The worker bee has been synonymous with Manchester since the industrial revolution, symbolising hard work, family, teamwork and togetherness. Bees work together in a community to help sustain each other, much as the people of Manchester have since the horrendous attack in the city last week. So it makes perfect sense that soon after the news broke, Manchester's tattooists came together to help raise money for the families of those killed or injured, tattooing bees on whoever wanted them and putting all their fees into a collective pot.
As I type this, the JustGiving page has reached £86,246 – more than £10,000 above the target. Over the past week countless studios have opened their doors to people wanting to illustrate their solidarity with Manchester. I headed to Blue Cardinal, one of the first studios involved, to meet some of the people inking their skin with Manchester's bee, and also to get one for myself.
Beau Redman, 29
VICE: How did the tattoo appeal start?
Beau Redman: On Tuesday morning last week, [tattoo artist] Sam Barber sent me a message saying she thought we should organise a charity event to raise money for the families of the people who died in the Arena attack. So we set up a group chat and added loads of tattooists we know, mainly from around Manchester. Initially it was about 30 artists I knew who either worked in my shop or that worked in the city, but then the appeal grew from there. I made the poster, posted it online, and within an hour it had a thousand shares. We had people from all over the world joining in on our group chat – I think there must be about 400 of us in it now, all tattooists. There's still people being added daily.
Do you know roughly how many studios are involved?
Not a clue, but I know there are studios involved in New York, LA, Australia, all over Europe. I also know that, yesterday, Sacred Art in Manchester raised £18,000 at their studio. People were queueing up from half-four in the morning to get tattooed there. The queue was over a mile long.
How quickly did you become fully booked here?
On the first day. All nine of us on the first day.
And how much money do you hope to raise today?
I'm hoping for around £5,000. At least 5k. It would be great to earn as much as Sacred Art, but they're close to the centre of Manchester and they worked from seven in the morning to nine or ten at night. One of our friends who was there yesterday tattooed 31 bees in the one day. If each of them did that, that's pretty insane. That's a lot of bees. It's just nice people coming together and getting it not just for charity but to show that they're also committed to Manchester. We're a good city, aren't we?
Paul Danes, 28
What are you going to see when you look at your tattoo?
Paul: Just Manchester, innit. We all unite and come together. It's really great what these guys are doing, giving up their time for a really good cause.
Sally Grundy, 25
How does it feel to have the bee on your arm?
Sally: I'm just proud, to be honest. It's my city and we're not going to stop. It's going to feel exactly the same in the future. I was thinking about this – when I have kids I'm sure they'll ask, "Mum, why have you got a bee on your arm?" And I'll be like, "Well, sit down, I'll tell you."
Lynda Grundy, 58
How did you hear about the appeal?
Lynda: Through my daughter. I thought it was an absolutely brilliant idea. It's not something I've ever done before, but because of the sentiment behind it, it makes me proud to come from Manchester. Born and bred.
You've never had a tattoo before?
Never before, no. It was a very powerful feeling I had in wanting to get this done. The fact that so many people have been affected by it, but people have pulled together so much, is amazing.
To have your first tattoo on your wrist is quite brave.
For me, it is. But I'm really proud of it and every time I look at it I'll remember.
Kelly Hickey-Fareed, 36
So what did you think when you first heard of this appeal?
Kelly: I thought it was great, because I could see everyone coming together for a great cause. It was absolutely awful what happened on Monday night. I was abroad at the time. It was just utter shock, very close to home.
What do you think you're going to feel when you look at the tattoo in a few years time?
It will remind me of the Manchester community. Okay, it's bad what has happened, but we have all come together and we're all helping each other through it. We'll be out in Manchester and all see each other with bee tattoos, and it'll reassure us all that we're together and fighting for the same thing.
Laura Hickey-Fareed, 34
Hey Laura, you're getting two tattoos today, how come?
Laura: The first one is the classic Manchester bee symbol. So I wanted to get that one because it is the Manchester bee. But I also saw this other design and I was tempted to get that, too. The second one is going on my charity tattoo arm – I've dedicated this arm to tattoos for good causes.
What did you think of this appeal when you first heard about it?
