Meet the ‘grey graffiti artists’ who are pounding pavements and making their mark

Grey graffitti group photo
Can do attitude: Joanne Wilcock, Christian Ellis, Jean Syed, Janet Hignett and Muriel Powell on patrol

The elusive Banksy may have become a household name with his satirical street art – but there’s now a new generation of ‘grey graffiti’ artists, as a group of older residents have taken to their spray cans in Manchester.

Concerned older residents, from Levenshulme have been using their ‘art’ for good use – using specially designed biodegradable paint to highlight what they think could cause trip or mobility issues in the community.

Instead of spraying walls, they have been pounding pavements as they ring or highlight spots that they feel could cause difficulties older or more vulnerable people.

The group, who range in age from 50-80 years old, are all linked to Manchester’s Age Friendly team, which aims to raise the profile and concerns of older people in Manchester. The Age Friendly Manchester team also work very closely with NHS colleagues in the three Manchester Clinical Commissioning Groups on projects that help with health and wellbeing in the over 50s.

Kate Williams, co-ordinator of Levenshulme Inspire – which is looking at ways of making the town more accessible for older people – is one of the people who will be on the pavement beat. She said: “The paint is temporary, and will wear off naturally – but while it’s there is does at least show people where we think potential hazards could be. We’d very much like to work with the council and health colleagues so that we can pass on our views and experience of living here.”

The unprecedented move is also welcomed as part of a rallying call to communities and individuals to be more involved with their own health. This is one of the themes of a draft document called ‘A Healthier Manchester’ which outlines the vision for health and social care in Manchester over the next five years. The themes of this document are currently in a three-month engagement period, where everyone in Manchester is asked to get involved and give their views on what could improve health and social care and also help to save money.

Councillor Paul Andrews, Executive Member for Adult Health and Wellbeing at Manchester City Council, said: “This is art with heart. It’s really gratifying to see communities getting involved in looking after one another. We all know that prevention is better than cure – and a simple move like this could help people who are not as confident on their feet, or perhaps have limited vision.”

Dr Mike Eeckelears, Chair of Central Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group and local GP, said: “Falls prevention is a key area of work in general. The damage a fall can cause to someone more elderly or frail cannot be underestimated – nor the effects of a long stay in hospital which causes disruption and can make people less independent in the long-term.”

Councillor Kate Chappell, Executive Member for the Environment at Manchester City Council, said: “We’d be very glad to hear and see first-hand experiences of our Levenshulme residents. That way we can learn from their views and work towards a wider agenda of making the town more age-friendly.”

Find out more about Age Friendly Manchester