Manchester Remembers.

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

In 2013 Tony Walsh penned the poem, This is the Place. Sadly, following an attack on civilians by an absolute coward and fool in the name of extremism – and one which has nothing to do with Islam, this poem became very well known. It is a poem about belonging and the importance of communities. They need nurturing and through Forever Manchester (est. 1989) they work to inspire and encourage projects that want to see healthier and happier neighbourhoods in Manchester. This is the Place became an anthem for the people of Manchester.

Concert-goers, from the artist Ariana Grande, had enjoyed a love-filled pop concert and filtered out of the packed Manchester Evening News Arena. The very arena at the centre of Manchester that I and many friends have enjoyed sports, music, arts and comedy at. It has held political and social justice events. It’s part of Mancunian culture and has been so since the 15th of July 1995. The Nynex Arena was a place many looked forwards to seeing Manchester Giants dunk balls through hoops and the Manchester Storm and Manchester Phoenix teams slash at pucks sliding up and down ice. It was here I’ve seen Meat Loaf, at least 3 times, Catatonia, Slipknot, Idlewild, the Mighty Boosh, Arcade Fire, and a concert campaigning for a minimum wage (28/4/2001). On either October the 13th or 14th in 2000, I attended Britney Spears tour for Oops!…I Did It Again Tour, with my mate Robert Hanna. It wasn’t that bad. The familiar ways in and out of the weird cuboid shaped cavernous arena are clear in my mind. It was and always should be a place of entertainment and joy.

But, on May the 22nd 2017, things could have changed. Things did change. The tool of death was a shrapnel-laden improvised homemade device was filled with pure hate. Twenty-two souls were claimed that horrible and atrocious night. At least 139 people were wounded physically, and hundreds suffered psychological traumas.

Prime Minister Theresa May and Greater Manchester’s Chief Constable, Ian Hopkins acted accordingly and within the public eye. Millions of pounds were handed to the recovery and care of victims from that night. For many, counselling still goes on. It would be September the 9th before Manchester’s flagship arena would reopen. The patron saint of Manchester, Noel Gallagher held a special benefit concert. Mancunian defiance and love for our city, brought even red and blue together.

Manchester fought back with love. Accommodation and transport were supplied by people to the people. Taxi companies, houses, and companies threw open their doors. The Sikh gurdwaras temples nearby became shelters. A local hotel became a makeshift safety shelter and lost children tent. Underneath Manchester Victoria station was evacuated. The city was swiftly placed into action to check for further dangers and to assess the losses. Whilst repairs were possible to the arena foyer and the railways station, the true loss came in human tragedy.

The victims ages were from as tender age as just eight years old to 51 years of age. All cut too short from life. Ten people died below the age of 20. Two Polish nationals and twenty British nationals, from various walks of life, gone. Young Saffie Rose Roussos died aged 8. The Tarleton Community Primary School student’s parents invited Manchester to mourn with their family. Described as a little girl with a beautiful smile who loved dancing, gymnastics and music, she could be any primary school kid in any nation. Dreadfully and heartbreakingly, she was in the right place at the wrong time. Just like many of us as kids do, we follow – or we push our parents to go to see live concerts. Who does that hurt? Nobody. It never should.

Before that night, I’d barely known who Ariana Grande was. I knew she was a hip sexy popstar and idol of many young and even older fans. Her edgy music was appealing to many. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but it did entice 28-year-old John Atkinson from Bury. He enjoyed a break as a support worker for people with autism. The void left to his family and those he supported is unimaginable.

Halewood Academy’s Megan Hurley’s parents vowed to keep her memory alive. The charity pin, designed by her bigger brother Bradley helped that and now www.meganhurleyfoundation.org.uk supports families due to the sudden and unexpected loss of a child. The legacy of a 15 year-old-girl’s devastating passing keeps her treasured memories for her family whilst offering hope to those in dark, dark places.

Another 15-year-old victim Olivia Campbell-Hardy has a foundation in her honour. Liv’s Trust. It sounds so alive. Liv’s Trust has been set up to help under twenty-fives in Greater Manchester get help and receive education in music & dance. What a wonderful and noble cause.

