Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived in Derby. She had friends, her family, and was looking forward to going to big school in a year.
Then her dad had an announcement. They were moving. To Manchester.
She didn’t know Manchester. She knew Derby. She knew her friends, her school. This was 1988. Just before Madchester. Before the Gallagher swagger.
What she also didn’t know is that Manchester would become her home. It’s where she would meet and marry her husband. Set up her business. Make lifelong friends. Develop her sense of self.
The thing with Manchester is, I love it despite it’s faults. It can be a bit cocky. A bit blind to it’s own faults. Our issues are similar to those of any other big city – homelessness, pollution, poverty. And whilst we might not factually be the wettest place in the UK, my god we can drag out a shower to last all bloody day.
But it’s good things outweigh the bad. Our diversity – race, religion, sexual orientation. Everyone is welcome. Our friendliness is well known. We will talk to anyone – literally. Pass someone in the street, and we’ll smile. We say thank you to bus drivers. If we spot a lost tourist, it’s almost a race to see who can help first. I’ve made friends at train stations and on busses, in queues at bars, and at the hairdressers.
We don’t do airs and graces – a street cleaner will be treated with the same respect as the Mayor (sorry Andy, you’re the same as everyone else).
It’s why when it comes to social media, we’re ahead of other cities, including London. We love to talk, to communicate. And we’re a city of doers. We don’t wait, we can’t, there’s a need to actually do – create, craft, or simply help. Which is probably why I call this place home.
All of this is why the attacks last week were felt so deeply. You hurt one, you hurt all. We all know someone affected – directly or indirectly. We’re a big city, sure, but we’re a family. For our size, we are incredibly tight knit.
It’s our need to help, to do, that’s fuelled so much. In the first few hours following the blast, taxi drivers offered lifts, people offered rooms, water, tea, coffee, sandwiches to the emergency services – practical stuff. I’ve seen people offer biscuits, coffees to police officers on patrol in the city, venues offering beauty treatments, because we want to help and we don’t know how else to.
And the bees. God the bees. Graffiti, artwork, stickers, tattoos.
I was in the gym at the weekend. A lady was brushing her hair and chatting to one of the other ladies there. ‘They’re just getting those bee tattoos to post on Facebook, that’s all it is’ said she.
Love, you just don’t get it.
You’ll probably know the link – I think it’s been explained the world over. It’s our symbol – of our industrious nature, of our work ethic – we are a hive now more than ever. But now, they mean so much more. It’s a way for us to show our solidarity with one another, our love for one another, for our city. And the tattoos? Artists and customers alike gave up hours, and hours of their time. The artists to create, the customers to be the canvas and thousands have been raised for the We Love Manchester charity. One studio alone raised over £18000. Yes love, we’re just doing it for Facebook.
It’s our sense of action, and our sense of community, that will keep us going. Money will be raised to help the victims, and going forward, we’ll find ways to strengthen our communities, to bring them even closer and try to fix what went wrong to drive someone to do this – whatever we can anyway, as fixing that will take more than just one city.
You picked the wrong city to try and divide.