Any visitor to Manchester has a noticeable change. The growing skyline is the most obvious feature, with empty car parks giving way to skyscrapers that would not look out of place in London.
But turn your eyes down and you'll witness another building boom. Statues.
Manchester, like most cities, is no stranger to these: you can not move in Britain without bumping into an imposing visage of some modestly influential victorian. But what's interesting about these new statues and sculptures is how they compare to their predecessors, and what they say about the modern city. Let's have a look at a few of the newcomers.
Victory Over Blindness
At the entrance of Piccadilly station, visitors are greeted by the first generation of memorials: Victory Over Blindness. Influenced by the iconic painting "Gassed" by John Singer Sargent, in a procession.
Built at human scale and eye level, it uniquely shows wounded veterans forever changed by the horrors of war.
Emmeline Pankhurst Memorial
Down the road in St Peter's Square is the recently unveiled statue of Mancunian suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. 88 years after a statue was erected to her in London.
What's great about this piece is how the chair stands on acts as a pedestal, maintaining a natural feeling as crowds gather round, as they did all those years ago.
Peterloo Massacre Memorial
Near the old Manchester Central Station, yet another memorial is under construction. Built to commemorate the 200thth anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre, the memorial hopes to be more than something to simply observe.
Image: Jeremy Deller / Caruso St John Architects.
Designed in the shape of a hill with purpose built holes for flagpoles, it's intended to be a gathering point for future protests. A positive civic space borne from the sorrow of a terrible event.
Bee in the city
Lastly, we have the loved one. Colorful and diverse, they've just promoted the exploration of the city center like a giant Easter egg hunt, but also emphasized a growing piece of the Mancunian identity: the worker bee.
Sadly many of the Bees were only temporary visitors, but some can still be found if you hunt around enough.
So what are these statues saying about modern Manchester?
Manchester is waking up to the local history and culture that surrounds it. Victoria and the Duke of Wellington are happy to share their thoughts about the city or its people. There's nothing to differentiate them from the million identical statues in every other British city.
Search Victorian era statues are often associated with royalty and southern political figures, far removed from the gritty north. In this way, modern 21st century statues are a vital cultural gap that has been missing from the street scape.
The statues and memorials being built today are therefore far more personal than those that came before. Long gone are the days when towering pedestals and stone-faced gazes were the norm. Instead they have been replaced by more intimate, rather than dominant ones. They shout modernity; tailor made for a selfie sharing, social media loving generation.
With this then comes a growing feeling of civic pride. As Manchester develops, its streets are slowly becoming places to stop and appreciate, rather than corridors to hurry through, as more unique displays take root. Tourists stop and take photos outside of Piccadilly station. Perhaps not the next St Pancras or Lime Street, but a worthy improvement nonetheless.
So hats off to Manchester. In a simple way is acting as a sure-fire method to rejuvenate one of the major cities of the north.
All photos courtesy of the author unless otherwise specified.