YOU don’t have to be born with the ability to fly or to become invisible in order to be a superhero. A local Ramsbottom man has his very own superpower and is taking to the streets at night armed with spray paint all for the good of mankind.
While the man behind the mask prefers to remain anonymous and goes by the name ‘Wanksy’, the local construction worker allowed Quays News reporter Emma Crampton to go along as his very first sidekick and witness him work his magic on the streets of Manchester.
The time is just after 10:30pm, as I eagerly await Wanksy’s arrival on the dimly lit and isolated Nuttall Street; located on the outskirts of Ramsbottom.
There is an air of apprehension as Wanksy approaches from a darkened alleyway dressed all in black and sporting an oversized hoodie coupled with a baseball cap.
As he attempts to conceal his identity, however, made him look intimidating and almost like a stereotypical chav. The juxtaposition of his outfit choice and his good intentions perhaps mirrors that of the mixed public opinion; some praising his bold approach of forcing the council to react and others believing his graffiti to be making the ongoing complaints worse.
As the ballsy street artist locates his latest target – a 5 inch deep pothole close to the kerb which could cause problems to cyclists and car wheels if they hit it – he shakes the semi-permanent white spray paint and quickly sprays a male genitalia on to the road surface around the pothole which instantly highlights the hole (even in the murky night).
So, why did you choose penises instead of something more polite? “I needed something outrageous to get a response. There is graffiti all over Manchester that doesn’t get covered up.”
The time it takes to perform the act surely must play a part in his choice as it only takes him two minutes to spray around the pothole and disappear back into the shadows. “I studied art at college, I can actually do much better art than this,” laughs Wanksy. “But yes, I can’t get too carried away with my drawings as not everyone would be encouraging to my work and I don’t fancy getting caught.”
Despite the rushed childish illustrations, Wanksy explains he is actually quite the artist studying fine art at college up to the age of 18. So does Wanksy ever want to experiment in more creative street art?
Wanksy ponders the question, pursing his lips before replying, “no I don’t think I would, believe it or not although I do think some graffiti is really cool, I also do understand that it is defacing public property. Now call me hypercritical as I vandalise the roads but the paint I use washes away I cannot stress that enough and I’m doing it hopefully for the better good.”
It is clear to see that Wanksy truly believes the positive he is doing outweighs any negative outcomes that his penis doodling causes.
Banksy’s a legend but his artwork is artistic and cool. For mine to work they need to be crude and outrageous to force the council into action.”
This particular pothole is right next a home with a For Sale sign outside. Are you concerned about your crude drawing putting off potential buyers to the property?
“You know I didn’t even notice that” starts Wanksy before shaking his head almost as though he is reassuring himself he’s doing the right thing…
“No, hopefully the council will fill up the pothole before any buyers go to look round then they will be thanking me that they don’t ruin their wheels every time they reverse off their drive,” Wanksy says confidently.
“Besides it’s due to rain tomorrow. My paint will last two days max but hopefully it will get filled in before it fades.”
Perhaps the alter ego Wanksy is a nod towards world famous anonymous street artist Banksy?
“Absolutely,” agrees Wanksy. “The guy’s a legend but his artwork is actually artistic and cool to look at but in order for mine to work they need to be crude and outrageous to force the council into action.”
So, does Wanksy want the same recognition that Banksy has received worldwide? “Oh no,” snorts Wanksy.
“He deserves credit his pieces are inspirational and prominent; they send a message. Mine are just silly doodles which I do when an opportunity presents itself in hope that the council get it filled.”
So it’s not always at night? “Not always, I mean I come on missions at night with the intention to spray around the potholes but I always carry a can around with me just in case an opportunity presents itself in the day or I see a pothole that’s too tempting to resist,” clarifies Wanksy.
Are you not afraid of doing it in the day leaves you more exposed to being seen? Wanksy smirks. “Yes – but it’s a lot more fun and exhilarating knowing I could get caught.”
Wanksy explains that he first realised how big of problem potholes posed when his friend fell off his bike and broke his elbow due to the state of the local roads and realised that drastic actions needed to be taken.
“When my friend first had his cycle accident I rang up the local council several times and when I attempted to go on to the website it just came up server error when I placed my complaint. After a week of trying I decided to take another more unusual path and do it myself armed with spray paint. Tacky yes – but effective.”
