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New art exhibition celebrates urban birds – with pen portraits by Guy Garvey

Manchester writer Adam O’Riordan and Elbow singer Guy Garvey exchanged a series of pen portraits of birds during the first lockdown

Over the past year, there has been a widespread re-engagement with nature – and in particular, the public’s appreciation of Britain’s native birds.

The view from the windows of our homes might seem more familiar than ever, but on closer inspection, there is much more to see in the trees and the skies.

New exhibition Fledge: A Year of Birds celebrates this.

The multidisciplinary exhibition features the artwork of five artists: Mary Griffiths, Susan Platt, Liam Spencer, Clare Bigger, and Ann Lewis.

Each of the artists has responded to the birds in their close environments and in Britain’s changing urban areas.

Whether the medium is watercolours, oils, or steel, birds have proved a welcome escape for this group of artists – as well as a great source of inspiration.

Adam O’Riordan, Reader in Contemporary Poetry and Fiction at the Manchester Writing School and singer-songwriter Guy Garvey, exchanged a series of pen portraits of birds during the first lockdown in the spring of 2020.

Susan Platt illustrated the birds that informed their writing, and extracts from their ongoing collaboration will accompany the artworks in the show.

Each of the works in the exhibition will be available for purchase with 10% of proceeds being donated to Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity, which is committed to providing essential funding to tackle homelessness across our city region.

The artworks show that birds symbolise many things, from the everyday to the profound: a sense of freedom, possibility, change, perspective; the light embrace and colour of springtime; the tentative synergy that human beings maintain with our natural surroundings. 

The simple act of watching birds engenders a sense of tranquility in times of strife, which may explain the resurgence in widespread public interest.

And so this May, at a time when so many of us are hoping we might be freed to some semblance of life outside, is the perfect time for Fledge to take flight.

Fledge: A Year of Birds will take place from 1st –  23rd May 2021 at Contemporary Six, 37 Princess Street  (lockdown-permitting) and online at


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