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Manchester, One Year On From the Incident at MEN Arena

One year has passed since the incident at the MEN Arena. Although times have moved forward, the loss and trauma that every citizen experienced at the time of its occurrence is impossible to forget. Today, a number of commemorative events are taking place within the city, including M1 Festival, which has a ‘free entry, donations on the door’ policy. The mixed-genre festival is bringing the likes of Katbrownsugarnatural sciences, and Clint Boon to Fac 251 from 6:00 pm till 3:00 am, and is raising for the We ❤ Manchester Emergency Fund. For more information on the festival, head to the Skiddle ticket page. More details about the emergency fund are listed at the bottom of the article below.

Below is an article that was titled ‘Almost a Week On: Don’t Look Back in Anger’. This was published on funraising.tumblr.com on the 26th of May 2017, and was an attempt to encapsulate and celebrate the strength of the Manchester community. The article has been left in its original format.

 

Despite the name ‘Funraising’, this platform intends to shed light on community spirit of all kinds. As everyone is aware, the greatest tragedy struck Manchester on the night of the 22nd of this month, and yet the city has borne through with immense strength, power, will and resistance. The city did not need bolstering, and yet one would believe it has been bolstered. In reality, Manchester is only as bolstered as ever was. An entire history of difficulty and hardship has raised a community hard-workers, of unspoken bonds, of cultural pride. A community that has, can, and will overcome. Never has this been more evident than now, for the ways in which Manchester city’s people have come together is innumerable.

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Less than 24 hours after the tragedy struck, a vigil was held in St Albert’s Square in support of those affected by the incident at the MEN Arena, and in sincere memoriam of its 22 victims. Yesterday I witnessed St. Anne’s Square, which currently holds thousands of flowers. Walking through the square, which was so light and full of quiet souls, was unmistakably surreal and harrowingly beautiful. Delicately sweet, fragrant air seemed to swim gently past those around the square, rising rather than dying. The sombre mood was also comfortingly casual. The scene was reflective of the whole city at the moment, for it was undoubtedly tense, but full of good old Northern strength. That morning I had missed a one-minute silence that was held at 11am. As 11:01 came around, the crowd began to sing ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ in a completely unplanned moment. There’s little to say about this aside from the fact that I cannot imagine anything more fitting, and yet somewhat incredible. We can be grateful for that the moment is available online for all to see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXZKo3FZImY

It was not only the respect shown at St Anne’s Square that was astounding however, but my return from it, for I lingered at Piccadilly Gardens. On the hottest day of the year this far, the public fountains were active and surrounded by people of all ages. Children ran through the streams of water, confidently, self-consciously, in enjoyment, in fear. Living in the sweet bubble of childhood, just the way in which they deserve to. To put it simply, if someone had time-travelled to this happy space, they wouldn’t have been able to guess at any recently landed trauma. The way that Manchester has been able to  cope is far above and beyond the old British saying ‘keep calm and carry on’. There’s a hardy spirit in town, and an impressive will to keep living. The Guardian’s Josh Halliday spoke to Lydia Bernsmeier-Rullow, the woman who started the impromptu singalong at St. Anne’s Square. She said: “Don’t Look back in Anger – that’s what this is about. We can’t be looking backward to what happened, we have to look forwards to the future.’ People from all over the world of varying amounts of power and importance have all come together to respond to what has happened. However, some of the most profoundly true and intelligent responses that have been heard were born and burst from within. Bernsmeier-Rullow continued, “We’re all going to join together, we’re all going to get on with it because that’s what Manchester does.”

In four days, the Manchester Evening News has already raised £1,649,907 of their £2,000,000 target. Administered by the British Red Cross, this money is to be spent on the families of those directly affected. Whilst it is important to understand that there are many causes around the world equally deserving of funding, I think that this cause is undeniably important. The pounds that would have loitered in the pockets of our many are far better when they are taken out in support of our affected. These are hard times, and the media attention spayed on victims alone is traumatic. No-one can quantify how much harder everything else on top of this might be. Money certainly doesn’t buy everything, but it’s one less thing to worry about at the end of the day.