Quays News took the initiative to validate Wanksy’s claim and report a pothole using the Manchester City Council website. It took five clicks on a 20 minute form to fill out along with a survey to fill in, and a minimum of five days just to get a pothole inspected.
As we say our goodbyes I ask Wanksy if he can see himself doing this long term? “As long as there is a pothole in the area, I’ll be here helping to get them filled in,” he promises.
All superheroes work better in a gang. As long as they are drawing the penises around potholes and not just for the sake of it I’m more than happy to have impersonators.”
This increase in human interest could potentially help Wanksy ensure that the council identifies the drawings and ultimately fills in the potholes, although it could lead to impersonators.
He said: “I am flattered that some people in London and other places are carrying on my work. All superheroes work better in a gang. As long as they are drawing the penises around potholes and not just for the sake of it I’m more than happy to have impersonators.”
With over 22,000 likes on Facebook, more people are getting involved to raise awareness towards his work; sharing photos of the comedy phalluses on social media sites almost like a ‘Where’s Wally?’ type manner with people around the world joining in on the Wanksy debate on the networking site.
The real life vigilante has sparked numerous opinions being voiced on the street artist’s Facebook page. Facebook user Rafa Amador commented on the page saying, ‘Man who ever you are, you are a f*****g genius.’
Paul Handy-Jones, 29, again sides for Wanksy work by stating, ‘I live in Ramsbottom and he’s getting things done by direct action. It’s a veritable c**kfest on the tarmac, but it’s working!’
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Matilda Mar commented on the Artists wall, “Do you honestly think it’s ok to draw something so vulgar where children can see? Sorry but you are immature and inconsiderate”.
This shows that Wanksy is causing lots of controversy with an increasing number of ‘likes’ on the Facebook page each day not to mention the comments rallies attracting people world-wide.
Local Bury councillor Mike Connolly spoke to Quays News about Wanksy unusual antics and commented that, “The actions of this individual are not only stupid but incredibly insulting to local residents.”
Adding that he felt it was inappropriate to draw things with such a crude nature with him highlighting the fact that children will walk past the obscene symbols as they walk to school.
Mike additionally said that not only is Wanksy’s work “vandalism, but it’s also counter-productive” – as there is already a long-term plan to sort out the potholes in the area and that the cost for covering the graffiti is cutting into the budget.
When asked about whether or not he thought his drawings were inappropriate for children to see, Wanksy said: “No I honestly don’t. The kids have been drawing penises in their school books long before I came along and they will still be doing it long after.”
The next morning Quays News went back to the scene of the crime on Nuttall Road in Ramsbottom to see what the local residents thought to Wanksy’s handiwork.
Carl Scoines, a 25-year-old Ramsbottom resident who was visiting his mother who lives on the road, said, “I think the guy’s a genius to be honest, I am sick to death of nearly going over the handlebars on my bike due to the numerous potholes in the area. I am not offended in the slightest by the fact that he draws round them with penises anyone who does needs to lighten up.”
Carl added that even his mother who is in her sixties is amused by Wanksy’s unconventional approach. On the other hand, Derek Bull, a 74-year-old man who has lived in the area for over 30 years, disagrees with Wanksy’s work.
He told Quays News that he feels as though it is causing the ‘area to go downhill’ and is ‘extremely disgusted’ in the graffiti happening on his doorstep. He said: “The rude illustrations are vandalism and it’s bringing down the area!” His views are not singular as according to Mr Bull many other local citizens share the same opinion.
— This is Rammy (@thisisrammysite) August 14, 2015
The Bury Clarion Cycling Club chairman, Chris Reid, 36, said that he believed Wanksy’s unorthodox methods were ‘pretty efficient’ in his eyes along with doing the neighbourhood ‘a favour’. Claiming that the roads the club cycle on often cause injuries to cyclists and damage to bikes and he is thankful for any help he can get regarding the potholes.
The comments across the board are vast in regards to Wanksy’s work and whilst not everyone will agree with his graffiti, Wanksy is not in bad company with Spider Man, Daredevil, Batman and many more vigilantes who faced backlash and a split in public opinion. Quays News wants to hear your thoughts on ‘Wanksy, do you think he’s the council’s nemesis or a real-life superhero?’
By Emma Crampton