New heartwarming paintings by Manchester artist Len Grant show us the city we've all missed
Normal life, how does that go again? If we took it for granted before, being amongst people and enjoying the freedom to roam and explore, then we'll certainly appreciate it now. Manchester sketcher Len Grant is welcoming us back to the city with a new heartwarming series of paintings entitled, I've Missed You Too.
On show at Escape to Freight Island, the outdoor eating destination at Mayfield near Piccadilly, the artworks depict what Len has missed about normal city life the most. "The third lockdown was tough. The days were short, the weather awful, news report routinely depressing," says Len. "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."
So with restrictions in place, 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 explains. "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."
If you're familiar with Manchester, you'll spot some famous local landmarks in Len's paintings, such as the 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," adds Len. "I appear in several: cycling into town or on an album cover in the record shop window. The characters – mostly inspired by 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, seems to be taking a circuitous route home."
The 'I've Missed You Too' series is also on display outdoors on fencing around Waulk Mill in Ancoats and, from the end of April, it will be on the windows of Qbic, a new hotel opening on Deansgate.
The entire series is accompanied by a piece of writing in which Len lists all the things he's missed about the city. Here's an extract of text for you to enjoy. Anyone who lives in and/or loves Manchester will most definitely agree: "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."
"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."
Len Grant describes himself as a sketcher, writer and photographer. For over three decades he documented the regeneration of Manchester and Salford with his camera. During the first lockdown, he published a retrospective book entitled, Regeneration Manchester, 30 years of Storytelling.
Recently, he has exchanged his camera for a pen and paintbrush and taken up urban sketching where he sits on his stool documenting the city. In 2018 he published The Rusholme Sketcher a "celebration of Manchester's most vibrant neighbourhood". Find out more at lengrant.co.uk.