Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

PTDC0001I’ve been planning to have a go at the Bee in the city trail for several weeks now but kept putting it off. While it is possible to download the app and find the bees that way, I opted for one of the maps available from Central Library.

There are quite a lot of bees in and around Central Library as it turns out, both the full size statues and the “little bees”, which are half the size, and have been designed by children across Manchester and Greater Manchester. Each bee has a ‘sponsor’ and a theme, decided on by the artist and sponsor in collaboration.





I didn’t get to see the Sylvia bee in suffragette colours at the People’s History Museum, but I intend to check her out at a later date. The Bling bee near Mount Street and the Bridgewater hall had a lot of children clustered around it, admiring it’s mirrored coat. Part disco bee, part intricate art. I got as many pictures of the ones I saw as I could but, with it being the tail end of the summer holidays, a lot of families were out bee spotting too and it felt like every time I got close to a bee I’d be mobbed by small children.


I thoroughly approve of the whole Bee in the city project. I know that some people have reservations, in fact I overheard one of the mums near the Bling bee saying to another visitor that she’d had enough of bees by the time the art trail came round, but that seeing the statues has changed her mind.

Apparently the Bee app has various freebies and promotions attached to it that you can get when you visit and unlock specific bees. I’m guessing it’s done with QR codes, and it’s clearly a gameification technique, but I think of the bee art trail as being akin to a live action version of Pokémon Go anyway, so fair enough.

There will be some who will say that the money spent on Bee in the city could be spent on other things, that instead of traversing the city centre photographing bee statues we could go around photographing rough sleepers, that we’d probably snap as many rough sleepers as bees. I’m not sure what that would achieve but, yes, the numbers of rough sleepers, or homeless as I’d rather say, are extremely high in Manchester. And pretty much everywhere else in the UK at the moment.

Similarly, if the money hadn’t been spent on the public art trail, it’s not like it would have been spent on helping the homeless, or funding the NHS, or extending public transport. Because those things are funded differently.

You can talk of bread and circuses, the opium of the people, distractions from reality, but I only think that this is a valid argument if the phenomena in question is actually so all absorbing and distracting that it has a massive and distorting impact on society. I don’t feel that, however cool they are, the bees are likely to achieve that.

There is the question of sponsorship, of course, which invariably influences the content of the art. For example, one of the bees I saw today has been sponsored by Virgin Trains and has a pendolino theme to it, similarly Sylvia bee was sponsored by UNISON. But I think the stories that the bees help to tell (many discuss climate change and it’s impact on bees, many have ties to Manchester’s cultural, social and political history) cancel that out.



Each bee has a sign attached to it’s base that advises you as to how to report damage to the bee in question. It seems sad that those signs have to be there but, unfortunately, some of the bees have been damaged. There is a dedicated team of workers who clean and mend the bees.

Similarly, there are signs on the bases advising you not to climb the bees as, to a small child, they do look rather irresistible in that respect. The no climb rule hasn’t stopped people from touching the bees however; I saw a lot of people, children and adults alike, gently patting or stroking bees that they had taken a shine to, and I think it’s a natural response to the art. The bees have very manga ish faces, with big eyes and a noble bearing. Some are quite smiley as well.

I have the map at hand and I intend to return to the fray in September. The bee quest continues.

Bee in the City runs until 23rd September around Manchester.

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Located just past the junction of Belmont Way and Wellington Road North. Once again, my camera is displaying completely the wrong date on it.


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It’s occurred to me this week that, while the Manchester worker bee has become much more widely known in the past month, many people may not be familiar with the history of the bee.

I did consider writing a blog post about it, but I figured it was highly likely that such a post would have already been written and that it would just be a case of looking for the right one.

In a nice surprise, I found the perfect piece courtesy of friend of Too Late For Cake, Natalie Bradbury, writing for Creative Tourist on this occasion. The piece (published in early 2013) provides you with an overall history of Manchester’s civic bond with the bee, but doesn’t touch on the cultural side such as Elbow’s song ‘Lost Worker Bee’, (which was, after all, not released until 2015) or the worker bee tattoos, which were very definitely A Thing even before the Arena bombing in May. (A casual trawl of tattoo parlour Instagrams in the Manchester area will back this up.) In the wake of the bombing, street art has started to appear, featuring the bees, and you can see pictures of some of these pieces here.

Transport For Greater Manchester meanwhile, in a very touching video, have unveiled The Spirit Of Manchester, a dignified and thoughtful response to the Arena bombing.

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Thanks to Manchester Histories Festival for this:

Manchester Histories is pleased to be working in partnership with Stockport Council to present the Picture Stockport project.
Follow the trail of 22 images displayed across Stockport town centre and vote for your favourite artwork of the borough.
Find out more and vote from 12th Jan – 12th Feb 2017 at picturestockport.com #picturestockport

I’ve had a look and there’s some really good ones, across all sorts of artistic styles. Some are surreal, some are Lowry like, some are almost like collages… Well worth checking out and voting for your favourite.

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I met Bob Follen at last months Louder Than Words literary festival in Manchester. Bob is an artist and model maker who creates imaginative and innovative portraits and cardboard models. At the festival, he was selling a selection of portraits and cards, including a number of his ‘one word missing’ series of portraits. I really enjoyed talking to Bob, and asked if he would mind being interviewed for Too Late For Cake. We had planned to do an interview on the Sunday but, for various reasons, there wasn’t time so an email Q&A was arranged instead…


When did you start Bob Art Models and what made you start creating art?

