‘But this is Manchester. We do things differently here.’ On the eve of the anniversary of his death, Tony Wilson’s timeless words resonated around social network sites like a shield, deflecting any suggestions that that the riots that had devastated London the night before would spread to our city.
Manchester was in denial. We had too much faith in our city, pride in our communities and belief in our young people to believe that what had unfolded in London and other cities around the UK could really affect us here.
Of course, Manchester was no stranger to conflict. From the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 to the IRA bomb of 1996 and the football riots ten years later, the city centre has had its fair share of trouble.
But one thing that these incidents all have in common is the positive way in which the city responded to them. Out of the devastation and fatalities of The Peterloo Massacre rose The Manchester Guardian. And in 1996, when the city was devastated by an IRA bomb that saw huge parts of the city centre obliterated, Manchester responded by rebuilding itself into a city worthy of standing on a global stage. The football riots of 2007, which saw thousands of Rangers fans rampage around the city centre in angry reaction to a big screen failing in Piccadilly Gardens, was also swiftly recovered from.
We are a city of industry, of creativity, and above all, of community. So when thousands of people descended on Manchester city centre last night to loot and riot, leaving parts of our city in tatters, we responded with similar robustness and community spirit.
From the calm, considered and professional approach of our police force, to the heartfelt and intelligent pleas by our councillors and Assistant Chief Constable Gary Shewan on TV, to the council street cleaners who worked tirelessly throughout the early hours of this morning, Manchester has shown itself at every level as a force to be reckoned with.
And above all, there was the incredible reaction of Manchester’s residents – many of them ‘youths’ – who turned out in their thousands this morning with brooms and binbags to assist in the clean up of our city, fuelled by donations of food, drink and cleaning supplies by nearby businesses
This isn’t a political blog. There are other places you can go to for the hows and whys. But it’s really important that everyone understands that the majority of young people in Greater Manchester will be horrified by the incidents of last night. Most young people, whether disaffected with society or not, would not turn to crime to vent their woes.
A facebook status of a friend this morning read:
“My mate does community projects with disadvantaged teenagers in Salford. She was with a group this morning who said the rioting was pathetic. These are kids who in the past may well have joined in. Instead they are worried their award ceremony at media city will be cancelled tomorrow. Hurray for the power of engaging young people in creative projects & giving them a different focus & means of expressing themselves. And shame on this govt for cutting all the YSDF funding.”
Kids in Manchester want their city to be great. They don’t want to see it destroyed by a minority.
One young male interviewed on Sky News last night claimed that he was stealing in order to claim something back from the society that he felt had given him nothing. Whether he believed in his words or not, it seems clear that appeasing dissatisfaction with short term material gain isn’t the answer. What these young people need from society isn’t iphones and trainers. What they need from us is attention, guidance and education.
The city is now clean and fully functioning. Not licking its wounds, but healing robustly from them with the spirit and vigour that our city is known for.
A tweet from @gmpolice today reads “There is no disorder in Manchester today, it’s business as usual, and we are determined to keep it that way.”
Let’s hope that’s the case. Because whatever happens, this is Manchester. And we do things differently here.
Forever Manchester manages the Manchester Disaster Relief Fund which has money available for people suffering genuine hardship as the result of incidents like last night. Anyone in genuine need should contact our office on 0161 214 0940 to see if we might be able to help.
Also if anyone feels they would like to donate to this fund to provide ongoing support for Manchester communities they can send money to Forever Manchester at 5th Floor, Speakers House, 39 Deansgate, Manchester M3 2BA or text ‘GMDR11 £5’ to 70070 to donate to the fund to help genuine victims of the riots.
A few tweets from Manchester:
@jonridge: A thousand volunteers at Picc Gardens. That’s not even hyperbole. A thousand turned up. #manchestercleanup
@Chris_Grimes Proud too be a Manc this AM, we have responded the only way we know!! This idiots won’t ruin our city #manchestercleanup
@RiotCleanUpManc I think rain has finally stopped play! Manchester, you’ve blown my mind. The best people in the best city in the world. Thank you!