Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Help Solve Riddle of the Mystery Mural ; City Centre Tour Guide Hayley Flynn Writes about the Secrets of Manchester's Buildings and Architecture on Her Award-Winning Blog the Skyliner but, for the Last Year, She Has Been Struggling to Solve a Riddle in the Heart Manchester: Who Created the Giant Modern Murals in Spring Gardens Post Office? Here, She Describes Her Quest and Appeals to M.E.N. Readers for Their Help in Solving the Puzzle

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Help Solve Riddle of the Mystery Mural ; City Centre Tour Guide Hayley Flynn Writes about the Secrets of Manchester's Buildings and Architecture on Her Award-Winning Blog the Skyliner but, for the Last Year, She Has Been Struggling to Solve a Riddle in the Heart Manchester: Who Created the Giant Modern Murals in Spring Gardens Post Office? Here, She Describes Her Quest and Appeals to M.E.N. Readers for Their Help in Solving the Puzzle

Article excerpt

THESE murals that sit above the counters of Spring Gardens Post Office have always stood out to me as something quite lovely.

They straddle the internal windows and allow me to eye them until my number is called. Even during the most mundane chores I can still get my fill of art. Countless times I've taken a tour group through the post office to a chorus of 'I've never noticed them before'. How does a series of huge brutal reliefs just a few feet above the counter go unnoticed time and again, but most intriguing of all is who made them? I became a little obsessed with discovering the artist responsible and found myself for much of last year lost in the archives, reeling from a multitude of dead ends and uncertainties.

I have a theory, a solid one, but I'm still looking for that definite answer. So begins our whodunnit.

The staff at the post office don't know very much about the murals, but what they do say is that they were a gift from Manchester University when the building opened on August 4, 1969. I'm certain that they're wrong. Designed by Cruikshank and Seward, Spring Gardens was the largest post office in the north when it opened and heralded the arrival of new mechanised sorting offices in the area. In January 1969 lead architect Lee Monks fell from the sixth floor during an inspection of the building and was killed. In anticipation of the opening of the post office there were articles in both regional and national press, several pages were dedicated to the new site and yet the murals, though given cursory mention, are never credited to an institution, a student or an artist. As if the extensive press coverage wasn't enough, the Piccadilly Hotel created a commemorative omelette called the GPO Surprise.

That's right, a commemorative omelette.

Surely, if news was so lacking that a post office gets a four page spread somewhere in there they'd thank the university and name the students responsible.

This seals the deal for me, they're not a gift. During this time public art was becoming more prevalent and Percent For Art schemes were common practice across much of the world - (Bolton has a scheme to this day) - and although there was no UK-wide initiative the seed was planted and many buildings incorporated some form of public art into their plans. Sadly, although lots of buildings of this era are often artistically decorated it's the art that's first to go when the building begins to look a little dated. It's because of this fact that the murals intrigue me further.

It's quite a feat that they have survived extensive renovation, especially when they are both anonymous in origin and really, quite crudely mounted. Thinking back now I recall my initial interest in the murals was driven by the possibility that they could be the work of artist William Mitchell but with further investigation it became less likely to be Mitchell's work. Then a new name came up.

It was mentioned to be in a pub one night that the artist responsible was Mitzi Cunliffe - creator of the BAFTA mask and long- time Didsbury resident. But it wasn't Mitzi either.

I'VE spoken to the architects responsible for the original building and those involved in the refurbishment, Postal Heritage, 20th Century Society, Manchester Modernist Society, Manchester University, architectural historian Lynn Pearson, author Terry Wyke (Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester) and all the staff at the post office. …

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