is important to our city.
Originally installed as part of the Northern Quarter Street Festival in 1998, Freeman wanted to reflect the vibrancy of the regenerated part of town so when night falls the beacon lights up in brilliant neon lights.
Sadly, for five years, the lights were switched off due to a dispute between CityCo and the NCP on how the installations would be powered and paid for.
Thankfully they sorted out their differences last summer, and now between the hours of 11 pm and 1 am you can’t miss the beacon as it lights up the Northern Quarter.
Sat above one of the busiest street corners in Manchester is the Binks Pineapple.
The artist Kate Malone was commissioned in the late 1990s by Majolica Works said of the piece: “I see my pineapples as a symbol of friendship and hospitality.”
The work sits at the top of the Binks Building based in an area steeped in history, art and culture with a view of the walls and gates of Speakman, Son and Hickson’s Wholesale Fish Market.
Featured image – Geograph / Supplied
Art & Culture
Greg James, Jimmy Anderson, and Felix White to bring popular cricket podcast live to Manchester
Greg James, Jimmy Anderson, and Felix White have announced they’re taking their smash-hit Tailenders podcast on a tour around the UK.
And cricket fans in Manchester will get to see the lads live in action later this year.
Launched back in 2017, and undoubtedly going on to become one of the most successful podcasts in the UK, with hundred of episodes and a whopping 2.5 million listeners on average tuning into each series, Tailenders is a “loosely cricket based, certified funny” podcast – and sometimes BBC radio show – centred around the world of cricket.
It’s presented by BBC Radio 1 DJ Greg James, with and England international cricketer James Anderson, and ex-Maccabees guitarist Felix White.
The critically-acclaimed podcast became a hit right off the bat (pun absolutely intended), regularly finding itself at the top of the podcast charts in the UK when it hits the airwaves, and even scooping a few coveted awards along the way.
Now, the trio are gearing up to take their “alternative (and sometimes musical) look at cricket” on a live tour across the UK – with a stop off here in Manchester this October.
Fans of the podcast will know the show is also made with help from producer Mark ‘Sharky’ Sharman, and with regular input from Matt ‘Mattchin’ Horan – with the latter of the two set to join the core presenting trio on tour.
With fans told to expect “a night of cricket, a night of laughs, and night of surprises”, Tailenders: The Inaugural (Annual) Farewell Tour will be kicking-off in Nottingham on 19 October, before heading out to other major UK cites like London, Birmingham, Sheffield, and more, and arriving at the O2 Apollo in Manchester on Wednesday 25 October.
Tailenders: The Inaugural (Annual) Farewell Tour 2023
Thursday 19 October – Royal Concert Hall (Nottingham)
Saturday 21 October – New Theatre (Oxford)
Sunday 22 October – Cliffs Pavillion (Southend)
Tuesday 24 October – City Hall (Sheffield)
Wednesday 25 October – O2 Apollo Manchester
Thursday 26 October – Symphony Hall (Birmingham)
Friday 27 October – Eventim Apollo (London)
Saturday 28 October – Forum (Bath)
The highly-anticipated tour follows the podcast’s biggest-ever live show at London’s Palladium earlier this year, which sold out within just three minutes – and tickets are predicted to be snapped up just as quickly this time round.