SCHOOLCHILDREN are designing two huge murals featuring Manchester icons including LS Lowry, John Rylands, the Essoldo cinema, Frances Lennon MBE, and even a number 256 bus, as part of the multi-million pound redevelopment at Stretford Mall.
The seven-foot-high by fifteen-foot-long foot long community art panels are being designed by pupils at Lostock College secondary school and Gorse Hill Primary School, in celebration of Stretford’s history.
Both pieces of artwork were commissioned to celebrate the history of the Stretford area (M32), and will be displayed next to Stretford Mall’s new Chester Road entrance, currently under construction as part of a £2m redevelopment.
Altrincham-based Pozzoni Architecture, lead designer and architect working on the redevelopment at the mall, will scale up the schools’ designs ready for installation.
Eight children at Lostock College, aged 11 to 16, are designing their art panel which will include a number iconic Stretford landmarks including the Essoldo Cinema, Stretford Civic Hall, Stretford Town Hall, and St Matthew’s Church.
It will also feature a number 256 bus as it runs through Stretford, and the faces of legendary artist Laurence Stephen Lowry who was born on Barrett Street, and former Smiths frontman Morrissey, who lived in the town during his childhood.
Thirty pupils at Gorse Hill will be working on their panel, which will see them recreate paintings by the late Stretford artist Frances Lennon MBE, the official artist for 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
The Stretford Mall redevelopment, which is well underway, represents a significant investment in the area and will help create a more vibrant retail environment.
Lostock College art teacher Lindsey Davies grew up on Barton Road in Stretford so is hugely excited to be working on the project.
She said: “I was born and bred in Stretford which is why I was so keen to get involved. The children who have been doing the drawing are absolutely chuffed. It’s a brilliant project.
“We’re a quarter of the way through. It’s a simplified line drawing to give a more dramatic effect. We’ve included iconic buildings in Stretford and famous people who were from here.”
She added: “The centre of the drawing is an aerial map of the Sevenways Roundsbout. It’s where all the main roads in Stretford lead to and gives the piece a spider web effect.
“Everything is radiating off it.
“We’ve got the 256 bus that goes through Stretford, famous people like Morrissey and Lowry, and iconic buildings such as Stretford Civic Hall, which was formerly the Civic Theatre, and was commissioned by John Rylands.
“We’ve also featured Stretford Town Hall, the former Essoldo cinema, and St Matthew’s church which is on Chester Road next to Stretford Mall, and the chapel near Longford park which John Rylands also designed.
“He lived in Stretford and was Manchester’s first ever multi-millionaire.”
Mrs Davies says Lostock College is a very diverse school with pupils from a wide range of nationalities working on the piece, including children from Hungary and the Philippines.
Gorse Hill deputy head Emily Rodda is also delighted that her school is getting involved in the project, with pupils set to start work on their designs next month led by teachers Leigh-Ann O’Neill and Siobhan Westwood.
She said: “We were extremely excited when we were contacted about the project. The children are really looking forward to it and it will be brilliant for them to see their work when they visit the mall. They will get a real buzz from it.
“We will be setting up special after school clubs so the children can really focus on the project and put time and effort into it.
“They will be split into groups with each recreating a piece of artwork.
“We’ll then put them together to create a montage. It’s going to be bright and colourful. We’ll also provide a brief description of each piece and what’s behind it.
She added: “Frances Lennon was a local artist from Stretford and her art was inspired by memories from her childhood. Lots of her work feature children playing and local people together with historical buildings in the background.
“We will be recreating the picture of the Queen and Prince Philip at Longford Park along with many other pieces of her work.”
Matt Mason, senior associate at Pozzoni Architecture, said: “It’s great that the schools have taken this initiative to their hearts and created such expressive artwork which they should feel very proud of.
“The children and teachers have shown real passion in their ideas and have dedicated their own time to produce the artwork which will continue to be showcased for years to come.
“We purposefully kept the brief fairly loose to enable the children free rein in terms of the method and creative content.
“We suggested that the artwork itself should relate to the history of Trafford and, in particular, Stretford itself.
“At present we have a monochrome montage relating to the history of Stretford and a vibrant coloured piece of individual sketches based on work by a local artist.
“We were very pleased that the two schools developed completely contrasting designs which will give a fresh new lease of life to the Mall frontage.
“Given the excellent visibility from Chester Road, the final installation will be a really prominent visual feature and one that we hope retail customers, and the community living in the surrounding area, will be able to stop and fully appreciate.”
Stretford Mall centre manager Gareth Wilkins said: “We’re delighted that local schoolchildren of all ages have been able to get involved with the project and everyone at the mall is excited to see the final designs.
“What the children have created so far looks fantastic and I have no doubt visitors to the mall will love seeing their final artwork when it goes on display outside the new Chester Road entrance.”
The murals will complement a series of paving stones laid by Trafford council outside the Stretford Mall’s recently refurbished King Street entrance, which also document the history of the town.
One paving stone details how Stretford is derived from the Latin word ‘streta’, meaning street, while another pays tribute to John Rylands who lived at Longford Hall in the 1800s and was the owner of the largest textile manufacturing company in the UK.
The others refer to Stretford’s nickname ‘Pork Hampton’, coined due to its large scale pig production in the 19th Century, famous artist and painter Lowry, and the town’s Roman connection.
There is also a paving stone with Manchester’s well known Worker Bee symbol which has recently become a public symbol of unity in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing.