Mr Smith's Dream: The Northern Quarter's Tiny Artistic Gem Hiding in Plain Sight

You'd be forgiven for missing this tiny bit of art stuck in a wall in the Northern Quarter...

By Ben Brown | May 27th '22

I’ve worked in the Northern Quarter for 5 years now and I’ve never, ever noticed this little bit of art. Until today that is.

I’d like to say that I was walking down Copperas Street down the side of the Manchester Craft & Design Centre, but I was in fact on Google Street View when I noticed the tiny piece of art in the wall.

I immediately got up from my desk and took a stroll to see if it was even still there and low and behold – it was. So what is it? Let me explain.

 

Built into the actual brickwork of the Craft & Design Centre, the tiny bit of art is called ‘Mr Smith’s Dream‘ and was created by ceramicist Liz Scrine after being commissioned by Manchester City Council.

The titular ‘Mr Smith’ actually refers to a fella who ran a famous pet shop on the street for many years, just one of the numerous pet shops which once dotted the streets of the Northern Quarter.

The epicentre of this ‘pet shop paradise’ district was undoubtedly the nearby Tib Street, which was home to stores selling everything from goldfish to monkeys for more than 70 years.

The artwork is therefore inspired by this long tradition of pet shops, and is based on a fictional dream that Mr Smith had one night; “to be followed by other fictional dreams had by the animals in his shop – such as the parrot’s dream, and the sardine’s nightmare.”

The piece is hiding in plain sight in the brickwork of the historic Craft & Design Centre, which once served as the city’s only retail market and now houses two floors of modern art studios and exhibits.

The Centre has recently celebrated its 40 year anniversary with Kate Day, Director saying: “Manchester Craft and Design Centre has been a creative haven in the city centre since it opened in 1982. At the forefront of the regeneration of the Northern Quarter (in fact, the area was named in our building!), it has played a leading role in nurturing craft skills and independent businesses for forty years.

Alongside celebrating the Centre’s history, this year we face forward by inviting local communities and Manchester residents to share their ideas for the Centre’s future.”