Thousands of people across Manchester spent their bank holiday weekends queuing for bee tattoos, to commemorate the victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack and raise money for their families.
The bee – specifically, the worker bee – has been a mascot for Manchester since the Industrial Revolution, when the city’s textile mills were described as “hives of activity”. In the aftermath of the attack, the symbol acquired a new, special poignancy, with countless bee-adorned posts shared on social media in a show of solidarity, hope and resilience.
Sam Barber, a tattoo artist from Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, came up with the idea for the Manchester Tattoo Appeal. She started offering bee tattoos for £50 each, with all proceeds going to families of victims of the attack.
Other tattoo studios from across the city quickly signed up to take part in the fundraiser. By Bank Holiday Monday, organisers said that the appeal had raised more than £54,000.
“We’ve actually got a lot of family members of some of the victims coming forward who want it as a memorial tattoo now,” said Barber.
“Paramedics and health workers who were on the scene, who were there in the aftermath – who also want to come together and get that tattoo done.”
Yogi McGregor and Lauren Harper, tattoo artists at Redwood Tattoo Studio in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, tattooed 24 people in total in 13 hours, raising £1400 in the process.
I may not be from Manchester or living there currently. The time I spent there really defined who I am now. I couldn't be more grateful for the people I had met and the friends I have made. I brought back an attitude from Manchester of hope, solidarity, pride, cooperative, resilient, and communitarian. Togetherness is still our greatest strength. #staystrongourkid
On Sunday, hundreds of people spent hours queueing outside Scared Art Tattoo shop in Chorlton, south Manchester, with some arriving as early as 4am to get in line. Manager Ventnor Brewer said that his team had been overwhelmed by the amount of people requesting tattoos and by the positive atmosphere in the queue.
“We wanted to do it for Manchester, for the city and more importantly for the people we love,” he told the Manchester Evening News.
“After last week’s horrible events we talked a lot about community and that was clear in the love that people showed for each other in the queue. People had a lot of time to connect with each other and that is what we wanted.”
Natalie Bicknell, 31, had a bee inked on the back of her neck. She told BuzzFeed News that she wanted to show her love for Manchester, where she has lived for 10 years. “It means a lot to me. It’s a sign of solidarity, it shows my love and appreciation for the city,” she said.
She added: “The amount of people who will have this tattoo is something so significant.”
Last week, Ariana Grande – whose concert was the target of the bombing on 22 May – posted a letter on social media addressed to people caught up in the attack.
In the message, the 23-year-old singer said that she will be returning to Manchester on an unspecified date “to spend time with my fans and to have a benefit concert in honour of and to raise money for the victims and their families”.
“My hearts, prayers and deepest condolences are with the victims of the Manchester Attack and their loved ones,” she wrote.
“I have been thinking of my fans, and of you all, non-stop over the past week,” Grande continued. “The way you have handled all of this has been more inspiring and made me more proud than you’ll ever know.
“The compassion, kindness, love, strength and oneness that you’ve shown one another this past week is the exact opposite of the heinous intentions it must take to pull off something as evil as what happened Monday.”
She added: “Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and generously than we did before.”
BBC News reports that 14 men are currently being questioned in connection with the investigation into the attack, which was carried out by 22-year-old Salman Abedi. NHS England said that 52 people injured in the attack are still being treated in hospital, including 19 who are receiving critical care.
MI5 has said that it will hold an inquiry into the way it dealt with warnings from the public that Abedi, a Mancunian of Libyan heritage, was a potential terror threat.
Main image: instagram.com/laurenharpertattoo, Rex Features