Monday, 14 May 2007



A ghostly parade of hooded advert hoardings met Manchester commuters on their way to work last week, in place of the usual promotions for Fila, Nokia and Loyd Grossman's sauces.

Every single one of the city centre's 88 free-standing ads communicated instead the anti-consumerist slogan "trees breathe ads suck", stencilled on to made¬to-measure calico covers.

A team of volunteers installed the ads early on Friday morning. They offered to pimp their city with the environmental message after hearing about the idea by word of mouth.

Manchester-based arts collective UHC was commissioned to produce the temporary artworks by McDemos, the "protest solutions company" set up by comedian Mark Thomas and artists Tracey Moberly and Tony Pletts.

Thomas described the event as a "poetic gesture for the city of Manchester".

UHC has authored numerous street-based art interventions including a replica of Guantanamo Bay in Hulme in 2003.

UHC said in a statement: "We feel this presents those travelling to work with a gift of peace and beauty in place of the incessant noise of advertising."

IT consultant Matt Atkins, 31, from Hulme, was one of the volunteers who had been up since 7am de-commissioning the ads. Fear of climate change had motivated him to take action.

"There's too much rubbish in the world already and the problem with consumerism is that it's all about 'more' and not 'better'," said Atkins.

JC Decaux, the advertising company that owns the hoardings, has built hundreds of free-standing adverts across Manchester. They are situated strategically on busy roads in the heart of the city and are championed by the firm as the best way to expose audiences to outdoor media.

A spokesperson from JC Decaux said they had sent teams out to take the covers down later that day.

Confused commuters stopped to stare at the newly decorated hoardings, some taking photos with mobile phones.

Passerby Mike Potts, 24, from Levenshulme, was positive about the art stunt.

"I really like them," he said. "It's refreshing to see trees instead of ads."