The mural on Port Street in Manchester City Centre of Joy Division band member, Ian Curtis, was fast becoming a cultural landmark for the city. However on Tuesday 16th August an advertisement for the album release of Manchester-born rapper Aitch was painted over the top of this mural, sparking outrage across the city.
To mark the beginning of the Manchester music and wellbeing festival, Headstock, in 2020, local painter Akse created the mural to raise awareness for mental health through honouring Ian Curtis who died by suicide in 1980. The mural was also painted in support of ‘Give us a Shout’ – a free text messaging service to help people with mental health issues. In a social media post on the replacement of his mural, Akse commented that ‘this mural should have remained for what it represented and stood for.’
The people of Manchester took to Twitter and other social media channels to express their outrage. The anger expressed related to the vandalism of both a cultural landmark and a piece of artwork supporting mental health. This anger also manifested itself in physical actions with graffiti being plastered on both sides of the new advertisement. On one side, the graffiti read ‘Adverts over suicide awareness. Playing of the lyrics of the famous Joy Division song, the words ‘Money, money will tear us apart again’ demonstrating the depth of feeling towards the commercialisation of music and its divisiveness.
By the evening of the 16th August, Aitch released a statement on Twitter expressing his aversion to the act and confirming that this was not a decision made by him or his team. Assuring that this would be fixed ‘pronto’, Aitch ended his tweet by expressing his continued support of his home-town: ‘No way on earth would I want to disrespect a local hero like Ian.’
In response to this, another Joy Division member, Peter Hooks, expressed his gratitude towards Aitch. This came after his initial reaction that it was ‘very sad to see’ the mural painted over. Additionally, Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, praised Aitch’s swift response. He also commended the passion that the people in Manchester displayed in ‘showing what Ian means to us.’
Despite the praise that Aitch received, he has since spoken out about the incident following his swift response in the immediate aftermath. Admitting to the BBC that he felt as though he ‘was the most hated person in Manchester for about 40 minutes’, Aitch said that he was categorically ‘fuming’ with the whole situation.
Amazon Music similarly made a statement three days after the event. Like Aitch, they said that the decision to paint the album advertisement on the wall with the Ian Curtis mural was ‘unbeknownst’ to them. They offered their apologies and said that the anger and upset caused by the incident was justifiable.