HOME commissioned local artist and illustrator, David Bailey, to create a new poster series for our Homeground outdoor performance site. Curator Bren O’Callaghan asks him to explain a little more about the creative prompt and the results.
Bren O’Callaghan: Who is David Bailey, and why does he have my email address?
David Bailey: I’m a jobbing illustrator. I like humour and comics and combining the two. I’ve been living in Manchester for 20 years doing the do. I work primarily in black and white because it’s classic and I’m colourblind and I don’t naturally think in colours. We’ve crossed swords a number of times from Cornerhouse through to HOME and now Homeground! Our email addresses haven’t changed that wildly over the ages.
BOC: When we first spoke, I challenged you to reinterpret Manchester’s tendency to lasso as many ‘firsts’ as it can lay claim to, but to do so from a place of affection. Was this something you could relate to?
DB: Yes, certainly! I don’t relate to Manchester’s marketed voice as the “Big I Am”. Doing things differently often doesn’t look that different when you walk around the city. A lot of these shouts seem jaded and from a bygone era – the swagger is a bit hollow. Not that I don’t like Manchester but you don’t have to be the first to do something or the best at it.
BOC: What are some of the most tenuous marketing claims about the city that you might have encountered?
DB: The busiest bus route in Europe is a classic one re the Oxford Road corridor. I’ve always heard it since I’ve lived here and never questioned it. But it’s probably made up, right? How do you quantify that? Most buses? Most congested roads? Most stops per mile? Who measured all the bus routes in Europe? It’s a boring claim so maybe nobody has bothered to verify it. I just bored myself thinking about it.
BOC: Your own illustration work has a deeply self-deprecative streak, from a well-documented obsession with crap, processed snacks, to pin-sharp observations of everyday musings. Are you more drawn to the non-achievements, than shouty claims at greatness?
DB: Thank you! Definitely. I like low key funny mundanity rather than pomp and ceremony – unless it’s a subject that is deserving of fun being poked at it. I’m more cynical than naturally enthused, but I like being overly enthusiastic about small moments and objects in my artwork. I prefer to make up stories for things that don’t shout about their own existence, rather than working with self-proclamations or exact history. There’s fun to be had with all scenarios though – I like having fun! Most things are funny somehow.
BOC: What city secrets would you like to champion that you feel are deserving of a bit of attention?
DB: I’ll just say food places. Cafe Marhaba on Back Piccadilly is one of my fave lunch spots for rice and three. Lunch trade has been decimated in the city centre since Covid so it’ll be good to support old haunts when frequenting Manchester. Levenshulme Bakery is amazing for £3 Falafel kebabs with really good salad on freshly baked Samoon bread. Dal Barista in Stockport is an iconic cafe spot – really loud music with lights everywhere, white chocolate soup on the menu, and all day breakfasts served with salad.
BOC: What are you most looking forward to holding aloft in the glinting sunlight once socialising can get back in full swing?
DB: My world has shrunk to such a small radius that I’m not overtly bothered about expanding it that much. It will be a thrill to visit somewhere outside the postcode though. I walked through Manchester yesterday and found the “we missed you!” and “welcome back” messaging on clothes shops windows a bit much. I’m looking forward to that war time rhetoric disappearing. Going to the cinema will be a treat, when it feels more normal to do that. I’ve not been to an exhibition in yonks either so that too!
BOC: What’s next for the great Manchester artist, David Bailey?
DB: I’m doing a pro-protest window design at Patagonia in Manchester which I’m looking forward to. It’ll be on King Street for a good while so people can walk past it. Otherwise, I’ll be doing various illustrative signage for some good independent Manchester businesses. And on a personal level I’ll be expanding upon a probably never ending series of short comics about food.