A tattoo too

When great tragedy happens, there is often an outpouring of compassion. This has certainly been the case in Manchester over the past week, with many anonymous acts of kindness and generosity. But, in addition, many people want to make a statement, to give a signal that they are part of the wounded community, indeed simply to be part of that community.

And thus, when Samantha Barber, a Manchester tattoo artist, had the idea of offering bee tattoos in support of the bombing victims (the worker bee is the symbol of Manchester), the idea took off (pun intended).  Many tattoo parlours decided to take part, donating all the proceeds to the fund supporting the victims. It seemed likely that there would be many takers, but who would have thought that up to 900 people would queue up at a single parlour in the hope of handing over £50 each for their bee? That, however, is exactly what happened at Sacred Art in Chorlton. They drafted in the help of their friends and they opened up at 10am on Sunday morning – by which time, some people had been waiting for nearly six hours.

We walked past around 1pm. Those in the queue were happy and chatty, being entertained with music and provided with food and drink by various businesses, as well as the residents of many of the houses in the streets along which the queue extended. The tattoo artists worked all day and into the night free of charge. They only stopped, at 11.15 pm because they ran out of supplies. Indeed, they said that, had this not have been the case, they would have worked until they had inked everyone in the queue.

I’ve seen various negative things written about the pointlessness of getting a Manchester bee tattoo, but being there on Sunday, and feeling the sense of belonging and the importance for all those people of simply showing their solidarity for the city in which they live brought home to me the value of this sort of act. It’s hard to describe the atmosphere, but this quote from the Sacred Art Facebook page gives a little flavour of it:

I want everyone to know that from the bottom of our humble hearts, everyone here at Sacred Art salutes you. Your mad enthusiasm, patience, empathy and unwavering support has been second to none. It’s truly testament to the heart of our city. Without it, this event simply wouldn’t have happened. By success, I don’t just mean the money we all raised (which was a staggering £18,204.70 ). The success of seeing our friends, families and neighbours all coming together to convey a message of only love. Irrespective of geography, gender, sexuality, religion or ethnicity, we all did this together, celebrating the soul of our city and cementing it with the Mancunian worker bee. It was heartwarming to see our community sharing their grief whilst celebrating their unity.

I hope that the city can continue to draw on this feeling of love and community in the coming weeks as it starts to heal from the terrible harm that has been done to it.

…and now, just for your entertainment, here’s where the title of this post comes from…

Leave a comment


  1. What a lovely coming together. There is a lot of hurt and fear in the world that turns to hate but also great amounts of love, courage and compassion. Thank you for sharing this Jan.

  2. Holy cow…
    There’s a bit of symbolism there as well, with all the volunteers participating in just a little of the pain felt by the victims. I always thought one tattoo was enough, but if that had been my city too, I’d have been queuing up with the rest. Great story.

  3. What an amazing story! I salute those tattoo artists for literally working until their ink ran dry… As long as things like this happen, I’ll carry on believing that humans are generally decent 😃

    • There was also a lady painting bees on for people who didn’t want a tattoo, a couple of djs doing the entertainment and loads of volunteers selling raffle tickets and helping out in general. No one seemed bothered about the queue outside their house and the atmosphere was happy and relaxed – just amazing.

  4. Reblogged this on msamba.

  5. I saw the tattoos on the news, what an incredible amount of money raised. I did wonder about knitting a bee. Maybe I will.

  6. Laurie Graves

     /  May 30, 2017

    Public solidarity for a great cause is always worthwhile. To heck with the naysayers!

  7. The people who see such acts as useless don’t understand that any time people gather with the intention of celebrating unity something unmeasurable and indefinable happens that makes the world a better place. It is the only way to counter the act that caused these people to come together. There’s a book – this is the author talking about it https/:www.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DQciaPhtYw90&usg=AFQjCNE5W93vnfbzRgz9qgGd5YzcrVJ-vA&sig2=e1pb7UIcGV7hf1gqZEVxjw

  8. I forgot to say, a fabulous post Jan. thank you for sharing your experience ❤

  9. People often find some way to criticize others. I like that people gathered to get bee tattoos and raised so much money. As Pauline says, it’s a way of uniting and gathering and it will be there (as a tattoo) long after the flowers are dead and the candles are out.

    • I know that the mother of one of the victims got a bee tattoo over the weekend. I can imagine the comfort she will draw when she sees other people with them too – knowing that her daughter is remembered and honoured by so many.

  10. I too think it is a lovely idea, and done in a spirit of solidarity for the victims and the City. Lovely to see something strong coming out of such tragedy. Thanks for telling us about it. (BTW, great cast in that video!)

  11. uapsnu

     /  June 2, 2017

    On that dreadful day, Manchester city became Manchester united.

  12. Jan, a lovely post. It’s good to see the community come together, and now I understand the little bee from the previous post (I’m catching up in reverse). Acts that unify are so important in life. I’ve heard of entire families shaving their head to support a cancer patient who is about to lose their hair to chemo. It’s not the act itself, but the solidarity of the act and the way it unifies the community. Further, bees have such a positive connotation. They’re critical to our very survival in the world. I hope to visit Manchester one day. Arms around you. Thanks for being such a stand up person.

  13. May we reblog this over at TattooQuestions? It is a powerful story. Our hearts are out to everyone in Manchester and to the ones affected by this tragic event.

    • Please feel free to share. I really wish I had asked someone who’d had a tattoo on the day if I could photograph it, but of course I only though of it after I got home.

  1. Three Things Thursday: 1 June 2017 | The Snail of Happiness

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