In my recent travels to Manchester, England, I saw bees everywhere. They were in the lifts of the hotel, on buildings, lampposts, signs, even on the people. I couldn’t help but wonder where these bees had come from and what they were all about.
The Bee in History
It seems that bees have been associated with Manchester since the Industrial Revolution. The city claims the title of being the first industrialized city in the world. In its heyday, it was full of textile factories which were compared to beehives of activity with the workers being busy as little bees, buzzing around producing their wares. That’s why the bee that symbolizes Manchester is a worker bee.
In 1842 Manchester attained city status and was awarded its own coat of arms. One of the symbols on it was a globe dotted with seven bees. This was to represent the products produced by the Mancunians (people of Manchester) which were shipped all over the world.
When the Industrial Revolution was over and many of the textile factories closed, the bee remained. The Mancunians continued to identify themselves with the little hard-working insects who form a tight-knit community.
The Bees New Role
Their community spirit was put to the test on May 22, 2017 when a terrorist attack at the Manchester arena killed twenty-two people and injured many more. The Manchester bees began to swarm and they took on a new meaning: The bee became a symbol of the Mancunians standing together against terror and for hope. The bees landed on signs of support all over the city. Then they started landing on people.
A local tattoo parlor came up with an idea to raise money for the victims of the attack: They would offer a tattoo of the Manchester bee for a suggested £50 donation. They set up an internet campaign and asked other tattoo parlors to join them by dedicating one full day to tattooing bees and donating all funds to the charity.
Then, the Manchester bees started appearing in other countries: The idea spread via internet to tattoo artists in America, Australia, Europe, and elsewhere. It’s estimated that around 10,000 people now have been inked with a Mancunian bee tattoo and the project has raised more than £520,000 to aid the victims. For many of these people, the bee was their first ever tattoo. One Mancunian lady who stopped by for her first tattoo was eighty-years old: She now proudly sports the Manchester bee on her wrist.
Ariana Grande, the singer who was performing at the arena the night of the attack, came back to Manchester June 4 to perform at the One Love benefit concert to raise funds for the victims. After the concert, she and her crew joined the Mancunians and others the world over in getting the Manchester bee tattoo as a permanent reminder of their solidarity with the city.
The bee that once symbolized a community working together in industry, now represents a worldwide community standing together in love, support, and hope for a brighter, more peaceful future.
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