Christmas shoppers flocking to Manchester may not be aware of a hive of activity occuring just a few floors above.
The Printworks’ rooftop was already the unusual setting for a complex of allotments, herb gardens and chicken runs, but something eccentric was added last year.
Watch MM’s Lewis Pennock chat with centre director Fred Booth about how he decided to add a fully functioning set of beehives to the mix to help foster green credentials and help his team’s work ethic. (Additional filming by Alex Peace.)
Fred reveals it was a spur of the moment idea which he came up with in equally bizarre circumstances.
“It was a shower moment – I decided when I was in the shower,” he told MM.
Joining with Hard Rock Café manager Emma Livingstone, and consulting with experts from Manchester’s Heaton Park apiary, they invested in two sets of hives and two outfits.
I DON’T BEE-LIEVE IT: The Printworks is home to live honey bees
Heraldry experts and local historians may be aware of the worker bee’s place at the heart of the Manchester coat of arms – the motif being featured on bins, building facades and even the town hall.
And a helping hand has also been provided by a patron of the city, Manchester Cathedral canon Adrian Rhodes.
Asked why business and bee-keeping seem to go hand in hand in this way, Booth thinks it is a no-brainer.
“With [employees] who wouldn’t normally work in that environment you can actually see the pleasure they get when they are involved in it,” he said.
Hard Rock Café, one of the businesses involved, recently received Manchester City Council’s Biodiversity Hotspot Award for their positive contribution to local biodiversity.
With 2014 being a bumper yield for honey production across the UK, the scheme ended up with 120 jars of honey that sold out in the first day.
Jars boast one-off labels by artist Mancsy and profits from the roof go to local homeless charity, The Booth Centre.
STING OPERATION: Booth was the visionary behind the idea
The team are quick to point out that the project is not just a flash-in-the-pan gimmick for the team.
“We do this in all weather, with the lift broken, in the height of summer with ice pops strapped to our outfits,” said Livingstone.
She admitted that customers had been frightened by her bee-keeping attire and Booth comically said they resembled characters from a famous BBC children’s show.
“Mine is sky-blue so it looks like Dipsy and Lala have arrived,” he joked.
And Manchester residents have nothing to fear in terms of horror movie-style attacks descending on the city.
“The bees recognise us,” Livingstone said.
“They are very docile and happy bees. They’re all lady bees so they’re very well behaved.
“We have never been stung. That is very unusual. Anyone who works with bees on a regular basis gets stung at least a few times. We must be doing something right.”
Additional filming and editing by Alex Peace and Lewis Pennock.
Main image courtesy of KOMUNews, with thanks.