“People are not born with hate. It is coming from somewhere. We need to integrate all age groups. We need to bring everyone together. At the end of the day, we are all human beings. That is what we are.” – Andrew Hardy, Manchester Evening News (28/9/2017)

Alison Howe (sexual health nurse and mother of two, with four stepsons), 45

Lisa Lees (beauty tutor at Oldham College and mother of two), 43

Angelika Klis (39) and Marcin Klis (42), residents of York, just waiting to collect their kids form the concert.

Martyn Hett, 29 (PR manager, social media star) #BeMoreMartyn

Georgina Callander, 18 (a college student from Lancashire)

Kelly Brewster, 32 (a globetrotter from Sheffield looking to settle down and be a loving stepmother)

Jane Tweddle, 51 (a school receptionist from Blackpool and mother-of-three)

Nell Jones, 14 (“She would not want you to hate because of what has happened, she would want you to love.” – her brother Sam’s words)

Michelle Kiss, 45 (Her widower husband Tony Kiss asked all to support children’s charity Derian House because she ‘she lived for her children’.)

Sorrell Leczkowski, 14 (a teenager from Leeds, robbed of her ambitions)

Liam Curry, 19, and Chloe Rutherford, 17 (a loving couple from South Shields, Tyneside)

Elaine McIver, 43 (served with the Cheshire Police for 19 years)

Wendy Fawell, 50 (a former primary school worker)

Eilidh MacLeod, 14 (from Barra, Outer Hebrides, Scotland)

Courtney Boyle, 19, and Philip Tron, 32 (from Gateshead, there to pick up a family member)

Off-duty consultant anaesthetist, Michael Daley, was one few medical experts on scene almost immediately. His name is quite rightly on the British Medical Association Book of Valour in June 2017. Sirens blazed throughout the centre of Manchester and the edge of Salford that May 22nd night. The North West Ambulance Service sent 60 ambulances to the wretched incident. Numerous walking wounded received treatment by key NHS workers.

I didn’t know any of these people, but I could have. These were everyday people going about their lives in a place of relative security and safety. Aside from the 1996 IRA bombing of Manchester and the events of World War II, Manchester has been like almost every other city, its fair share of unfortunate crime and hate, with trouble here and there. But, on the whole Manchester has and always will be a place of togetherness and inclusion. It doesn’t accept hate or perversion of any race of religion. It bounces back.

One Love Manchester was one high profile benefit concert event on the 4th June 2017. 55,000 people rocked up less than two weeks after the terrorist attack. Ariana Grande was graceful and full of strength and many stars took to the stage to offer a huge two-finger gesture to those who wish to destroy our everyday lives: you will not win. Following it, our Ariana Grande became an honorary citizen of the city. We look after our own and those who we claim as our own.

The British Red Cross received over £17 million of donations following the One Love Manchester concert. 50 countries around the world broadcast it, ensuring the people of China, Australia, Peru, and the listeners of Capital Radio Sierra Leone could share the love. Legend of popular music Stevie Wonder belted out Love’s in Need of Love Today and Marcus Mumford of a similar named-band played Timshel. As I watched YouTube’s livestream of Ariana Grande and Coldplay performing an Oasis number, even from the comfort of my sofa, Don’t Look Back in Anger rung very true. Liam Gallagher swaggered onto stage and sang Live Forever, and do you know what, as a Mancunian born and bred, I properly hope that none of those who died that day are forgotten. I trust and I hope that like then, now in these horrid COVID-19 times, that we as Mancs, born here, or raised here, or headed here (for good or for a day out), keep the flag waving for peace and love.

“…the City of Manchester was the Hero.” – Scooter Braun, manager of Ariana Grande to Billboard magazine.

Community and courage arose from the ashes, and for those lucky enough life went on. But, we didn’t forget our lost, our visitors who never travelled back, our guests our workers, and their losses. No, we remember. Manchester remembers.

爱与和平/Peace and love

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Need further inspiration?

