Part of the global campaign named 16 Days of Action to End Violence Against Women, which takes place annually between 25 November and 10 December, 16 Days of Street Art Action is a home-grown initiative bringing original, beautiful and thought-provoking art to the streets of Manchester.

Featuring female artists from across the North, it aims to raise the public profile of women, celebrating their strengths, talents and achievements – all qualities beyond their appearance.

Representing women from all walks of life, it provides positive female role models that everyone can feel inspired by. The 2015 event’s artwork was named Pillars Of The Community. On each of the 16 days, a different female artist painted an image of an inspiring woman onto a bollard in the Northern Quarter, making them symbolic pillars of the community.

The brainchild of Hilary Turley and Jo Lane has come a long way from its humble beginnings two years ago. With Arts Council funding and new artists on board, its project manager, the artist Jo Lane, talks about Pillars Of The Community and explains why she’s excited about the future.


How did 16 Days of Street Art Action come about?

I was working as a youth worker in a girls’ school. As part of 16 Days of Action to End Violence Against Women, we put up images with positive messages about women in the hallway that we changed every day.

I just decided that I wanted to do it more in my own art world, rather than the youth work world. So two years ago, my friend Hilary Turley and I set up 16 Days of Street Art Action. There was no money or backing, or anything. We just had to find the walls to paint on and find the artists. We decided to do it about feminism, because it was a seen as a dirty word.

So you wanted to change peoples’ notion of feminism?

Exactly, yeah. We asked 16 female street artists to put their slant on feminism, by painting or pasting a different image about it. People loved it and we got a huge following online and on the streets. We realised it was a great thing and that we should do it again.


Can you tell me about Pillars Of The Community, which is the recent collective artwork?

This year we were funded by Arts Council England to do Pillars Of The Community.

We chose to do it on a positive slant, where we are challenging the dominance of male historical figures in public spaces, and promoting women from all spheres of life. It’s about celebrating women as equal to men for their achievements, rather than for their looks. A lot of the women we’ve painted are women’s rights activists and women who’ve been amazing in their field. They’re all inspiring and revolutionary women in one way or another.

For example, there’s Claudette Colvin, who I painted. She resisted racial segregation on buses at the age of 15. We’ve got Björk, who broke boundaries in the music industry. We’ve got Ruth Ibegbuna, who’s CEO of the award-winning young peoples’ charity in Manchester, Reclaim.

Two of the women have been shortlisted for the Womanchester Statue Project. This is a campaign to have more female statues in Manchester. There are 17 statues in Manchester and only one of them is a woman, and that’s Queen Victoria. One of the women shortlisted is Louise Da-Cocodia. She was a woman who came to England from Jamaica to progress in her nursing career. She experienced a lot of racism here, and she became an anti-racism campaigner as well as the first black senior nurse in Manchester.

Who are some of the artists who worked on Pillars Of The Community?

There’s Moze, Tasha Whittle, Bethany Hermitt, Jodie Silverman and many more. We also had Aylo and Cbloxx who are a graffiti duo named Nomad Clan.

Did you do any outreach activities during the 16 days?

Yes, we ran some women-centred workshops. We ran workshops on screen printing, analogue photography, art journalling, urban art and pen and ink.

What are your plans for the future of the project?

I’d like to do something for International Women’s Day, and we are hoping to work with the Wonder Women arts festival.

The Pillars Of The Community will remain outside Turtle Bay on Oldham Street until the end of January.

Background image: Let Forever Be by Nick Taylor.

Anna tuck