A team of archivists and conservators will detach the tributes so they are preserved for future generations to mark the national moment of solidarity that followed the mural being defaced and a torrent of racist abuse was targeted at the player on social media, as well as England teammates Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho.
Hundreds have travelled, many from long distances, to read and add their own messages of support in the sun, but there are fears that the change in weather could lead to the notes disintegrating.
Manchester city council have approached Rashford to ask how he would like the notes to be preserved in the long term in order to create “a lasting legacy of tolerance, love, and solidarity for future generations to learn from”. One idea his team are considering is digitalising the messages so they have a greater lifespan and can be accessed from around the world.
In the meantime, the Withington Wall’s community project, who first commissioned the mural, Manchester Art Gallery, Central Library’s Archives department, the People’s History Museum, the National Football Museum and the University of Manchester have been in discussion about how best to preserve the notes.
Manchester has a history of preserving these moments of organic coming together. After the Manchester Arena attack that killed 22 concertgoers, 10,000 items left by the public at memorial sites across the city were preserved in the Manchester Together Archive.
Among the drawings, poems and soft toys were Great Manchester Run medals and a grip-seal bag of Glastonbury mud. Visitors to the city’s People History Museum can also view an exhibition dedicated to the legacy of the murdered MP Jo Cox, including a memorial wall of hundreds of handwritten tributes left outside the Houses of Parliament after her death, as well as placards and banners.
On Friday, staff from Manchester Art Gallery and Central Library Archives+ will take the notes down and transport them to the library’s archives department for safe-keeping. Masters students from the Institute of Cultural Practices at the University of Manchester will also be on hand, ready to help with collecting the messages and documenting the process.
Library staff will then set about the delicate process of separating each of the messages, recording, and photographing them.
Due to the sheer amount of sticky tape that has been used to keep the tributes in place to the wall, whole sections will probably have to be lifted and packed on site, and then carefully separated later.
A spokesperson for Withington Wall’s welcomed the moment of “social and cultural history” being recorded and said it was “incredibly lucky” that professionals would be taking on the job of preserving the notes, while remaining in dialogue with the community and others as to where the messages ended up. They said that the outpouring hopefully represented a “fork in the road” in terms of progress and equality.
Luthfur Rahman, deputy leader of Manchester city council, said the actions of those who turned up in solidarity “has ‘Manchester’ stamped all the way through it”.
He said it was important that the shared moment “that started with the placing of just one small message of love on the mural after it was defaced – an action that spoke to the whole country and not just Manchester” is remembered and preserved.
Greater Manchester police have appealed for witnesses, and are investigating the vandalism as potentially racially aggravated.
“Dear Marcus Rashford, You’ve made us all so extremely proud. ‘So surely with hardship comes ease’ Qur’an 94:5. You’ve got this king, head up high”, Sabia
“Thank you for all of our dinner”, Reggie 6
“We are so proud of you and we hope you are all too. Thank you for bringing England together after a year of us all being apart.” Alana and Tom
“New Britain is being born a little more each day. Keep going young kings”
“You have stood up for us repeatedly, now it’s time for us to stand up for you!”