Is it a zebra? Is it cocaine? No, it’s an Ancoats art mural about Manchester’s industrial heritage… apparently

By Edward Roberts

Lines of cocaine? An abstract zebra? Or strips of thread and fabric harking back to dark industrial days? You’d be surprised to confuse any of these – but people across Manchester are.

Artwork celebrating the industrial heritage of Manchester’s Ancoats area is prompting debate after some say it also captures the area’s modern day cocaine culture.

Other perspectives include the piece resembling a bar code, a zebra and an embodiment of hidden Manchester.

Chris Edmunds, the Creative Director of the project, confirmed the work is intended to illustrate the weaving of fabric and pay homage to the area’s rich industrial history.

However he welcomed other interpretations of the art from the public.

“Maybe cocaine is a good connotation if you’re partial to clubbing and Charlie,” joked Mr Edmunds.

The building-high image is located on Cornell Street moments away from where the notorious Sankeys nightclub used to operate. As a result the area has become synonymous with all night raves and drug use.

ARTWORK: Passers-by have their own ideas of what it is meant to be

“You speak about the history of Ancoats; well that’s it – drugs,” said Richard Obrien, from Wigan, as he observed the art for the first time.

Sankeys closed its doors forever in May. Despite this, some onlookers noted that their perception was also based on what they see as the current drug ethos still present in the area.

Bob Thomas, from Stretford, said he had tried to find other meanings in the piece and doubted the work signified anything other than cocaine.

“It kind of reminds me of the movie Saw for some reason, but it’s definitely sniff.

“It’s not a solid object, it’s powder and it looks like someone has sniffed Ancoats out the lines.

“Especially with the culture around the corner with all the clubs and pubs, that’s definitely what it implies.”

The artwork was only recently installed over the summer months.  It has become a central part of the community and is viewed by many on a daily basis.

Lee Royle, from Droylsden, told how he has become familiar with the image as his parents live nearby the controversial work.

“I’ve walked passed it many times as my mum and dad live in the area,” he said.

“I can see it really clearly and it looks like someone has written the word Ancoats through cocaine.”

Despite the wave of certainty from passers-by who were confident that the image displayed narcotics, opinion was mixed from others who chose to see the image in a more optimistic light.

Dominique Fletcher, who lives in the Urban Village in Ancoats, said it added something to the area.

“I think it is meant to symbolise a hidden, unseen part of Manchester, something uncovered – not drugs,” she said.

Parent Tony Gallagher said his daughter lives a short walk away from the print. “Is it a zebra?” he asked.

“I don’t want to believe it’s anything else.”

The art was produced by the Manchester-based graphic design company, United Creatives. It was commissioned by the Homes and Communities Agency.

The obscure image is just one of the many pieces of public art that is becoming a popular feature in the heart of urban Manchester.

Last month a graffiti image of Walter White (Heisenberg) from Breaking Bad sprung up in the Northern Quarter. The talk-worthy piece was met with a mixed critical response.

Mr Edmunds said: “If done properly public artwork can engineer civil pride and make people feel good about where they live and work.”

The building which the artwork is against is due to be demolished in the forthcoming months.

Let us know what you think the art represents below.

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.

Related Articles