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New Manchester art exhibition celebrates loosening of lockdown

Called ‘I’ve Missed You Too’, the 12 artworks by Manchester sketcher Len Grant depict the city he’s missed during lockdown

A new art exhibition celebrating the loosening of lockdown restrictions goes up this week.

The series of 12 artworks by Manchester sketcher Len Grant entitled ‘I’ve Missed You Too’ depicts the city that he says he’s missed during lockdown.

The works are accompanied with a piece of writing in which he lists all the things he’s missed about the city.

From 12th April the series has been on show at Escape to Freight Island, the outdoor eating destination at Mayfield near Piccadilly.

From 15th April, it’s being displayed on the fencing around Urban Splash’s Waulk Mill in Ancoats; and from the end of April it will be on the windows of Qbic, a new hotel opening on Deansgate.

“Lockdown 3 was tough,” says Len.

“The days were short, the weather awful, news report routinely depressing.

“If I wasn’t sitting outside during January and February, I’d normally at least sketch the city from the window of a café, or inside a museum or gallery.

“None of that at the start of 2021.”

Len started to make large format drawings on A2 paper rather than his usual smaller sketchbook size.

“I used some of my smaller sketches as inspiration,” he says.

“Later, I took snaps during my bike rides into town.”

After he made about three or four of these artworks he realised how much he was missing Manchester.

“It was then that I decided to make a series of 12 large pictures in homage to the city I love.”

The pictures feature some well known landmarks like Manchester Art Gallery and Central Library as well as less conventional scenes like Oxford Road under the Mancunian Way and the Rusholme Chippy. 

“There’s a lot of playfulness about these pictures,” says Len.

“I appear in several: cycling into town or on an album cover in the record shop window.

“The characters – mostly inspired from photographs of passers-by – often make an appearance in several scenes, as if they’re passing through the city.

“One couple, Aldi bag in hand, seem to be taking a circuitous route home.”

What we’ve missed

Here’s the text that is exhibited with the exhibition, describing what Len has missed about the city.

“I’ve missed the bus drivers, the tram drivers, the shop assistants, the over-enthusiastic newspaper vendors, the baristas, the traffic wardens, the TV crews taking over whole streets as if they own the place. I’ve missed the Uber drivers, the Deliveroo riders, the skaters and the goths. I’ve missed those guides in uniform who tell the tourists how to get to the cathedral. 

“I’ve missed rice ‘n’ three at This & That. I’ve missed queuing for a Greggs sausage roll. I’ve missed a plate of free-range poached eggs, sautéed spinach with homemade hollandaise sauce on a sourdough bloomer. Who’d have thought?

“I’ve missed settling into a morning’s writing at Central Library only to bump into a friend in the café. I’ve missed the escalator at Waterstones, transporting you to another world. I’ve missed cutting through the Royal Exchange Theatre on a rainy day, just because you can.

“I’ve missed meeting collaborators and clients in the Fig + Sparrow, or Takk, or the Federation Coffee House. I’ve missed dropping into the basement of Fred Aldous afterwards, buying another sketchbook I will never fill and another pen I don’t need. 

“I’ve missed cycling down unfamiliar side streets and being taken aback at what’s changed. I’ve missed negotiating Canada geese and latté-laden hipsters along the towpaths of the Ashton or the Rochdale.

“I’ve missed Epstein at The Whitworth and Valette at Manchester Art Gallery. I’ve missed the Arndale’s indoor stalls and those Sunday makers’ markets.

“I’ve missed a decent pint with mates in one of the back rooms at The Briton’s, with an expensive bag of peanuts. I’ve even missed the retro toilets. 

“I’ve missed Whitworth Street, Canal Street and Oldham Street. I’ve missed Market Street, but much less. I’ve missed the grandee that is Castlefield and the upstart that is New Islington. I’ve missed sitting on my stool sketching. Have I missed Piccadilly Gardens? Probably not. 

“I’ve missed the pizza at HOME. I’ve missed the cycle path home.

“They say cities will change. They say we’ll use them less and Zoom more. Not me. I’ve missed Manchester. I’m glad to be back.”

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