‘In the midst of change’: Manchester artist crafts map celebrating city’s rich culture

A Manchester artist has designed a compact map of the city’s cultural and culinary hot spots, ahead of the annual Buy Art Fair taking place between September 24-27.

The map squeezes in The Lowry in Salford Quays as well as Beswick’s own metallic marvels by Ryan Gander, showing how truly far-reaching and diverse the city’s art scene currently is.  

But rather than focusing solely on the vibrant galleries, it also incorporates some of Manchester’s top eating destinations.

David Gee, a Didsbury-based artist, was commissioned to illustrate the map.

Whilst his interpretation of the top cultural points may be fiercely debated amongst Mancunians, one thing appears evident: with a city-centre that you can walk across in a mere forty minutes, in Manchester there is no cultural epicentre.

The director of tourism at Marketing Manchester, Nick Brooks-Sykes, said: “Walking the streets of Manchester, visitors often find it difficult to escape the city’s preoccupation with culture.”

And this would certainly seem the case.

Following the renovated Whitworth being named 2015’s Museum of the Year, the opening of HOME in May, and the Manchester International Festival taking over the city in July, there has never been a better moment for arts and culture across the city.

And with the next few weeks seeing the Food and Drink Festival, the Manchester Literature Festival and the annual Buy Art Fair all underway, Manchester ends the year with no sign of a comedown to its mammoth cultural high.

But what makes Manchester’s cultural renaissance so successful? Speaking to MM, Gee spoke of how supportive the art world is in Manchester.

“Once you have your foot in the door here, you meet people, and I have found that everyone wants to work with a local artist,” he said.

“There is a need to create new culture in Manchester, and to stop being nostalgic about things in the past, like the Hacienda.

“Art has to be in the present to stay relevant.”

And staying constantly relevant is Buy Art Fair.

The North’s leading affordable art fair is now in its eighth year, having found a home in the iconic Old Granada Studios.

Thom Hetherington, BAF’s CEO, described how the annual event has seen £2.5million spent on art, and provides ‘an unprecedented boost to Manchester’s art scene every Autumn.’

He said: “It has changed beyond all recognition and comprehension—if you had told people ten years ago that Manchester would be anything beyond football clubs and Coronation Street, they would not have believed you.”

And with the Government’s ambitious plans for The Factory, a £110million investment in the Arts as part of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’, Mr Hetherington believes that Manchester is ‘still not at the end of the curve, but in the midst of change’.

But he was also quick to remind us that ‘this change has not happened overnight’.

It seems clear that what distinguishes Manchester from other cities is how collaborative the arts community is.

And as testament to this, BAF have created a guide to spending 24 hours on the cultural trail, to be used alongside the map.

The guide lists 26 key places to discover for the first time, or visit for the hundredth on a whirlwind day out in Manchester.

And Mr Hetherington emphasised how eager he is to work with big giants of the Manchester Art scene

He said: “Manchester is a hugely collaborative city, and the art-world here is more than most.

“It is not easy to commercialise and make money from art. It is difficult.

“What we recognise is the more that we can create an audience, the more engagement with art elsewhere there is.

“If people go The Whitworth and like it, they are more likely to come to Buy Art Fair.”

Dave Moutrey, the CEO of Manchester’s existing creative arts space HOME, also shares this approach.

Back in May, he told BBC Radio 4’s Front Row that he very much welcomed plans for The Factory.

Mr Hetherington explained: “We’re trying to make engagement with art a ‘habit’ and not an elitist thing.

“Art should not be seen as only for the rich and educated; buying art doesn’t have to be expensive and there is absolutely no reason why it should be.”

Buy Art Fair has now seen more than 35,000 people pass through its doors, and prides itself on artworks that are affordable, with prices ranging from £50 to over £5,000.

And with this success, Mr Hetherington siadd: “Eight years later and we are the biggest fair in the north.

“We have proven a few people wrong along the way, and as Mancunians we like to do that!” 

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