In terms of anger, Manchester has shown a distinct lack thereof. In its place, over the last few days I’ve seen an unmatched, shared understanding. The hub of nostalgia has produced a pure and unmatched love. We should be full of pride, for anger breeds more mistakes than any other emotion. It’s not only unproductive, but destructive. How many people can claim that their best decisions were made in fury? Our streets feel heavier, but only due to the a solid connection that runs through them. In our modern age, it can feel unusual to share a knowing glance with the old man across the road. Coming from the south, I’ve often commented Manchester is a place in which this is a bit more normal. In these testing times, however, this shared glance has been completely expected and rightfully accepted, which is sure proof of a friendly and welcoming community. Tony Walsh, otherwise known as Longfella, exemplifies this magnificently in his commemorative poem:

‘And so this is the place now we’ve got kids of our own

Some are born here, some drawn here but we all call it home.

And they’ve covered the cobbles but they’ll never defeat

All the dreamers and schemers who still scheme through the streets’.

The literary past is rife with Northern literature. Today we’ve seen Simon Armitage rise, and Lemn Sissay’s work plastered all over our walls. It would be no surprise if Longfella were to join them in history, courtesy of ‘This Is the Place’.

Full of cultural quips and references, the poem makes a point of Manchester’s close association with ‘the league’. A vital part of our culture, it’s no shock that the Red and Blue halves of the Manchester have come together to pledge £1million to its victims. As United won the match, the official City Twitter account announced this with the following picture:

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The chairman of Manchester City spoke: “The hope of both our clubs is that our donation will go some small way to alleviate the daunting challenges faced by those directly affected and that our acting together will serve as a symbol to the world of the unbreakable strength of the spirit of Manchester.”

In echo of this, Ed Woodward, executive vice-chairman of Manchester United said: “The barbarism of Monday evening’s attack has shocked everyone. Our clubs are right at the heart of our local communities in Manchester and it is right that we present a unified response to this tragedy.

I say all of this with sensitivity to the fact that social media and media can be seen as damaging constraints on delicate incidents. Both entities can be problematic and can effect to perpetuate existing worries and issues. I don’t discount this fact, but I add that I’m also proud of how both entities have worked to connect our people. With the help of Twitter and Facebook, within hours of the incident friends and family were able to find each other. The hashtag #roomformanchester helped the stranded find food, transport, and shelter. Masses of support from all over the world has been offered, which is arguably conducive to strength and perseverance. Furthermore, appeals have been set up to thank and help some of those who more than deserve it. Money has been raised to help two homeless men who put their lives on the line to help victims of the attack. Chris Parker rushed into the arena held a woman in his arms as she passed away, and helped a young girl who lost her legs.**

If you have anything to say about the paradox of media, please feel free to voice them in the comments section below. I think it’s vital that we voice concerns and remain open to the ideas of others, because the process of debate is key to how we understand, learn and grow. It is key to moving ‘forward’. (where ‘forward’ lies is in itself debatable, but I maintain my statement).

And there are still a variety of creative campaigns contributing every day that passes. A great many people are completing the ‘Great Manchester Run’ this Sunday, a large amount of them for the British Red Cross fund. Another notable contribution is the thousands of pounds coming in from the bee tattoo appeal. As many know, the Manchester worker bee holds a lot of symbolic value for the city. Tattoo parlours from all over the country have pledged to give all proceeds from bee tattoos to the Emergency Fund. People have swarmed to get tattoo’d, and parlours all over Manchester have had queues that run outside their doors. A parlour in Fallowfield is booked up all weekend, but is accepting a limited number of walk-ins early next week. The symbol of the bee has been shared for years, and it’s touching to realise that this is now going to be a common bodily bond too. The physicality being lent to this visual media is so telling of the strength that I hope has been made clear in this entry.

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Manchester has remarkably stayed both strong and sensitive in light of the hardship that has befallen it. The people have refused to look back in anger, and have produced pure heart. I hope that I’ve managed to accurately convey the tight-knit community that is at work in this old textiles town.

On that note, I will leave this post with a final request. The emergency fund is ever growing and I encourage you to help it do so.  I think it’s important to note that the trauma that has been encountered is not short-term. The people that have been directly affected by the incident will need support for an indefinite period of time, and we ought to be giving it, one and all, as long as we can. We must not treat this like a phase, for we can move past it, but it should never leave us. We should always assist the families and dependents of the 22 people who have been lost, and not forget those of the 64 wounded and critically injured.

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/westandtogethermanchester

We have stood together, and we must #standtogether.

Photo credits go to @mcrfinest

**Please note that at the time that this article was written, no more up to date information about Chris Parker had been released.

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