How a coven of artists brought tarot reading to the Northern Quarter

The Order of the Fool (TOOTF) identify themselves as a ‘coven of pictorial alchemists’. Their latest interactive exhibition, Street Tarot, arrived in the Northern Quarter in October. Anyone with an open mind and heart was welcome to explore the outdoor exhibit, which featured 22 works of art, and have their fortune read.

Tarot cards were concealed throughout the streets surrounding Manchester’s fabled Northern Quarter, waiting for anybody to wander by and identify them. Each piece was paired with a QR code that explained the tarot reading and indicated if it symbolised your past, present, or future.

The Hanged Man tarot card on a shop wall in the Northern Quarter. Photo: Robert Muir

Street Tarot included the work of over 20 well-known and up-and-coming Northern artists who TOOTF classify as “progressive artists with vibrant visual voices.” Combining the spirit of the NQ with vivid, fanciful artworks encouraged visitors to explore the city along with the exhibition.

The Northern Quarter’s Fierce Bar also hosted an indoor exhibition where you could view all 22 tarot cards together in addition to the outdoor installation. They showcased TOOTF’S artistic ‘laws’ and original artworks and prints were available if anyone wished to take home their tarot.

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This more conventional viewing environment allowed individuals to spend more time observing and truly appreciating the artworks on display.

To truly understand Street Tarot, you have to understand the progressive art collective behind it. The Order of the Fool are a ‘collaborative, creative consciousness’ whose main objective is to induce deep, thoughtful discussions. On their website they say:

“Independence and representation of raw-mind is key to our ethos, empathy and equality are our only measures.” 

The Order of the Fool team at the Fierce Bar exhibition. Photo: Robert Muir

They are distinct and bold in not only their other-worldly, captivating aesthetic but also in their “law”:

“Love is the only Law, there is no room for prejudice or the imposition of conceptual ‘norms’, bring all of YOU and expect others to do the same.”

Tarot card prints. Photo: Robert Muir

TOOTF prioritise love and respect above all else and only invite those with an open mind and heart to engage with their collective, upholding progressive and liberal principles.

It’s heartening to see such an intriguing and original collaborative establish itself in Manchester, moving beyond restrictive norms and providing safer, more accepting creative spaces and opportunities.

Tarot card prints. Photo: Robert Muir

The exhibition has the potential to resonate with many individuals who may feel lost in the city, either geographically or emotionally, and encourages participants to discover their destiny. Depending on the sequence you uncover them, each card reveals a truth about your past, present, and future.

Knowing that each artist prepared the tarot readings that accompanies the cards provided another level to the experience and offered a clearer picture of what inspired each artist’s work.

My personal interaction with the cards allowed me to appreciate how distinctive the concept was from more traditional art events I’ve attended. I was surprised when my own three tarot readings each had a peculiarly powerful resonance with my life.

The cards that revealed themselves to me were in this order: The Empress, The Sun, and The Hanged Man. My past, present, and future.

The Hanged Man tarot card. Photo: Lilly Hilton

My past told a tale of maternal influence in my life, and how this may have played out in my life previously, either through strong family bonds or even a previous lover. Freakishly true, as my entire being revolves around maternal influence.

My present spoke of the happy and calm state I’m supposedly going to enter in a new chapter of my life. However, I was rather touched by the wisdom of living without guidance for a while, and to be the bringer of my own destiny, as anyone in their early twenties would benefit from hearing.

My future suggested that ‘the near future is going to be much like the present’, oddly contrasting with the previous card. Perhaps the reading suggests progression in life must be made no matter how much I value stability. My tarot felt deeply personal and charming, seemingly to be the words I needed to hear in that moment of time.

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The indoor exhibition in Fierce Bar was notable in how it presented the artworks, maintaining an open-plan, minimalist approach that complemented the pieces.

The gallery had an enchanting atmosphere that made it feel intimate, almost as if all those involved had included a small piece of themselves into the space. Lit candles contributed to the quaint, mystic ambiance in the space.

The cards on display at Fierce Bar. Photo: Robert Muir

When viewing the cards collectively, each artist’s distinct style and personality came through powerfully, although I would have liked to see the tarot readings included in the physical exhibition. I think it would have brought more energy into the space, and be more accessible to those wishing to be present in the moment.

Nevertheless, I appreciated all the hard work and dedication that went into the indoor and outdoor exhibitions. I also think that having the exhibition run in the Autumn made it all the more enchanting.

Street Tarot is an otherworldly, enchanting exhibition that invites individuals to discover things they may or may not want to hear about their lives. It’s accessible in a fresh, interactive way, opening up public spaces and appealing to folks from many walks of life.

The Order of the Fool are planning Street Tarot exhibitions in other cities across the UK. Follow them on Instagram to keep up to date.