A swarm of bees are set to colonise the city this summer in one of the largest mass participation art projects the city has ever seen. Delivered by Wild in Art and supported by Manchester City Council, the Bee in the City project is a sculpture trail of over 100 vibrant super-sized worker bees, each designed by a different artist to celebrate the uniqueness of the city.
Bruntwood has sponsored ‘My Heart Belongs in this Place’, a bee designed by Kim Hubball. Ahead of the festival we spoke to Kim about what the bee and the city mean to her. “I was really pleased when I found out that Bruntwood was sponsoring my bee as I know them to be highly supportive of the arts locally,” says Kim. “My bee is about a feeling, specifically, the feeling of being a part of the vibrant Manchester culture.” Part of that culture takes root within the inimitable Afflecks which has been an important element of the design, along with the independent music scene which thrives to this day. “It’s a unique and iconic place that taught me that it’s okay to be who you want to be. Afflecks is loud, proud and a bit ‘in your face’ and that has certainly influenced the design of my bee.”
The bold, colourful bee draws further inspiration from the everyday people and places of the city through to its iconic designs. “The rainbow colour scheme was inspired by the Happy Mondays album covers and symbolises the diverse, creative city that is Manchester,” explains Kim. “The black and yellow stripes pay homage to both the bee itself, and also Peter Saville's graphic design for the Hacienda, which I’ve been a fan of for a long time.”
The worker bee has been synonymous with Manchester for over 150 years and while it originally symbolised the resilience and dedication of hard-working Mancunians lately it’s evolved into something more than that: a symbol of unity and strength. The evolution of meaning is something that Kim has responded to when developing the bee; “it was important to me that the design be non-figurative, so that people can interpret it in their own way and think about what it means to them.”
At the start of Kim’s career in the arts she worked as a graphic designer, but her work has taken her on a journey. “I began to produce work that people thought of as art rather than design. This has led me to explore the boundary that exists between the disciplines of art and design by creating work that attempts to blur and challenge that boundary.”
Kim has spent around 100 hours painting the giant fibreglass sculpture: “It was a tricky object to paint and it presented me with many challenges but I’ve enjoyed every minute,” says Kim. “My favourite part has been getting out and seeing other artists work on their bees. Being a freelancer, my work is mostly done in isolation at home. I’ve learned so much and met lots of lovely people through working on this project.”
The motivation behind the art trail is to put creativity at the heart of the city and create a fun cultural event which will make art accessible for everyone. “It will bring art to people who may not normally visit traditional galleries, it will welcome many new visitors into the city and it will create conversations,” says Kim. “It’s already creating opportunities for local artists like myself. At the end of the trail the bees will be auctioned to raise money which will go to help underprivileged people in Manchester, so it’s all positive.”
Public art trails like Bee in the City play an important part when it comes to pride of where you live and of who you are. Part of that is because they don’t seek to celebrate public figures but the public itself. This celebration of the everyman resonates with the city; a city without pretence, where its proudest residents are often its adopted ones. Manchester is a city to call your own wherever you’re from and has a welcome that extends to all. “I think it’s the sense of belonging that I feel when I’m there. Despite the weather, Manchester has a warmth and that’s what I love about it,” says Kim.
The Bee in the City trail launches on 23rd July for nine weeks, with the route set to include famous landmarks, cultural hotspots, and some of the city’s undiscovered gems.