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12th December 2018

Artefact of the Week: ‘Rain’ by Lemn Sissay

In this edition of Artefact of the Week, Saoirse Akhtar-Farren investigates Lemn Sissay’s ‘Rain’ on the side of Gemini Cafe, Waterloo Road
Artefact of the Week: ‘Rain’ by Lemn Sissay
Photo: Richard Cooke @ Geograph

As part of my walk from Fallowfield to Uni, I know my destination is on the horizon when my brow crumples in an attempt to figure out how the fragmented letters read, on left the side of Gemini Café on Dilworth Street. The poem that adorns the café‘s left side, is called “Rain.” It is a work by one of Manchester’s most famous poets, Lemn Sissay.

Intrigued by the artwork, I searched online intending to decipher what appeared to be a riddle, to awkwardly realise that the letters are read vertically…

‘Rain’, now legible, revealed an optimistic take on Manchester’s nation-famous weather. Yes, you guessed it — rain.

The rainy weather is described as the necessary factor in the natural phenomenon of rainbows, which I thought could reveal a deeper sentiment for Manchester, now being the third most friendly city for the LGBT+ community in Britain.

Just as the gay community have become role models for reclaiming historically offensive words such as ‘queer’, Sissay does the same for Manchester’s grey clouds and puddle-ridden streets.

Portrayed as inconvenient and disruptive, Sissay reclaims the unfavourable weather type as part of the “Mancunian way.” Indeed, Mancunians themselves treasure Sissay’s ‘Rain’, with one women tattooing “Mancunian way” on the inside of their arm, while another woman named her child ‘Rain’, after the poem.

Like many individuals raised in Britain, Sissay comes from a culturally diverse background, yet in just 22 words Sissay captures the Mancunian collective identity that is uniquely shared by individuals of all races, classes, and heritages.

‘Rain’ makes me internally smile. For it is only the people who know Manchester that appreciate how rain can make us collectively think of inexhaustible happiness and opportunities in the face of such sad weather.  

Regardless of the temperature, Manchester is home.

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