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A bee tattoo from Sacred Heart Tattoo Manchestervia Alexandra Hume/Instagram

People are getting bee tattoos in memory of Manchester

They've raised thousands of pounds for the victims of the Manchester bombing

It’s been almost two weeks since the Manchester suicide bombing which killed 22 people and injured 59 at an Ariana Grande concert, and Natasha Duffy is still feeling shocked.

At the time of the incident she was at the Manchester Opera House, which is about 15 minutes walking distance from the Manchester Arena where the bomb went off, watching a “terrible” show.

“Me and my two friends came out and it was like 10:10pm,” says the 26-year-old. “There was such a weird feeling in the air. The calm before the storm – it was so humid and bizarrely there was no-one around. I got home and my friend, who had just dropped me off, texted me when she got in asking if I'd seen the news.”

A born and bred Mancunian, Duffy was also one of the first people to decide she would get a tattoo of a bumblebee in support of the victims of the attack. Sam Barber, a tattoo artist based in Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, started the Manchester Tattoo Appeal last week and swathes of people have been hitting tattoo parlours in the city in solidarity since.

Similarly to the LGBT pulse tattoos that many got to raise money for those impacted by the Orlando massacre in a gay club in Florida last year, instead of taking payment for the tattoos, customers make a donation which is then put into the Manchester Emergency Fund.

“I've actually wanted a bee tattoo for a couple of years now but just haven't got around to it,” says Duffy. “Now just seems really fitting because the money will be going to the victims families.”

The bee became a symbol of Manchester in the 19th century, when it represented the industriousness of the workers. It can be found on bollards, on the old Boddingtons Brewery logo, on the clock face at the Victorian Palace hotel and was apparently even referenced in the black and gold trim of Manchester City’s 2009/10 away kit – returning to prominence in 2014 when the council gave the city “honeycomb” litter bins with the bee logo on them.

Duffy had her bee done by a friend who works at The Inkstitute tattoo parlour in Cheadle, Manchester, and has eight other tattoos, but for some people the bee tattoo has been their first. Twenty-two-year-old Joseph Meighan had never been inked before until he decided to commit to getting a bee.

“I've never actually been interested in tattoos, never understood the appeal, but I just thought this was such a great idea that I really wanted it doing,” he says.

The Manchester attack took place on the opening night of a community production of Annie that he had directed in the city and, he says, the production has got a lot of kids in it. He “couldn't stop thinking about them” and how they could have been there or had friends at the gig.

“I think the important thing that has come out of this horrible attack is the sense of community that has shone through and that's what the tattoo represents for me,” he adds. “The staff at the tattoo parlour were working from 7am to 2am the next day to do tattoos for people and I queued for 12 hours for mine.”

There have been many tattoo parlours who have got on board with the campaign, and people have been getting the tattoos as far away as Australia, Canada and Cyprus.

Speaking to Ventnor Brewer, 37, who works at the Sacred Heart Tattoo studio, in Chorlton, he says the studio has tattooed well in excess of 300 people. The Sacred Heart alone has raised £20,000, with a few donations still to come in.

“So many lovely people wanted to donate and contribute came down to the studio,” says Brewer. “There was a Muslim family who came across the road to feed people, a young girl who came down just to volunteer, and people just giving each other hugs and smiling, being supportive. 

“Everyone deals with things differently, but I think the people who were caught up in it are really struggling. I met people yesterday at Manchester Cathedral who are having a horrendous time – the people who were first on the scene, or who knew people who were injured or died.”

He adds: “100 per cent of the money is going to Sam Barber’s campaign. It’s to support people through everything that’s going to come – from medical attention to psychological attention, or making their houses suitable for disabled people.” 

The tattoo appeal is ongoing and tomorrow Obsession Tattoo Studio in Ipswich will be doing bee tattoos. Over a quarter of a million pounds has been raised so far.

Ariana Grande is also returning to Manchester tomorrow for a One Love performance which will be held to commemorate and raise money for the victims of the bombing. It will include performances from Justin Bieber, Pharrell Williams, Miley Cyrus, Coldplay and Katy Perry.

Donate to the victim’s fund here, or get your tickets for the One Love Manchester show here.