For former Luxembourg resident Mike Hawkins, the Manchester bee on his forearm is a constant reminder to make the most out of every day
Photo: Mike Hawkins
Former Luxembourg resident Mike Hawkins never thought he would get a tattoo, but he changed his mind following the 22 May attack in Manchester. Here’s why.
On the night of 22 May, Mike Hawkins went to sleep around 10:15pm in his Manchester flat on Mirabel Street--about 150 m from the Manchester Arena.
He could hear a bit of the bass music coming from the Ariana Grande concert, but he says the sound isolation is so good in his building and the arena that he slept through the night. Until around 4:30am, that is, when Hawkins noticed a flurry of activity on his phone.
“It turns out the phone had been going off for quite a while, and I’m a very sound sleeper,” Mike says. “But my friend, Emily, called and said, “Hey, Mike, there’s been an incident.” I was thinking London, but then I checked the news and it was like a punch to the gut--it was right across the street.”
Many friends knew he was in Manchester, but not everyone realised just how close he was to the arena. He immediately sent out a message on social media to let everyone know he was okay.
Manchester in mourning
Mike often works remotely due to the nature of his job: he’s the co-founder (along with Boris Pfeiffer) and “main marketing guy” of Riddle, Inc., an online quiz marketing platform. Boris and Mike also worked together in Luxembourg during their days at Kabam, a gaming company.
The day after the attack, Mike was at the John Rylands Library, where he sometimes works, and left his backpack in the building while he went outside to take a phone call. One of the employees rushed after him--as soon as Mike saw the man, he realised his mistake and apologised profusely.
Mike Hawkins, former head of marketing at Kabam in Luxembourg, has called Manchester home for nearly three years. Photo: Mike Hawkins
From time to time, Mike also works from a Starbucks near St Ann’s Square where the impromptu flower memorial was set up. Over days, Mike remembers “it got bigger and bigger, until it took over the whole piazza. It was incredible.”
The Manchester tattoo appeal
The idea to get a tattoo actually came to Mike over a beer with a friend--he only heard about the Manchester tattoo appeal two weeks after it officially ended. The appeal brought together tattoo artists willing to donate their skills (and ink) to tattoo Manchester’s symbol, a bee, on as many as possible. People getting tattoos, in turn, were asked to make a minimum donation of £50 to the charity.
According to The Guardian, around 10,000 people have had bee tattoos, raising more than £520,000 since the attack.
Mike let the idea settle for a few days but then went for it. “My one year ago self would say, ‘Really, Mike? A tattoo?’” Mike says, adding: “I wasn’t philosophically opposed to it, I just never thought it was me. But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a good thing.”
Mike now has a bee on the inside of his wrist. As he put it best on his Facebook page, the tattoo is: “a [email protected] you to ISIS, a symbol of my 10 amazing years in the [UK], and a reminder to make the most out of every day…life is short!”