Bez is best known for being Happy Mondays’ “freaky dancer”, but nowadays he’s also a renowned environmentalist, anti-fracking campaigner, and beekeeper.
The “party animal” launched a campaign in 2013 to get bees back into the city centre of Manchester. The roof gardens of The Printworks entertainment venue is now a thriving eco garden which hosts four hives – housing approximately 320,000 bees in total.
With bee populations on the decline, the maraca shaker and self-taught apiarist is encouraging people to set up bee colonies. Bez’s love for bees stems back to his childhood days and his family’s love of honey, putting it on everything from toast to cereal.
New hives and bees can cost up to £800 but Bez said he was lucky enough to have bought his for £50 off “some fella” who no longer wanted a colony.
Bez, real name Mark Berry, is particularly keen for residents of his hometown of Manchester to embrace the bees – as the insect is the city’s mascot as a symbol of industry, community and teamwork.
The eco garden at The Printworks was launched in 2012, in partnership with Friends of the Earth, Hard Rock Cafe and various other Printworks tenants, and was awarded Manchester City Council’s prestigious Biodiversity Hotspot Award for its commitment and positive contribution to biodiversity.
In addition to the apiary, the garden also houses a wild flower meadow, orchard, herb garden. It is also home to a Beetle Hotel, a bespoke insect biome installation that provides shelter and habitat for around 100 common ground beetles.
An allotment contains strawberries, rhubarb, cauliflower, potatoes and carrots, with vegetables from the roof previously being used to make soup and donated to Manchester homeless charity, The Booth Centre. Other produce is either being donated straight to charity or sold to raise money.
The Printworks rooftop gardens is a prime example of how cities and communities can support biodiversity. It is one of a growing number of green initiatives in the UK that is helping to support bees, which are vital for pollinating crops and flowers and essential for the eco-system.
Happy Mondays, who celebrate their 30th anniversary, embark on a world tour at the end of this month. Bez was notorious for his party loving lifestyle, and was twice declared bankrupt.
Nowadays Bez prefers a more simple and sustainable lifestyle, that nurtures his wellbeing as well as the environment and those around him. He now lives part-time on a commune, the Cwm Yr Heol Farm near Swansea in south Wales – where they keep bees and brew beer.
Bez said: “You really don’t need much, living like that. You can get by on next to nothing.”
The Happy Mondays danceman is hoping more people will follow his lead in setting up hives of bee colonies in towns and cities throughout the UK.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. Follow Rosa on Twitter.