Mark Kennedy: In Conversation with Manchester's Mosaic Man

I sent a text to Mark: ‘Need to catch up.’ He replied: ‘Crown and Kettle. 12 tomorrow.’

By Manchester's Finest | 4 January 2019

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Mark was late of course and so I ordered a coffee for me and a pint of Guinness for him. “We don’t do coffee,’ the barman said, “but I’ll make you a mug of Nescaf out the back.

Mark’s kind of pub of course. Mark makes mosaics from smashed up pottery.

I tried to work out how long we had known each other but failed. Although I somehow traced things back to the 80s when Tony Wilson was a TV reporter and forty-five people lived in Manchester city centre.

That was when Mark started (his words) to, “Tell a story about Manchester through my art. Its history, culture and sport before it changed forever.

Mark describes his life as like his work; A mosaic where he is constantly smashing things up and trying to put them together again.

Like, he tells me, finding a load of aluminium cladding on a building site in New Islington earlier this year and retrieving it to clad the boat where he lives. (It’s a barge, but that word is too hipster for Mark.)

He put the cladding on the roof of his boat and when he woke up the next morning it had sunk. “My boat will last forever with the cladding, but my floors…

A low-light of the year, but he very firmly says that the highlight was working with Leeds based Mary Goodwin to create two new mosaics following the death of Mark E. Smith of The Fall at the start of the year.

Mark tells the story of shopping with Mark E. Smith in M&S, when (The Fall) Mark forgot to pick up a basket and so used a wicker bread display basket to shop. The basket at checkout contained hoisin duck, three walnut whips and a ‘Sounds of the 60s CD.’ “That was him all over,” Mark K says. “And he was wearing one glove like Alvin Stardust.”

Mark wanted to work with a female mosaicist on these latest works. “It’s not feminist, it’s feminine. And Mark E. Smith liked female artists in The Fall.” When I said that I hadn’t seen the new pieces he said that they are, “Hidden away. Like The Fall. You have to look for them. Like The Fall.

I asked Mary to collaborate on one image and a piece featuring Mark E. Smith’s lyrics. ‘Identity art, if only the shards would relocate back in place.’ That’s life. Regret. Things you could have done in a different way.”

The pieces are on Short Street, tucked away behind Affleck’s. Mark wants people to, “Search for them.

We move on to his work for Man City. I remind Mark that I’m a Red and he says, “You don’t like football then?” He is, I suppose, ‘Mosaicist in Residence’ for the Club, with his work situated all over Sport City and commissioned as gifts for players. Although he says, “We were crap for so long, but we knew something was going to happen. That’s City.

As a second pint of Guinness arrives we swap more stories about Tony Wilson. “A lot of people hated him then. But without him such a lot wouldn’t have happened. There’d have been no Factory Records. We’d have had a lot less in Manchester. Now he’s the ‘Godfather.’

“Integral to so much that has happened in our City. Like Mark E. Smith. It’s only when you die that anyone talks any good about you. They’ll say terrible things about me.