The project forms part of the Rediscovering the Underbanks initiative, an exciting Townscape Heritage project that aims to bring buildings back into life.

Visitors to Stockport’s Underbanks are in for a real surprise as four stunning works of art by renowned and local artists are unveiled in this historic and emerging part of Stockport town centre, thanks to funding by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Totally Stockport.

The project is led by Stockport Council and funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund – thanks to National Lottery players’.

After an initial tender was published in April this year, a total of 33 submissions were received from artists across the country. The brief specified that the artwork should have a strong focus on storytelling, and links to the history of the Underbanks, it’s people, the future and growth.

The four chosen artists showcase different design styles and subject matters from both emerging local artists and internationally renowned muralists. The varying designs, styles and fanbases of each artist will create intrigue in the area and help attract a diverse audience to Stockport.

The artworks on display are:

1. ‘Shop Small, Love Local’ mural by Emily Flanagan, located in the window arches under St.Petersgate Bridge. Emily is a local illustrator who studied Art and Design at Stockport College and is known for her signature art style, consisting of big eared characters teamed with bold shapes and contrasting colours. Her other notable works include designing tour posters and merchandise for Blossoms band. The artwork will pay homage to independents in the Underbank today and feature Emily’s unique characters supporting local businesses in the area.

2. Garden Tiger Moth mural by Paintsmiths in collaboration with Cheshire Wildlife Trust, located on Lower Hillgate opposite Robinson’s Brewery. Paintsmiths of Bristol, are highly-skilled mural artists with a background in graffiti and street art. Their professional experience also spans other disciplines including fine art, scenery painting, graphic design and illustration. The location of the artwork, opposite Robinsons Brewery, is symbolic as moths act as overnight pollinators for a wide range of flowers and plants. Without the crucial work moths do, the barley plant, which is fundamental in the brewing process, would be unable to grow.

3. Jimi Hendrix mural by Otto Schade, located on the site of the former caretakers flat at Merseyway. Otto Schade is a world-renowned street artist, known for his trademark ribbon style. His eclectic works decorate the walls of some iconic cities worldwide – including Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona and New York. Otto’s installation will focus on the Underbanks’ musical past and pay homage to Jimi Hendrix, who played at the Sinking Ship Club located on Royal Oak Yard in 1967.

4. ‘Underbanks’ mural by Qubek, opposite the Cracked Actor. This piece includes fish and flowers to signify the Tin Brook that runs below, as well as other objects synonymous with the Underbanks area. The vibrant design features fauna and flora at its heart will add a much-needed sense of the natural world to the built-up environment. Qubek is a local street artist based in Manchester, who spent his formative years living in Stockport. He has been active in Manchester for over 18 years, working on a number of large-scale murals including some of the city’s best loved artworks such as ’22 Bees’ which commemorates those who lost their lives in the Manchester Arena attack.

Councillor David Meller, Cabinet Member for Economy and Regeneration at Stockport Council said: “All four artworks are a welcome and very colourful addition to the Underbanks. They demonstrate how we’re using Stockport’s rich heritage to push our town centre into the future.

“Each artwork has a unique story to tell, celebrating the past, present and future of this very special area. If you haven’t visited the Underbanks yet, we’ve had an influx of new bars, restaurants and independent businesses, who have all been attracted to its unique character, as well as our ambitious plans.

“The Town Centre is currently undergoing £1bn of investment and will include thousands of new homes, office space, an improved shopping centre, new transport interchange and local amenities.

“Despite COVID, people should rightly feel confident and optimistic about Stockport and where we’re headed.”

Artist Russ Meehan aka Qubek, said: “I lived in Stockport from being the age of 10 to 28 – I am an honorary Stopfordian you could say! When I lived in Stockport I built my artistic roots in this town. Now it is great to be back in a more formal capacity adding to the creative arts scene!”

To find out more about Emily Flanagan’s ‘Shop Small, Love Local’ mural, listen to her interview with BBC Radio Manchester.

In her interview, Emily tells host Stacey Copeland that the independent businesses in the Underbanks are the inspiration behind her artwork. Emily credits them for making the Underbanks the place it is today and wanted to show her support and appreciation with this mural.

She also explains her unique style of ‘big-eared’ characters and the pride she feels having her mural in the Underbanks for local people to see and enjoy.

Emily talks about some of her previous work for local bar The Cracked Actor and vintage shop, The Nora Store, as well as her artwork for Stockport band Blossoms.

She urges people to ‘Shop Small’ and ‘Love Local’ to support independent businesses.

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