Manchester Art Gallery’s rooftop became a home for bees in 2011. Inspired by an article about the work of Steve Benbow, beekeeper for Tate’s Modern and Britain, John Mouncey proposed a scheme to the gallery’s new director, Dr. Maria Balshaw that beehives be placed on the roof the gallery and Whitworth Art Gallery as a way of creating a linkage between the two places.
John had no prior experience with bees but, together with John Peel, they undertook training with Manchester District & Beekeepers Association at Heaton Park before setting up the first hive in 2011. Over time, the number of hives grew to three, with the honey generated being sold in the gallery shop as Bee-Raphaelite Honey and the wax made into lip balm. In addition, a wild flower garden was added to the roof, which formed part of Manchester’s River of Flowers, an urban gardening project started in 2008 which has grown into a worldwide scheme.
Other related projects include The Lost Gardens of Manchester, a garden installation 2015 outside the gallery’s entrance created by the National Trust. More recently, the Brew Wild project got underway, making use of Wild Marjoram grown outside the gallery in the brewing of its beer and also being launched at a night hosted in the gallery.