Bob Art Models started on January 1st 2014. Although, I had previous model-making and artistic training. I was schooled in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, then studied at colleges in both Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, finally after 7 years, graduated with an BA (with Hons) Degree in Model Design in 2003. Although “normal” jobs followed after the training, it was something I never fully left alone, and would draw and make things when I felt the urge.

Why cardboard?

BAM's SowerbyBridge BuildingFront

An example of Bob’s cardboard modelling

The initial model made from cardboard was just a little building front/panel, which had a design drawn onto it and was cut with scalpels pressed and raised, depending on the architectural design. The miniaturised “Building Front” idea, was really about appreciating where you live, and is also about trying to bringing the outside in. All the card used (to date), is from old removing boxes dating from when my other half and I relocated from London to Todmorden, right before Christmas 2013.

Even now it would seem an awful waste to throw out that much cardboard. Cardboard is very friendly model-wise. When not being used as models, it’s being cut up for sign-age, or as dividers in storage boxes.

Did you begin making cardboard models before drawing and painting your portraits?

Initially the models were first. I’ve never ever really for some reason felt comfortable being classed as a painter or artist, even though I did a lot of art training. I think I may have been more subconsciously excited by concept and the problem solving of “how to make something from nothing” with very little cost involved. When Bob Art Models was formed as time progressed, I was painting more and more. And adding in finer details on the Building Fronts or in the Portraits. My hand steadied pretty earlier on. Like with most things in life, the more you exercise the muscles needed, the better you become.

Who has been your favourite subject to draw and paint?


That’s a difficult one. I do a bit of information research especially image research for all of the subjects. I like painting someone who has quite a few really interesting facts about him or her. With someone like Rik Mayall, I really wanted to get it right, because of the amount of inspiration and fun he dished out, to an awful lot of people. A enormous talent gone far far too soon.

BAM's Rik&Ade OneWordMissing


Do any of your subjects own their portraits?


A good few do! John Lydon, David Gilmour (& Polly Samson) Jarvis Cocker, Robert Wyatt, Mark E Smith, Wilko Johnson, Peter Gabriel, Jimmy Page, Graham Fellowes, Robyn Hitchcock, Dr Brian May and a couple more….! Although, most only own a reproduction, as in Cards and the occasionally large print. I try not to think about the giants who might have seen the works. One chap came to see my work in Todmorden (via a gallery in Chiswick), he said he was a good friend of Peter Blake. And that he thought Mr Blake would really like my take on his relatively well known “Sgt Pepper” sleeve! Eek!

BAM's RobertWyatt OneWordMissing

Robert Wyatt

How did the collaboration with Louder Than Words come about?


Last year (2014) I painted a portrait of Robert Wyatt, and noticed via the web that author Marcus O’Dair had written a book in collaboration with My Wyatt, and that there was to be a series of talks about the book. One of which was happening in Manchester (at The Palace Hotel). I discovered the Louder Than Words Festival website, and purchased my tickets. Having chatted with Marcus on Twitter, we got to chat on the day. As I left I thought, someone from the Festival should really see the “One Word Missing” portraits, something about them seemed pretty relevant. The image is perhaps seen as Louder Than Words…etc! Getting an email address, I sent a message over and a meeting with Dr Jill was set up, and felt very lucky to have been given the opportunity and the encouragement, and the belief.

BAM's Philip Larkin OneWordMissing

Philip Larkin, ‘One Word Missing’ series


You relocated from London to Todmorden, what do you like best about Todmorden?


Todmorden is like most places in the UK, put down a bit, but it is definitely home to some very good hard-working businesses, and people. Sure, it may rain a bit more than anywhere else in the Calder Valley (occasionally feels like 99% of the year), but since setting up Bob Art Models in “Tod” I find myself believing in the following phrase “Ask yourself what you can do for town, and not what your town can do for you”. If you have that mentality, then you can achieve a lot. Tod, has all the basic good access requirements of a town, shops, libraries, train station, buses. It’s very lucky really. I’m originally from the Fens, and long before I appeared on the scene, Dr Beeching put an end to a large amount of train stations around there. So from an early age I got to know what a place is like when it has limited information and access to other places.

BAM's AlanBennett OneWordMissing

Alan Bennett, ‘One Word Missing Series’


Do you have any events and appearances coming up in the next few months?


Oohh! There are one of or two mooted plans, but the only concrete happenings so far are:

16th December – Benevolent Fund Stall, Deans Gate, Manchester

Thoroughly Mooted:
“TheBobArtGrotto” – Pop-Up Market Stall Residency – Brook Street, Indoor Market, Todmorden. 4 days a week, 10am – 5pm, making and selling pieces live. (Have previously done this over a 3 month period in another space inside the indoor market. It’s pretty hard going, but people get used to you being there…appreciate it, support it…and eventually the word spreads, and people flock in from far and wide.)

I think from a financial perspective it’s far better for me to be the one selling my wares than relying on another system. It’s also very good because people get to chat directly to the person responsible for producing the work.

You can contact Bob via Facebook and via Twitter @bobfollen

All art enquiries and commissions to the following email address: bobartmodels@gmail.com

All images copyright Bob Follen, Bob Art Models.


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Hats for Cats

Hats for Cats


A trade timeline

Ever since they started appearing about a year ago, I have been fascinated by a series of murals that have appeared in Levenshulme.




Sweet shop



The area behind the boards on which they have been painted used to house two shops, which were closed and demolished a few years ago. Up until very recently, nothing has been done with the land and, slowly, plant life has started to re-colonise the area, a process you can see in these pictures.



Aquarium life

Swimming pool

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