In the aftermath of the tragic events at Manchester Arena, like everyone within the local community, Artist Amy Coney just wanted to help. The horrendous attack had taken place just minutes from her house.
The very next morning Amy did what knew best: she picked up a paintbrush and started to create a giant worker-bee mural in central Manchester a symbol of the city’s hard-working past, during the Industrial Revolution. When I saw the photo of Amy and her friend hugging in front of the painting I cried. It really conveyed the grief of the community and how everyone was trying their best to support each other in the aftermath.
Amy didn’t stop there. In a bid to help raise money for the victims and their families she set up a collaboration with poet Tony Walsh who delivered the now iconic poem entitled ’This Is The Place’ at the official vigil outside Manchester Town Hall. This piece is called ‘Bee Love’ and has captured the hearts of musicians across the world including Elbow, the 1975 and George Ezra who have flocked to sign her canvas in support. In this interview I catch up with Amy about the process.
You created your beautifully moving street art piece #WeStandTogether featuring Manchester’s worker bee the morning after Manchester’s tragic bomb, can you tell us what you were thinking when you picked up your paintbrush and set out on that journey?
Two of my friends at Social Chain contacted me that morning with the idea that they wanted to do a mural, something positive in reaction to the heartbreak. I jumped at the suggestion having spent the last 12 hours mainly pacing and feeling helpless as we watched everything unfold on the news and Twitter.
A few phone calls to Outhouse MCR (they provided the wall) and by 1pm we were painting. Social Chain’s team helped me with the base and I managed to get most of the detail finished before running off to the vigil at Albert’s Square, I then came back to do final touches a day later.
The whole thing was quite surreal and adrenaline-filled, feeling the most intense need to do something as well as be around people. There was comfort in the comradery of creating something positive publicly – something for others, not just ourselves, something unifying. The #WeStandTogether was and is a powerful message and so relevant. When I put the brushes down and paused to see what we’d created, all of the emotion that had been numbed in the shock came over me like a wave. Sad and grateful tears all at once.
What has the reaction to your street-art piece been from the local community in Manchester?
Whilst painting several people gave their appreciation, including many from offices whose windows overlooked the piece. The lovely people at BooHoo actually gave us a round of applause from their window when we finished on the day which was incredible.
From then there has been so much positive feedback especially on social media – people are still photographing it and leaving the loveliest comments.
You are working on another Manchester Bee piece featuring the words of ‘Longfella’ Tony Walsh’s inspirational ode to Manchester at terror attack vigil. Tell us a little more about this project and how people can get involved.
Bee Love is a giant worker bee painting with the words from Tony Walsh’s famous poem entitled ’This Is The Place’ written in the wings with all proceeds going to the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund and Forever Manchester.
The canvas has been signed by a number of celebrities baking the cause including Elbow, the 1975, George Ezra and Jonny Marr. The auction will be resuming on the 1st August after we’ve gained more signatures. Prints will be available shortly. If people want to donate or purchase a print they can, alternatively people can help make noise by sharing it on social and telling as many people about it as possible.
In what way did the words of the poem influence your piece?
I listened to the poem every day following the attack, there was something comforting about it, powerful, raw and strong. Tony’s poems are fantastic, but this one resonated with everyone, and it was also his delivery that made it so and his ability to stand in front of that crowd at a time when not many could have done the same. It gave a lot of people strength. It is Manchester.
‘Some born here, some drawn here, but all call it home.’ I was drawn here and this is my home.
Art has always been your passion and you have turned this dream into your career. What advice would you give to other people that want to follow in your footsteps?
Keep persisting, and surround yourself with people that support you. Work with others that are better than you and listen to them, they speak from experience, be appreciative of their time and don’t undervalue your own. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there or fail, you can always go back to your office job but what a waste if you never tried. Enjoy learning.
For those of you that are new to LedByLucy you may want to have a nosy at the People and Projects section of my blog where I regularly feature interviews with inspirational women working within the creative field. You may also like the Travel and Places section.