Having lived so close to the city my entire life, I have too many memories of Manchester to be able to go through them all. A lot of them involve days and nights out with my friends. When I was 18 and we were all going to uni, a lot of my friends and myself decided to stay in our city. There was still so much of it we hadn’t explored.
Pre-18-year-old-me had seen Piccadilly, the shops, the Christmas Markets and the concert venues. Post-18-year-old-me was opened up to the Northern Quarter, Spinningfields, Deansgate, Fallowfield, Oxford Road, Salford and Castlefield. In my first year at uni, I lived at home. During the summer, I stayed with my friend in her halls of residence for about 4 days. I felt like I was on holiday the entire time. It was like a little student bubble and I loved it. We’d wake up about 11am, get dressed, go somewhere for a hangover breakfast and start drinking again on a grotty little rooftop bar, people-watching other students having similar days. We’d go for more food, get dressed up, go for more drinks, crash back at her place, and then do it all over again. I think that’s when I fully fell in love with Manchester.
Over the past year, my love, passion and pride for my city has increased ten fold. I’ve always loved telling people I’m from Manchester (even though I’m from Stockport aka fake Manchester), but over the past 12 months, I’ve never ever been more proud. The unity and strength is like nothing I’ve seen or experienced before. Now, a year later, I still get a lump in my throat when I see a Worker Bee in the window of a strangers car, or tattooed on someone’s wrist.
Not long after the attack on Manchester Arena, I wrote this piece about my thoughts and feelings towards it. To be honest, they haven’t changed. It will always be the scariest and most heartbreaking thing I’ll probably ever be a part of. I’ll still always get glassy-eyed when it is mentioned on the news or when I’m telling someone about it. I’ll still always feel a weird mixture of being lucky, unlucky and guilty. It’s been a tough year coming to terms with being involved in such a tragedy, mourning the lives of people who didn’t make it, being angry at the world for acts like this happening, and also feeling grateful for loved ones for taking care of me. No one can prepare you for dealing with something like this and I am so proud of me and my best friend, Maguire, for how we have coped.
In my last piece, I’d been back to Manchester once since it happened. It was one of my nearest and dearest friends birthdays and I remember being on the phone with Maguire saying ‘we cannot let this stop us from celebrating a day we have celebrated for years’. We had a couple (a lot) of drinks and we had a really good night, and I felt like we had made a really big step.
In my opinion, the hardest part was going back to Manchester Arena. Maguire had bought Little Mix tickets for us months and months before it all. We had given ourselves and each other pep talks, and we did go and we did have a good time in the end. However, seeing how the arena had changed, how much higher the security was, seeing quotes and bee’s all over was absolutely necessary and well done, but absolutely heartbreaking at the same time. At one point, I thought I was going to turn around and go straight home. But we both persisted, through anxiety and tears, and refused to let that horrible experience stop us from going to a place we’ve been going to for years. We’ve been back four times since the attack and we have two more shows booked for this year.
This past year has been a huge lesson in how strong and loved we actually are. It doesn’t feel like a whole year ago, but it also feels like it didn’t happen – like it was too traumatic and scary to have been real. I will be forever amazed by the strength of Ariana Grande and her team. How they pulled together such an incredible benefit show in a short amount of time, and how much closure they brought to the city.
Today, the build up to today, and for the foreseeable future will be difficult and maybe I won’t fully come to terms with it. When it first happened, I thought I’d never step foot back into the city centre of Manchester, let alone the arena. But both myself and Maguire have done it at our own pace.
I hate that it has taken a tragedy for the world to notice how incredible our city is. But it did and now everyone knows. Everyone knows that Manc’s are so proud to be Mancs. Everyone knows that Manc’s are a tight knit community and some of the most genuine and helpful people in the world. Everyone knows that Manc’s cannot be torn apart. There’s no retaliation or revenge – instead, we love more, sing louder and stick together more than before.
You’re the absolute best, Manchester. Thanks for making the past year slightly easier with your passion, charm and quirks.