The only place in Manchester to buy shawarma from, is Atlas Shawarma in Rusholme! January had been rather bleak, and upon returning to Manchester, I thought I’d visit my favourite place to drag me out of the merciless black hole that is January, and fill it with carbs.
Upon entering the small shop, I shuffled forwards and backwards, struggling to find somewhere to stand and I found myself looking over the shoulder of someone perched on a stool intently drawing. How strange! The last thing that you would expect to see in Rusholme, is perhaps an artist sitting at a cramped shawarma stand sketching away and quizzing the shop workers about their daily lives and backgrounds.
After some conversation, or rather blunt intrusion on my part (!), I learned that artist Len Grant, was completing part of his The Rusholme Sketcher project. It is a series of sketches, that depict the ordinary lives of the diverse people in the area, that go somewhat ignored by Manchester’s art scene. It is a series of sketches that document the Curry Mile, its workers, inhabitants and visitors through storytelling.
Len Grant, says
“Drawing is older than the alphabet itself and remains a powerful way of telling stories. Sketching is the most recent addition to my storytelling repertoire and one that fits many situations. People engage with the process of drawing.”
At the shop, Len allowed me to be part of the sketch. He struggled to copy the Arabic script that hung behind the counter on the wall, however, unfamiliarity like this does not scare him away. Rather, his work indicates that he is interested in asking questions about our surroundings, interested in minor details, and interested, above all, in people.
It is this inclusion, collaboration and openness that characterises much of his work and sets him aside from many current artists on the Manchester scene.
Back at the shop, it was heartwarming to see, otherwise excluded minorities, become part of art work that is both remarkable and simple simultaneously. The medium of Len’s artwork mirrors the subject matter of the work itself. By using just pen and ink, he manages to create busy scenes that capture the Curry Mile’s many facets, with a few lines and a splash of colour.
Aside from The Rusholme Sketcher, which is presented through a blog, laced with the tiny details of Len’s encounters, his work as a photographer and a writer in Manchester, is also available to view on his website.