Be it the amazing Millenium Powerhouse giving young people great things to do, neighbours sprucing up each other’s alleyways, or Keeping it Real 24/7 delivering food and help for people, local residents are making a difference in the area.
Now, two brilliant community projects, Salford-based I4YPC and Moss Side Millennium Powerhouse, both deeply committed to serving their local youth, have united their efforts to create a piece of visual art that stands as a permanent testament to Moss Side’s renewal.
This living tribute, known as ‘Jessie’s Wall,’ is dedicated to the memory of a young soul, Jessie James, whose life was tragically cut short by gunfire in the community park in September 2006.
In Memory of Jessie James
‘Jessie’s Wall’ is dedicated to the memory of Jessie James, a 15-year-old boy who was tragically killed by gunfire in the park on the 8th of September 2006.
Soon after Jessie’s murder, a group of his friends came together to celebrate his life, by creating a graffiti wall with a representation of his image and his name spelled out, in spray paint.
To a Brighter Future in Moss Side
On a visit to Moss Side Millennium Powerhouse, Founder and CEO of I4YPC, Micky Dacks, stumbled upon the wall, which had decayed somewhat, and enquired as to the memorial’s decline.
After learning about the tragic circumstances surrounding Jessie’s death, Micky was inspired to propose a partnership project that would see Jessie’s memorial come back to life.
The wall, which is 26 feet wide and just under 6 feet tall, was originally installed in the park by Manchester City Council, as a resolution to prevent cars from joy-riding through the park, which was a huge problem in the area at the time and had been flagged by the local community.
Refurbishing the Tribute
The wall, which is 26 feet wide and just under six feet tall, was originally installed in the park by Manchester City Council, as a resolution to prevent cars from joy-riding through the park, which was a huge problem in the area at the time and had been flagged by the local community.
“I was touched by the story behind the wall, that Jessie’s friends had come together to create a piece of art as a memorial, in the very place that he was gunned down. I saw the peeling paint and the litter and overgrowth and just felt saddened that this monument to the loss of a young life, in that young person’s community park, had been left in such a state of disrepair.”
Micky then hatched a plan and worked closely with Lisa Davenport, CEO of Moss Side Millennium Powerhouse, to consult with Moss Side’s local community as to how ‘Jessie’s Wall’ could be reimagined.
“I was really moved by the idea of Powerhouse taking responsibility for the wall and is over the moon that the project is about to be completed.
“When I started to ask questions about the wall and noticed how local people came and used it as space for reflection and to remember Jessie, I was inspired to look for funding to ensure his memory didn’t just fade away .”
Despite running a charity and being a successful playwright, Micky is no stranger to criminality and violence, having been a member of a Manchester street gang himself as a teenager, which eventually landed him in prison.
“I feel blessed to be able to bring this project to life. As a young person, I was involved in some very dangerous and damaging activities that, when I reflect upon, make me feel lucky to be alive today. This is why ‘Jessie’s Wall’ is such an important project, because it celebrates the beauty of youth and highlights both the loss of life and the damage that violence causes to families and communities, not just in Moss Side, but around the whole world.”
Jessie’s Wall has been a passion project for Micky and has taken nearly two and a half years to come together, involving many community groups, local artists and people who knew Jessie.
Kemoy Walker, a friend of Jessie’s who is a local activist and CEO of KYSO youth group, which runs sessions with young people at the Powerhouse, says of the project:
“I am soo proud to be involved, I went to school with Jessie, following the incident in the park, we did a few memorial events, this took place year on year and ensuring the community who loved Jessie attended, we organised a few at the powerhouse near where the incident happened, we also raised awareness and wanted people to help speak to young people about the dangers of gun crime, my personal connection also, we attended the same school and was in the same year group so it really affected everyone, this inspired me to become a youth worker and teacher to help make a wider difference and to look at projects to support young people, we all miss Jessie very much and we continue running local projects to spread the message around the dangers of gun crime.”
Twists and Turns
The project has also taken many twists and turns artistically.
“The key consideration was that we wanted to keep as true to the original mural as possible, paying homage to the original artists and the true sentiment of community spirit. We wanted the wall to become 3D and to bring light to a dark space, helping to shift the negative narratives associated with Moss Side.
“This memorial will highlight the beauty of all young lives that are wasted through the negative cycle of youth violence.”
The wall will consist of a 3D resin-cast sculpture that has been created by Lancaster-based artist Alan Ward, and Jessie’s name spelled out in stainless steel lettering boxes which have been designed and decorated by local children in Moss Side.
Clive Hamilton, who was raised in Moss Side and knew Jessie, now works with young people in the community, and has been involved in bringing this project to life:
“Some of the concerns we have in our community, we want to reflect a more positive, more colourful, more vibrant Moss Side, which I know is here, because I was raised here. Jessie, I knew him, very sad situation, but this artwork will help raise awareness and reflect a brighter future for Moss Side, the local area and the future.”
Moss Side Community Park sits adjacent to Moss Side Millennium Powerhouse, Raby Street, Moss Side.
The project has been kindly sponsored by One Manchester and Greater Manchester Police.