The unique artworks hidden around Manchester’s ginnels and backstreets

Discover pineapples and parrots perched on top of buildings, hidden mosaics, peep holes and more.

Georgina Pellant Georgina Pellant - 2nd June 2023

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

Image: Cypheronline
Image: Cypheronline

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.

Space Invaders

Image: Flickr
Image: Flickr

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

Image: Geograph

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

Image: Geograph
Image: Google Business

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.

Boardman’s Entry

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.

Lemn Sissay’s ‘Flags’

The poetry of Lemn Sissay has paved Tib Street for 24 years, stretching out for just under a mile.

Lemn Sissay was the official poet of the 2021 London Olympics and has been Chancellor of the University of Manchester since 2015.


Sissay is also the artist/poet behind Rain, the beautiful mural above Gemini Takeaway near the Oxford Road university campus.

The Flags poem had long been a part of the Northern Quarter’s fabric but, understandably, the ceramic letters wore away – breaking it down into a valuable artwork and equally unreadable poem.

One could say it was words interacting with life on a very intimate level, but the Manchester City Council, Bruntwood, and the Arts Council decided it was time for a re-vamp.

Now you can visit an updated version of Flags with a new poem written by Sissay specially for the occasion.

Working once again with artist Tim Rushton, remember him from the Sound Bites? Well Rushton also designed with original Flags font back in 1997 and worked again on the most recent version.


The Northern Quarter’s got Sissay and Rushton written all over it, you just need to know where to look.

Read more: The new restaurants and bars opening in Manchester this month | June 2023

The Binks Pineapple

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