The bomber’s name won’t be written here and even now his brother is imprisoned on twenty or so counts of murder. Both attended Burnage High School for Boys (now Academy), a school once bombed by the Luftwaffe during World War 2. Just as Hitler shouldn’t ruin the name of Austria, Burnage should be seen in a better light. It’s motto is ‘Be The Best That You Can Be’. I’ve got friends and met many people from Burnage, and they’ve all lived to that motto. The school has a rich history. It offers chances to escape Manchester. Darren and Jason Beckford (Manchester City), Busby babe Roger Byrne, Wes Brown and Peter Coyne (Man. Utd.) make up the footballing graduates. Bass players Guigsy (Paul McGuigan) of Oasis and Dale Hibbert (The Smiths) attended there – as did Simply Red’s Aziz Ibrahim (he was also with Paul Weller, The Stone Roses and Ian Brown). There have been some big former students. Motivational speaker Brian Sterling-Vete, American football player Menelik Watson, and Jim O’Neill (Baron O’Neill of Gatley) was a government minister. Even a bloody bobsleigh competitor, Lamin Deen, made it out of Burnage to bigger things. It is unfair that the bomber’s name taints the school’s long-standing name and a place that 1966 BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor Alan Badel attended.

Author John Hutton attended Burnage High School. His novels are 29, Herriott Street (1979) and Accidental Crimes (1983). The latter received a Gold Dagger Award from the Crime Writers’ Association. My favourite Nepali film, Sherpa, was co-produced by John Smithson. This former Burnage student was also notable in his involvement in a huge list of hard-hitting dramas and documentaries. Toughing the Void, 127 Hours, and Deep Water. So with all the above, Burnage has created far more great people than the one mistake that the media highlights.

Pinochet, Mandela & Corbyn went into a bar…

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae / Namaste

“At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge.” Darth Maul – Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

If you read newspapers such as The Sun, The Telegraph and The Daily Mail, you may have noticed a theme. Obviously, they serve the right wing of politics more than the left. In turn they influence mainstream media – and often they are backed by the BBC – a national service and institution rife with bias. It usually goes something like this: Jeremy Corbyn loves Hamas; Jeremy Corbyn hates Jews; Jeremy Corbyn likes the IRA; Jeremy Corbyn is friends with Hezbollah; Jeremy Corbyn ate my hamster. To many in the press and the established media, Jeremy Corbyn is a terrorist sympathiser. The same press may have spun a rhetoric of peace-loving Saudi Arabia with absolutely no mention of their use of British arms against civilians. News is replaced by opinion all too often. People read and watch it.

“People who dish out anti-Semitic poison need to understand: you do not do it in my name” – Jeremy Corbyn, BBC News, 4 August 2018

Terrorists usually have a reason for being nasty bastards. They’re often fighting for their ideals and their freedom. Sometimes they go overseas and inflict the worst of evils upon their chosen enemy. Often there is no clear black and white reasoning. The areas that those labelled as terrorists can be grey and unclear. Can a one-sided view be applied? Can we really just say that we oppose something or support something? What if one area overlaps the other? Che Guerava was okay, a little, right? Karl Marx was Jewish yet Corbyn likes him… how does that work?

The Conservative Party of today love slinging shit at Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn. They openly accept that General Pinochet and Margaret Thatcher was an acceptable friendship. They even rallied against his war crime convictions. A spot of Conservative whitewashing and overlooking of Nelson Mandela’s ANC because they were terrorists in the eyes of the Conservatives. Jeremy Corbyn and one-time Prime Minister Gordon Brown are known to have stood against apartheid. The Conservatives sent junior David Cameron (again a future Prime Minister) and others on a jolly piss-up to a fragmented South Africa. They offered nothing supportive and today they know little better. Perhaps they still wear their ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’ badges in private for old times’ sake?

If you oppose dropping bombs, suddenly you’re a terrorist sympathiser. Is talking with historically and aggressively anti-semitic organizations Hezbollah and Hamas so far-fetched? They must be engaged if any peace process or dispute can be brought to a conclusion. Obi-Wan Kenobe impersonator Jeremy Corbyn is against Britain’s nuclear deterrent Trident. That’s understandable if you prefer peace and love, over weaponry. Also, imagine the funding that would be made available for social and public services. Noodle munching Jeremy Corbyn may not be a warmongering wager of destruction, but he does seem to listen. He’s even entertained the idea that homeopathy needs more research. He acknowledges Cuba’s flaws – and those of Cuban President Fidel Castro, but he supports more international integration and commitment to global ties. And, Jeremy Corbyn is hit with libel, for no good reason, other than to tarnish his name – which the papers did give a later retraction. I mean, who actually watches the Queen’s speech these days, and who cares about if a leader of the opposition watches the speech?! One to watch, I guess.

