Some mornings you need the Force to get to the office. But workers in the high-rise Hardman Street building in Manchester’s Spinningfields have a dogfight between a TIE Interceptor and an X-Wing to inspire them. And, if that wasn’t enough 70s nostalgia, the entire thing is made from old Raleigh bike parts.

Heavy Petal, as the sculpture is known (a Stone Roses reference), is the brainchild of Andrew Gibson of Tyson Lighting and Vinny Smith of Northern Backdrop. Northern Soul caught up with Smith to find out how this unusual art installation came about.

“Usually I do commercial interior design and Tyson Lighting was our main supplier. Andy and I struck up a friendship.”

He adds: “Someone wanted something for a cycling expo so we decided to do something like a space ship, we then decided on Star Wars. The shapes naturally lend themselves to the wire frame element, they are simple and easily identifiable.”


The sculptures were first displayed at the Wired exhibition where they went down a storm – and caught the eye of singer/songwriter who, it is rumoured, has put in a bid for the installation. Tyson and Smith are keen for as many people as possible to enjoy their work.

“We want to keep them out until the next Star Wars but they will be in Manchester certainly until the start of the summer,” says Smith.

So, What has the reaction been? 3 Hardman Street Building host, Dawn Wright, is a fan. “I’m not keen on modern art but this is amazing, really cool. My grandson wants it in his bedroom.”

Joel Fleming, who works in the building, says: “It feels as if they have captured a snapshot within the films, you get a real sense of movement. Part of me wished I could have jumped on board the X-Wing and flown to a galaxy far far away there and then.”

His colleague Greg Ellison is equally impressed. “They bring something exciting to the building, it’s something different that would otherwise make just another day at the office.”

TIE InterceptorSmith is enjoying that fact that they have been displayed in such a public way. “It’s a 24-hour gallery.”

Meanwhile, Fleming urges people to come after dark. “Seeing them in the daytime is one thing but when the sun sets the installation seems to come alive even more.”

So, are there any plans to expand this collection? Smith isn’t giving anything away, but there is talk of a third sculpture to complete the Star Wars Bike Trilogy.

Looking up at the sculpture you can’t help but wonder which one will win this stand-off. What does Smith think?

“I have this argument with Andy,” he laughs. “I am definitely on the dark side so it’s the menacing-looking TIE Interceptor for me. Andy is more about the X-Wing.”

By Chris Park

Main image and gallery photos by Chris Payne



Heavy Petal will be exhibited at 3 Hardman Street, Manchester throughout May 2015. For further information, go to