Everything you need to know about the Manchester bee tattoo appeal

Tattoo parlours across Britain are offering £50 (€57) bee tattoos, with all profits going towards the families of the victims of the Manchester Arena attack.

Here is what you need to know about the appeal and why the bee is so significant.

What is the Manchester Tattoo Appeal?

Manchester Tattoo Appeal

There has been an overwhelming response from studios across the UK, Europe and the World who have also opened their doors in solidarity. We are hugely grateful to all the studios and artists…

The appeal was organised by Stalybridge tattooist Sam Barber.

All the money raised goes directly to a dedicated Just Giving page set up for the families of those affected. The current total is almost £16,500 (€18,900).

The appeal originally started out as a small scale initiative between a few tattoo artists in the Manchester area.

But it quickly picked up traction online as more and more studios across the UK, and even as far away as Australia, wanted to get involved.

How does it work?

people queue to get a tattoo (Dan Morehead/PA)
People queue to get a bee tattoo in central Manchester (Dan Morehead/PA)

Not all participating parlours are taking bookings so people are simply queuing up and hoping to get inked on the day.

Even though the event doesn’t officially start until Sunday, demand has been so great that many tattooists are seeing people early.

Barber said she came up with the idea after feeling helpless in the wake of the attack and wondering what she could do.

“Being a tattooist, I thought I’ll see if I can raise a bit of money for the families by doing the symbolic Manchester bee,” she said.

Why is the bee symbolic?

a bee motif on a bollard (Natalia Balcerska Photography/Flickr)
The bee motif has been around for hundreds of years (Natalia Balcerska Photography/Flickr)

The history of the worker bee as a motif for Manchester dates back to the city’s industrial past.

During the Industrial Revolution, Manchester was at the centre of textile manufacturing. It’s believed the busy workers in the mills were commonly compared to bees in their hives and so the association was born.

The worker bee has since represented the hard work and community spirit of Mancunians, and can be seen subtly incorporated into the city’s landscape including on buildings, bins and clocks.

Why is it so popular now?

While the meaning behind the bee has remained fairly localised for years, its status has reached new levels of fame following the attack.

People have found it to be a fitting symbol for the way locals have rallied and supported each other in the aftermath.

Why are people getting the bee tattooed?

The bee was already popular in the area before the attack so it seemed the obvious choice to Barber who described it as a symbol of strength and pride.

She also believes it’s a fairly universal tattoo. She said: “It’s a nice thing to have tattooed, anyone could get it, it’s not too strong or too big so people love it.”

Who is getting it tattooed?

Interest in the bee tattoo has come from all sorts of people, according to Barber.

She’s heard from friends and relatives of some of the victims, survivors who were at the concert, A&E staff who were working on the night of the attack, and others who “just want to feel part of something.”

She added: “The tattoo means something different to each person that’s getting it.

“It can be seen as a badge of honour or some people are doing it as a remembrance tattoo for a loved one.”

Many are having the bee as their first ever tattoo, including Stalybridge Labour MP Jonathan Reynolds, who was inked by Barber. He called the appeal a “wonderful idea” and said “it didn’t hurt as much as I’d feared”.


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