A Genius in Manchester

Stroke of genius at historic baths - The Artist's Archive

Stroke of genius at historic baths

Super sketcher Stephen Wiltshire turned his artistic eye on the Victoria Baths during a rare visit to Manchester. In the eighties he became recoginised as a child prodigy for his ability to draw a building with remarkable accuracy and flair after merely glancing at it.

The 32-year-old Afro-Caribbean artist, who was mute until he was nine, stunned visitors to the Longsight baths by capturing its grandeur in a series of rapid, striking line drawings. Stephens was at the Hethersage Road landmark, being restored in a multimillion-pound project, to open Black History market day. He said: 'I first came to Manchester when I was 15 with my mum. Victoria Baths is a very nice building and I'm proud of what I've drawn.'

The market day – Victoria Baths' contribution to Black History March – drew hundreds of people, with stalls celebrating the heritage of the city's African and Caribbean communities. Visitors shopped for Jamaican dancehall music and African jewellery and craft, working up an appetite for fried plantain, jollof rice and chicken, a dish popular with Nigerians and Ghanaians. Parents took part in soca and salsa dancing sessions while kids, inspired Stephen's efforts, took part in the Big Draw event, a fun art workshop in a disused pool. Visitors also had the chance to learn about the ingenious work being carried out to return the building to its former glory, and learned about the experiences of refugees at a special exhibition. Erinma Bell, of community group Carisma, sold traditional clothes with intricate embroidery and striking wax designs.

Daisy Shortman, who hit the headlines when she graduated from Salford University aged 73, ran a stall selling her autobiography and social sciences books. Jamaica-born Daisy, now 77, who came to Britain in the fifties and has lived in Salford for 40 years, said: 'This is the third year I've come down and it's been a really exciting event. I've been chatting with everyone and enjoyed it very much.


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