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An inflatable Bez where Lowry once studied: old meets new at Manchester Met’s degree show

14 June 2024

Exhibition features inflatable Happy Mondays dancer in refurbished historic building, among standout work

It’s the iconic site where LS Lowry once studied classical figure drawing, but today Manchester School of Art’s historic Grosvenor West Building is reopening its doors to showcase something a little more avant-garde.

From an ‘air dancing’ Happy Mondays Bez installation to textile fidget toys and a statement on the objectification of Afro-Caribbean hair, this year’s art and design Degree Show will be showcased on an enhanced campus, including the recently reopened home of Manchester School of Art.

As part of its 200th year celebrations, Manchester Met’s commemorative degree show will see students following in the footsteps of their distinguished alumni predecessors including LS Lowry, Sylvia Pankhurst and Adolphe Valette.

The showpiece of the event is the University’s Grade II listed Grosvenor West Building, original learning space for these famous former students which was recently reopened following a major refurbishment.

An inflatable art installation
Fine art student Jacob Rogers' inflatable art installation

Its revamped Holden Gallery will play host to boundary pushing art such as fine art student Jacob Rogers’ Angel of the North (Bez), a theatrical large scale inflatable installation depicting a dancing Bez from the Happy Mondays which uses image transfer on polyester. 

Rogers said: “Angel of the North (Bez) is an interpretation of a modern-day Hacienda within 21st century Manchester. Having been born here and surrounded by the hype of ‘Madchester’, for me Hacienda felt like a bit of a cultural hangover with the city remembering its last ever great event as just a place where Hacienda was and not what it could be next.  

“I was inspired to create an inflatable dancing advertising man as there is something so theatrical yet slightly absurd or sinister about its endless endeavour to synthesize human functions which I thought was fitting for Bez and the themes I was exploring in the piece.”

Student Luka Emanuel with her art
Luka Emanuel's art questions the objectification of Afro-Caribbean hair

Meanwhile, in Benzie – soon to be renamed the Lowry Building in honour of this anniversary year - textiles in practice student Luka Emanuel’s striking Strands of Identity will greet visitors at the building entrance. Comprising synthetic styled Afro-Caribbean hair, the large-scale installations were based on Emanuel’s own experience of receiving unwanted attention towards her own hair.

She said: “Since my school days people have been fascinated with my hair, even strangers who touch it without asking. I’ve noticed this objectification is a shared experience among black women, as if our hair is public property.

“With Strands of Identity I wanted to make people question what’s appropriate and challenge them to consider how strange it is to interact with someone’s hair because it’s different to their own.”

A student installation in the Vertical Gallery
Laura Sheridan's installation addresses motherhood and creativity

The conflict between creativity and maternal responsibility is the subject of graphic design student Laura Sheridan’s final year project The Motherload including a magazine and large-scale installation. Challenging the inequalities mothers in the creative industry face, the work was inspired by her own experience as a young mother.

She said: “After I became a mum 11 years ago aged 22, washing dishes and folding laundry became my life. Finally and slowly, I’ve reclaimed my identity going to university and studying a subject I love. The Motherload project focuses on raising awareness of the still ever-present limitations, societal expectations, and invisible load we carry every day as the intended dominant parent.

“Through in-depth research, surveys, and interviewing ten working mothers in the creative industry, I found that there is still an evident stigma about talking about the challenges we face as we try to balance it all.”

Laura created a bold 5m statement piece which hangs in Benzie’s Vertical Gallery and includes powerful quotes from eight mothers in the design industry. Alongside sits a self-published magazine featuring interviews, symbolised art and statistics. Laura added: “From this I have been able to create a community, allowing a safe space to talk honestly, really raising our platform, and finally start to make a change.”

Mia Everley and her textile designs
Mia Everley's textile fidget toys are designed to self-soothe and prevent anxiety

Stretching across six buildings including Benzie, SODA (School of Digital Arts) and that restored Grosvenor West Building, the University’s degree show will display work by graduates from across art, design, fashion, digital arts, performance and architecture.

Textile designer Mia Everley’s ‘Comfort Creatures’ form another notable work of art, with their cushioned, beaded and threaded fabric characters designed to self-soothe, relax and prevent anxiety. Diagnosed with ADHD as a young teenager, Mia struggled in school and would have benefitted from her own degree show designs. She said: “I used to get told off for being restless in the classroom because the teachers didn’t understand my needs.

“Once I got my diagnosis and realised that fidget toys can help to relax people with ADHD, I spotted a design opportunity. I worked with children with additional needs at the school my mum teaches at to develop the Comfort Creatures and came up with a simple ‘grounding’ technique to help them focus their attention on the objects.

“It’s a simple self-soothing strategy that can help anyone ‘get out of their head’ and focus on the present moment. My aim is to develop this further and hopefully bring my designs to market.”

This year’s degree show marks Manchester Met’s 200-year anniversary which this month is celebrating how it champions creative excellence. It follows a recent announcement that the University is to rename one of its buildings in honour of its celebrated alumnus LS Lowry, as well as the publication of historic report cards showing the artist balanced work and studies during his time at Manchester School of Art.

Manchester Met’s degree show will be open to the public from Saturday June 15 to Saturday June 22 across Benzie, Chatham, Grosvenor West, Righton and SODA buildings on the University’s All Saints Campus. For more information go to Degree Show 2024 – Manchester School of Art (

Find out more about Manchester Met’s 200th anniversary and celebration of its creative excellence here: Championing Creative Excellence | 200 years | Manchester Metropolitan University (