“I’ve missed you too” – this new art exhibition is on show at Waulk Mill
Long-time friend of Urban Splash, and renowned artist and photographer, Len Grant, has unveiled a brand new exhibition in the city – with some of it on show at our Waulk Mill building in Ancoats. Here, Len explains his process behind the new pieces of artwork and his celebration of the vibrant city that we hope will soon come to life once more.
Like most people I found the third lockdown particularly tough. The days were short, the weather awful, news report routinely depressing. If I wasn't sitting outside during January and February, I'd normally at least sketch the city from the window of a café, or inside a museum or gallery. I wasn’t able to do any of that at the start of 2021.
I instead used some of my smaller sketches as inspiration. Later, I took snaps during my bike rides into town and it was then that I decided to make a series of 12 large pictures in homage to the city I love.
The finished pieces incorporate local landmarks; places such as the Manchester Art Gallery and Central Library as well as less conventional scenes like Oxford Road under the Mancunian Way and the Rusholme Chippy. You’ll also see some Urban Splash houses at New Islington in the pieces too.
There's a lot of playfulness about the pictures; I actually appear in several of them cycling into town or on an album cover in the record shop window. The other characters – mostly inspired by photographs of passers-by – often make an appearance in several scenes, as if they're passing through the city. One couple, Aldi bag in hand, seems to be taking a circuitous route home.
I’ve accompanied the pictures with some words, expressing my feelings and all of the things I’ve missed about the city. I've missed the bus drivers, the tram drivers, the shop assistants, the over-enthusiastic newspaper vendors, the baristas, the traffic wardens, the TV crews taking over whole streets as if they own the place. I've missed the Uber drivers, the Deliveroo riders, the skaters and the goths. I've missed those guides in uniform who tell the tourists how to get to the cathedral.
I've missed rice 'n' three at This & That. I've missed queuing for a Greggs sausage roll. I've missed a plate of free-range poached eggs, sautéed spinach with homemade hollandaise sauce on a sourdough bloomer. Who'd have thought?
I've missed settling into a morning’s writing at Central Library only to bump into a friend in the café. I've missed the escalator at Waterstones, transporting you to another world. I've missed cutting through the Royal Exchange Theatre on a rainy day, just because you can.
They say cities will change. They say we'll use them less and Zoom more. Not me. I've missed Manchester. I'm glad to be back.
Now, as more people return to the city post-lockdown, you can view the works not only outside Waulk Mill, where the colourful prints adorn fencing around the building, but also at the Mayfield Depot and in the windows of Qbic, a new hotel opening on Deansgate.
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