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How the worker bee has come to symbolise the spirit of Manchester

The Manchester Worker Bee has taken our city by swarm - what's the real meaning behind it?
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You can’t cross a street in the city centre without seeing a Manchester bee. It’s on bollards, planters and rubbish bins everywhere. Since the attack on our fair city, the worker bee has taken the world by storm. Or should I say, swarm.

Many of you know that the worker bee is a well-know Mancunian symbol. But where did it come from?

Here’s a little history, a few facts you might not know.

The history of the Manchester Bee

So, why is this tiny creature a symbol for Manchester?

It’s come to stand as an emblem of our industrial past. The city was a hive of activity (pardon the pun) during the Industrial Revolution and workers were soon dubbed ‘busy bees.’ It’s this description that eventually just, well, stuck.

Manchester played an extremely important role during the industrial revolution. Factories were called “bee hives” because of their workers’ hard work ethic and how busy the workers were.

In an early Victorian branding exercise, it was decided that 7 worker bees would be included in the city’s coat of arms. These bees, placed in a globe, represented how the city traded across the seven seas of the world.

‘The Manchester Bee’ can be found everywhere – Its representation of a city made by the people, for the people, continues to this day and beyond, with many businesses, organisations and people making Manchester their base and home.

This is your Manchester, a city that continues to grow and make a name for itself globally. You, your parents and grandparents played a massive part in this.

You won’t just find the bee on bins though. Next time you’re in town, instead of avoiding eye contact, thinking about food or staring at your phone, look up at the facades of the buildings around you.

The bee can be seen on the clock face of the Palace Hotel, on the mosaic flooring at Manchester Town Hall, in St Ann’s Square above the (formerly Links of London) store, in the stained glass of Lloyds Bank and in a hidden location at Manchester Art Gallery. Look out for them around the city. These little creatures have come to represent Manchester’s energy and solidarity. Resilient, peaceful, but with a sting in their tails.

People have been flocking to tattoo parlours to honour the victims of the devastating Manchester Arena bombing. The attack led to 22 people being killed and many more injured in one of the worst terror attacks since 7/7. Plenty of tattooists around the city paid tribute to Manchester using the symbol and raised money for victims of the attack.

Similarly, Ariana Grande and her team reportedly inked themselves with the symbol of our city. Artists from Manchester Ink joined the pop star and her Dangerous Woman tour crew backstage to apply the body art, following her hugely successful One Love Manchester concert.

That Mural in the Northern Quarter

A Manchester mural in the city’s Northern Quarter by graffiti artist Russell Meeham aka Qubek who started painting the old toilet block in Stevenson Square with bees and two hands joined together in solidarity. It was after this moving token as a testament to the city’s strength that he was commissioned to create the mural on the side of the Koffee Pot on Oldham Street. As word spread about the work of art taking shape people came past to see what he was doing.

Tram 3022 pays tribute to the spirit of Manchester. It features a design inspired by the worker bee. The tram also carried people travelling to Ariana’s One Love concert at Old Trafford cricket ground free of charge if they showed staff their concert ticket. Solidarity all around on this one.

Unity and strength is what our city does best.

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Manchester is a successful city, but there are many people that suffer. The I Love MCR Foundation helps raise vital funds to help improve the lives and prospects of people and communities across Greater Manchester – and we can’t do it without your help. So please donate or fundraise what you can because investing in your local community to help it thrive can be a massively rewarding experience. Thank you in advance!

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