I thought it was pretty amazing. It's the people spending their time to help; the time the tattoo artists are putting in costs a lot for them. It's a great show of unity and people wanting to help people. There's been a few negative comments from people, saying that it's all about showing off, but it's not about that. It's about people feeling what has happened and wanting to help. It's showing that we will stand together.
Becki Etchells, 25
What brings you here today?
Becki: I'm quite local to the area. A lot of my friends and family were at the gig. Some people from our area have died. It's... I don't know. Obviously when you hear about it in other areas it's hard, but when it's at home it's so much more of a massive shock. Obviously as soon as I saw this I thought it was a really great way of being involved. The artists are all doing it for free and that.
What's the feeling in your local community at the moment?
It's not good. We went to Manchester this weekend – to the city centre – and yeah, it's quite scary, really. It's not nice feeling worried in the city.
So stuff like this is important when it comes to showing defiance and solidarity.
Yeah, I think it is. And obviously if I go on holiday in a couple of years and somebody asks about my tattoo, I can tell them about it. Loads of people are going to have it. I'll also think about all the money that was raised, going to help the people who have had so much ruined.
Jessica D'Argue, 19
This is your first tattoo – is it important that it holds such significance?
Jessica: I'm not one for thinking every tattoo must have meaning, but I'm glad I have one that does. Because I'm away at uni, I can look down and it's just a little bit of home.
How have you been coping with the effects of the attack?
I was absolutely heartbroken. All of my family lives in Manchester and I didn't know whether they were safe or not. Luckily they were, but it's a small place. A guy that died came from my home town. [15-year-old victim] Olivia Campbell, I knew through friends of friends. It's just too close to home. I'm hoping the tattoo shows that we've been through this and come out of the other side of it.
Josh Chadwick, 27
What does it mean to have the bee tattooed on your body?
Josh: It shows solidarity between the tattoo world and the whole of Manchester. To put it on your body for life shows that we're getting through this together.
Rory Armstrong, 18
What was it that made you want to get a bee tattoo?
Rory: It was just about how everyone came together. I wanted to be involved and do something; I didn't just want to share everyone else's posts.
What do you think your tattoo symbolises?
Unity and community.
Brendan Warnby, 37
What do you think of this as an initiative to help the families?
Brendan: It's brilliant. It's just something so good that all Mancunians can get together behind. Hopefully the families of the victims will see this, see all the solidarity among so many people and see that it's done something. That the people have stood up.
What do you remember of that night?
I was absolutely devastated. I've got a nine-year-old daughter, and if she'd known about that gig she'd have been there. My wife knows two of the people who died. We're just absolutely devastated. My kids have already been asking about it. I've got a five-year-old as well – he doesn't really understand what's going on, but now and again he'll say, "I'm so sad about the arena." It's just heartbreaking. It's so sad that they have to grow up in this, but we won't stand for it.
Callum Glover, 23
I overheard you say that you moved around all your bookings so you could be here today.
Callum: Yeah, well I was meant to have a full day booked in, but my customers understand that I can do that anytime.
How important was it for you to be here today?
I actually did some bees at the weekend as well. I was at a convention in Scarborough and I made my money back on the first day, so I decided that my second day would be a charity day. I have friends who have been affected greatly – some of their friends died at the arena. When I got messages from them I found it heartbreaking to see people I care about in bits. I can't do anything else to help, really, but I can tattoo.
What do you think this is going to do for the Manchester community?
It's just going to bring people together – regardless of what people think. Regardless of how people usually see each other. People are all on the same side, fighting for the same thing. Every single person, regardless of any creed, colour, gender or age, all of them are going to be on the same wavelength. They'll all be brought closer together by something that's unfortunately tragic. But instead of clinging to the tragedies, the community will hopefully bring something positive out of all of this.
How do you think it's going to feel for the families – not just to have so much money raised, but also to have so many people showing solidarity with them?
I've lost people myself, so I know that money is not a part of it at all. It's not about that. It obviously helps, and if they're in need then they'll have all the support they need. But it's knowing that so many people – and people who don't know them, some of whom are on the other side of the world – that people still want to help. Celebrities like Eminem posted it on their walls and donated a lot of money. What's he got to do that for? He doesn't have to, but the sheer amount of people that have helped these people they don't know is ridiculous. And I think it will mean the absolute world. It won't fix things, but it will mean the world.