A ‘Wonderwall’ of messages for Manchester

Emily Coxhead, the illustrator behind Pigment Productions’ new Happy News range, has led the way in creating a ‘Wonderwall’ of messages of support in response to the terrorist attack last week in Manchester.

Through the power of social media, Emily Coxhead encouraged people to come to Piccadilly Gardens in the centre of Manchester on Monday and leave messages of hope and support on colourful sticky notes on a concrete wall. “My idea/plan with details of when and where to meet was shared hundreds of times on Twitter and Instagram as well as an event I set up last minute on Facebook,” says Emily.

The Wonderwall of messages in Manchester
The Wonderwall of messages in Manchester

Emily’s initiative attracted attention from the BBC that covered the story on its online newsfeed, plus it was picked up by the Huffington Post. Emily explained that she had been inspired by people leaving messages on subway walls in New York after the US election and said: “I thought it was such a wonderful idea, because it helps those writing the message as well as those reading them.”

When organising the plans for the wall on Instagram last week, she wrote: “I don’t think any of us know the ‘right’ thing to say in a situation like this but words can be a real comfort on our darkest days…”

Emily wrote a few different notes for the wall but thought a Fred Rogers’ quote was especially poignant: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

The wall has now been taken down mainly due to rain and windy weather in Manchester but also because it couldn’t be managed. But as Emily says: “I’m glad we got lots of photos and the articles are still making people smile. I knew it wouldn’t be able to last very long, but it really felt like it made even just a tiny difference on the day.”

One of Emily Coxhead's card designs for Pigment
One of Emily Coxhead’s card designs for Pigment

Inspired by Manchester’s Wonderwall, similar walls have also popped up in Birmingham and Liverpool this week.

Emily graduated from Manchester School of Art in 2014 and has been working as a freelance designer and illustrator since. She set up The Happy Newspaper – a newspaper to celebrate all that’s good in the world, sharing uplifting stories that are often overlooked. The next edition of the newspaper is out on July 1. She has signed a book deal with Penguin Random House to create an interactive book called ‘Make Someone Happy’ off the back of The Happy Newspaper and launched a range of greeting cards (under The Happy News brand) with Pigment Productions in January. The range will be on show at PG Live next week, helping to spread even more happiness.

Pictured at top: Emily in front of the ‘Wonderwall’ in Manchester

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