Why people in Manchester are getting bee tattoos

The World
Updated on
Some of the hundreds of bee tattoos inked at Alchemy Studio in Wigan, Greater Manchester

Manchester, England, is still in shock following last month's suicide bomb attack at an Ariana Grande concert in the city.

A tribute concert for the victims took place Sunday, with Ariana Grande performing again, joined by Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams and other stars.

But hundreds of people across Manchester have found another way to symbolize their solidarity with the victims: getting a tattoo.

And the image many of them have chosen is a worker bee.

James Davis is a tattoo artist at Alchemy Tattoo Studio in nearby Wigan, one of the studios that first began offering bee tattoos after the attack and donating the proceeds to the victims and their families. He has been amazed at the response from the local community.

“They were queueing outside of our shop, down the street,” he remembers. “Three of our artists did them for 12 hours straight for three days. … It was amazing how people came together.”

The worker bee has a special meaning in Manchester, where it has been a symbol of the city since the Industrial Revolution. Traditionally, they represent the city’s energy and sense of community. Bees are featured in Manchester’s coat of arms and on many public buildings.

Many of those getting inked have never had a tattoo before.
Many of those getting inked have never had a tattoo before. Alchemy Tattoo Studio Instagram 

According to Davis, the popularity of bee tattoos has gone well beyond his usual customers since the bombing. “[We’ve done] well over 200. Well over … surprisingly we had people who had shied away from tattoos their entire life coming in. People see a warmth in that symbol.”

Elsewhere in the city, 80-year-old grandmother Ann Banks was one of those getting inked for the first time. "I've never had a tattoo in my life. But I just know I had to have it done," she told the BBC. "I was [scared] when it started off. And I thought I wasn't going to see it through, to tell you the truth. Oh crikey! It jolly well hurt."

Davis believes the tattoos have been such a hit because they touch something deep in his city's soul. “How we see it — these terror attacks are now happening when people are out expressing themselves, in their leisure time. And that’s why people have taken it so personally,” he says. “And body art is also a sign of expression. And freedom, as well. And claiming ownership of the body.”

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