We ♥ Manchester
On August 9th Manchester experienced a night of rioting and looting, a copycat reaction to riots in London over the previous few days. Afterwards, this wall of Post-It's appeared in the city centre, a spontaneous display of affection to the city from residents and visitors.
I was in Manchester on the night of the 9th. We'd arranged a reunion of old friends and by the time trouble started to brew it was too late to change our plans. Not wanting to be cooped up in our hotel, 8 middle aged men wandered around the city centre on the worst night of violence in decades.
It was a surreal experience. Despite constant phone calls from partners telling us of the carnage being reported on the TV news we never once felt in personal danger. I've been much more worried on nights after a big football match. There was a carnival-like atmosphere with high spirited looters stopping to chat. One young man, hooded and masked urged us to join in the fun. "It's free shopping" he said. A couple of women in their 30's bragged to us about their booty only yards away from a line of riot police, their car stuffed full of stolen clothes. "Got me car boot gear for the weekend" one said with a laugh. What we witnessed was an orgy of theft and pointless vandalism. The next morning saw a small army of volunteers, armed with brooms, roaming the streets to clean up the mess. And then on my return to Manchester a few days ago, this wall of love.
It's all a far cry from the Manchester those 8 men knew the last time they enjoyed a night on the town together, 20 odd years ago. Not the violence or theft. It's always been a violent city, the gun crime capital of the UK they used to say. A fist fight wasn't an unusual end to a Saturday night out and a car parked overnight on the streets would often be found empty of its contents. It always used to be a cynical and dirty old town. Sure Mancunians loved the place but I could never imagine they would express it like this 20 odd years ago. Such public displays of affection were often viewed with suspiction.
It's changed, my city. The Dirty Old Town has gone, replaced by bright and shiny new buildings and streets filled with bright and shiny new Mancunians. I loved the cynical, tired old town of my youth and I love what it's become since then.