“The death of Osama bin Laden was a tragedy.” – David Cameron, Conservative Party conference, 7/10/2015

The word terrorist has terror inside it for a reason. Terror invokes fear. Fear creates a fight or flight mechanism – and often the fight is in words or manipulation of words to influence people. The word terrorist is so strong that it makes us switch off. We only think of grim and horrid events. The September 11th attacks on New York and the Pentagon are some of the instant images. Such horror and fright as recent London Bridge attacks and pain. We no longer consider that one man’s terrorist may well be another man’s freedom fighter.

Manchester is no stranger to terrorism. The IRA detonated a bomb in June 1996, four years after a series of dangerous bombs. We received a refurbished shopping centre and it brought our city much closer together. The biggest bomb detonated in Great Britain since World War II ranked third in terms of economic loss. Thankfully nobody died. Around 212 people were injured physically and more psychologically. Russia played Germany at Old Trafford the next day. Manchester’s resilience was tested. Life went on. The IRA regretted causing injury. The day itself was horrible and fear gripped the city. Panic spread. As my family and I jumped on a train out of the city, a sparkling mushroom cloud hovered over the city. There was no wireless internet and mobile phones were few and far between. Car alarms rang through the shattered air and the sound of the blast still filled my head. We were all worried, not because of the bomb, but because we wanted to know where my Gran was. We’d been due to meet less than a mile from where the blast had happened. Thankfully Gran was at home safe and sound. In 1975 the Provisional IRA also bombed Lewis’s department store. The Troubles have passed their worst days, but these dangerous times could bring them back. Hate is growing. We must act against it.

On the 22nd of May 2017, I woke up to find news that Manchester had been attacked and many people were dead or injured. I cried. My head filled with dread. Little by little news emerged of the senseless and radical disgrace. More than 800 people faced hospital treatment. 22 innocent and beautiful lives were taken. They were all out at the Manchester Arena to enjoy music and arts, with Ariana Grande performing. From horror and shock, what followed was nothing short of pure love and care. Manchester found its heart torn open and agony its company, yet people from far and wide came forwards with love and support. Shelters, taxis, residents, hotels, temples and more opened their doors. The Muslim Council of Britain condemned the attacks. People listened and acted calmly on the whole. A five-fold increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes followed for a month but largely Manchester came together slowly and surely. Manchester – a City United.

“You cannot pursue peace by a cycle of violence” – Jeremy Corbyn, BBC News, 14 August 2018

“Freedom fighters do not need to terrorise a population into submission,” former U.S. President Ronald Reagan told the American people in a 1986 Radio Address to the Nation. In that same realm of thought, the media and news reporters don’t need to sling so much shit and accusations of terrorism sympathy about potential future leaders? Isn’t sitting down with the other side, or all concerned groups a way to understand? Don’t we need more dialogue to stop airstrikes on hospitals in far off lands? Didn’t we as a nation have Sir Winston Churchill speak bolding about fighting on beaches, in our streets and never ever giving up? Is guerrilla warfare justifiable and objective if you have a cause and belief? Or should you submit to those who walk over you? Should we question who is the real terrorist? Who defines them?

“Roof it again. Batten down. Dig in. Drink out of tin. Know the scullery cold, a latch, a door-bar, forged tongs and a grate.” – Lightenings, a poem by Seamus Heaney (read by Mr Mack to our secondary school class at Reddish Vale Technology College after the bombing in Manchester – to show that whilst some people can do bad things, the great things need more time in the eye of the people)

Language is a powerful thing – and with the power of language we must be accountable and responsible. There is no need for hurling manure in this day and age. It is cheap and populist. It is divisive and causes acrimony. If you’re going to represent the people, at least do it fairly. Using their language of fear is a terror in itself.

“No, not death: birth.” – The Satanic Verses – a  novel by Salman Rushdie.

So, is Jeremy Corbyn really the enemy? I won’t preach. I’ll let you think.

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye / Hwyl Fawr / Dhanyabaad / Alavidā