Marcus Rashford mural messages removed after heavy rain

Published
image captionThe messages will be taken for freezing and drying before being returned to the library's archives

Thousands of messages posted on a mural of Marcus Rashford in Manchester have been removed after some were damaged by an "unexpected downpour".

The notes were left on the wall in Withington after it was vandalised following England's Euro 2020 exit.

Manchester City Council intends to preserve the notes permanently in the city's Central Library.

The authority said despite heavy rain on Thursday, "only a handful" of messages were "a bit worse for wear".

image captionManchester City Council intends to preserve the notes permanently in the city's Central Library

The wall has become a draw for visitors since the messages began being left on 12 July, but with rain forecast for the weekend, council staff had been due to begin removing the messages on Friday morning.

However, after the downpour came earlier than expected on Thursday evening, a council spokeswoman said staff from the gallery and archives team "rushed to the mural" to save the messages.

She said they were "relieved to see that despite being very wet, the vast majority of the messages were surviving the somewhat inclement weather, with only a handful looking a bit worse for wear".

image captionSo many messages have been left that they also cover the pavement in front of the mural
image captionThe council said staff were "relieved to see" that the vast majority of messages survived the downpour

The messages have been taken for freezing and drying and will be returned to the library's archives where the process of recording and photographing each individual message will begin.

The artwork was defaced with several swear words shortly after Rashford missed a penalty, along with Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, in the defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final.

All three players were also targeted with racist abuse on social media following the match.

image source, BBC/Jon Parker Lee
image captionHelen Connor persuaded people to write their messages to Rashford

Helen Connor, who was one of the first to see the mural the morning after the match, spoke to the BBC about the messages before the work to remove them began.

She went and got sticky notes and pens and persuaded people to write their messages to Rashford.

"I just thought: 'Maybe other people might want to write something positive,'" she said.

When she saw the tributes had spread to cover the whole wall, she said she was overwhelmed.

"I couldn't believe it," she said.

"When I put up those first few notes, they looked so small, but seeing all of this now, it makes me so proud."

Others who left messages told the BBC in the lead-up to the removal work that they were moved to write something because they understood the abuse Rashford had faced.

image source, BBC/Jon Parker Lee
image captionHeather Lee described Rashford as a role model

Heather Lee, who was born in north-east England to parents from Hong Kong, said after she graduated "I was told to go back where I came from".

"By coming here, I wanted to show my son the kind of role model he could grow up to be," she said.

Rabbi Greg Bank, from Stockport, brought 30 members of his congregation to see what he called "living history".

He said Jewish people know more than most how critical support from the broader community is.

image source, BBC/Jon Parker Lee
image captionRabbi Greg Bank, from Stockport, brought 30 members of his congregation to see what he called "living history"

"Most of us want to get along. Most of us care about each other," he said.

"And if there is a small group that thinks otherwise, then we get to silence them in this positive and creative way."

The messages were left by people from the local area and from much further afield.

image source, BBC/Jon Parker Lee
image captionJulie Callaghan wrote a poem after seeing the online abuse

Julie Callaghan, from Kirkby Lonsdale in Cumbria, said she was going to write about the Euros final result on her daily blog, but then she "saw the online abuse" and wrote a poem called Disappointed Saddened, Let Down and Dismayed.

"No-one should have to face racial abuse," she said.

"No-one should be able to hide behind a screen and say those things."

She said she posted her work on Twitter and "said I wished I was nearer, so I could have put up my poem on the wall too".

The next morning, she found her work had been retweeted and it was eventually printed out and posted on the wall.

She said it "meant so much that my poem had touched someone enough to do that".

Rashford has previously said he was sorry for missing his penalty, adding that he "wished it had gone differently", and has paid tribute to those who added messages to the mural.

The Manchester United forward also said he was "lost for words" as hundreds of people also gathered for an anti-racism demonstration at the site on 13 July.

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