Why Nirvana icon Kurt Cobain has been chosen as the subject of a new mural on Manchester music venue

Nirvana played two grassroots gigs in the city during their rise to superstardom.
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A new Manchester mural is set to be painted to commemorate the memory of Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain. The singer took his own life in April 1994, shocking the world of music and devastating fans around the globe. 

Almost 30 years to the day, Manchester-based charity enterprise Headstock have commissioned a new mural to help promote the importance of mental health conversations as a way of checking in on each other.  The work will be carried out by artist Akse P19, who is no stranger to murals in Manchester. The artist was behind works of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford. 

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Atheer Al-Salim, the founder of Headstock, is hoping to appeal to a different genre of music fans with the new piece. He said: “It’s easy to focus on artists who are from Manchester, but we picked Kurt Cobain because of what he and Nirvana contributed to the city. The band played two grassroots gigs in the city before they became a global name. 

“With the murals, we’ve hoped to reach new and different groups of music fans. With Ian Curtis, we covered Manchester music fans and with Keith Flint we touched on dance and electric fans. With Kurt Cobain, we are reaching out to grunge and rock music fans.”

How the proposed Kurt Cobain mural would look. Picture: Mark Webb / AvalonHow the proposed Kurt Cobain mural would look. Picture: Mark Webb / Avalon
How the proposed Kurt Cobain mural would look. Picture: Mark Webb / Avalon

Murals are often eye-catching and will grab attention. This is exactly what Headstock wanted from the Kurt Cobain work.  Atheer added: “The murals are talking points. We at Headstock try to use music and art to promote conversations about mental health.  We also want to raise awareness of mental health support line SHOUT and their number 85258 features prominently on all the murals - and will on the Kurt Cobain work. 

“We wanted to make sure that the Kurt Cobain mural was on a music venue. On the Bread Shed, the mural will be a stone's throw from the two gigs Nirvana played in Manchester. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of Cobain’s death from suicide, so we wanted to commemorate him on a music venue in the city.”

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Cobain and Nirvana took the musical world by storm in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They released three albums, with the last being ’In Utero’ in 1993. The grunge icons played Manchester twice at Manchester Polytechnic Students Union in October 1989 and Manchester Academy in 1991.  The mural is currently the subject of an online crowdfunding campaign, with a target of £3,500 having been set.

Headstock are also supporting a gig by New Order and Joy Division guitarist Peter Hook at the Star & Garter. All funds will go towards SHOUT and supporting their work. Fans can enter the ballot for tickets on their Skiddle page. 

Headstock have also, along with SHOUT, helped to launch a brand new service that will provide support for people working in the music industry. People will be able to text MUSIC 85258 and receive confidential and expert support from a dedicated team at SHOUT, you can find out more about the service by visiting the SHOUT website. 

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