There's a bit of a buzz in Manchester at the moment. (So sorry... couldn't help it. I'll warn you there are a fair few bee-related puns ahead.)
The bee emblem has represented the "worker bee" ethos of Manchester for over 150 years, symbolising the energy, the industry, and the creativity flowing through these streets. A city-wide art trail, comprising over 80 individually designed giant Bees, has been devised, drawing on the talents of local artists, schools and community groups to create this sculptural swarm.
The aim of this giant installation is to make art accessible to everybody, to cultivate and celebrating cultural identity, and to promote health, happiness and wellbeing.
We've had a wander and rounded up our favourite bee designs.
1. The Golden Bee
Named after the chemical symbol for gold, this Bee is striking yet simple. Described as "the colour of champions", this gold bee is all about reflecting the culture of the city. And as Manchester is famous for pioneering and "leading the way", the artists behind this design encourage the viewer to "fly high" and "Bee number 1."
Love the motivational message behind (um... bee-hind??) this Bee.
AuBee | Created By: Hydro Monkeys | Where: Manchester Piccadilly Station
2. The Disco Bee
Last night a DJ saved my... hive? Yes, it looks like a disco ball. But no, it doesn't represent Manchester's music scene or its legacy of eminent nightlife (though it probably should. This Bee is situated just metres away from the old Haçienda site.) According to its accompanying text, "The contrast between a shimmering, ghostly appearance, and an "armoured" surface, highlights the plight of the bees which need protection from adverse impacts on their natural environment."
Well, we're all for that.
Bling Bee | Created By: Jayne Ford | Where: Manchester Central
3. The Abstract Bee
The bright, playful print design here is supposed to represent how this local artist feels about her city. What we didn't spot at first glance, was that she has incorporated the word "Love" amid the abstract pattern. We feel that this design sums up well the friendly, welcoming nature of the people of this city. We're renowned for being open, often amusing, diverse, creative, and never boring. Keep spreading that love.
Love | Created By: Caroline Dowsett | Where: Spinningfields
4. The Homeless Bee
Poignant, and aptly-placed, this Bee represents homelessness and the importance of helping those in need. The piece sits just in front of St. Ann's church, opposite the recently installed Homeless Jesus sculpture (below) by Timothy Schmalz. St. Ann's Square was also the site chosen for a protest for many weeks where a number of homeless people camped in tents protesting the city's homelessness policy a couple of years back.
"A place to call home is a human need and this is the same as a bee's needs, with pollen and nectar for food and a hive for shelter" says the placard next to the bee. Inscribed on the bee's limbs, phrases such as "the most important things in life aren't things" and "no act of kindness is ever wasted".
We love the message behind this piece, especially as homelessness in Manchester seems to currently be increasing at an alarming rate. And like the bees, as well as working together for the common good in terms of the economics and innovation of our city, this is an important reminder to work together to consider the wellbeing of other people in the community.
The Homing Bee | Created By: C'Art Dawes | Where: St. Ann's Square
5. The Doodle Bee
Perhaps our favourite of all the bees, this sculpture depicts the city in this artist's own very recognisable style, with renowned landmarks and places the viewer can easily engage with. We were chuffed to see local artist Dave Draws had been enlisted to do what he does best: doodling. (Read more about his art in our Made in Manchester blog series here.)
For us this work sums up the concept of the whole Bee in The City project; showcasing local talent and celebrating the city in diverse and creative visual interpretations.
Manchester Doodle Bee | Created By: Dave Draws | Where: Manchester Piccadilly Station
6. The Map Bee
Covered in maps of the city, from the industrial revolution to the present day, this bee depicts Manchester's rapid growth and continual development. Manchester's crest sits proudly at the front of a globe, printed with the Manchester Bee emblem.
It's fascinating to see the difference between the maps of the city old and new, and interesting to think that that is and has been the "bee's eye view" of the city, flying over the streets.
This work really encapsulates the worker-bee ethos of the city, its heritage, and how its inhabitants over the years have worked together to expand and bring about physical and social change.
This is one proud Manchester bee.
Map of The Worker Bees | Created By: Caroline Coates | Where: Central Library
7. The Yellow Bee
Whilst the art trail of Bees around Manchester is supposed to be all about celebrating the culture and identity of the city, it was surprising and a bit disappointing to see that some of the sponsors of the Bees have made their bee sculpture basically just a blatant bee-shaped advert for their businesses.
To be fair, the massive yellow bee, painted in Selfridges' Pantone (no. 109, otherwise known as "Iconic Selfridges Yellow") is definitely that. However, what we loved about their design was that their bee was not only said to reflect the buzz of the Selfridges Exchange Store, and Manchester itself, but also represented their "commitment to a brighter and more sustainable future."
Can't argue with that.
The Yellow Bee | Created By: Selfridges | Where: Selfridges