A Most Mancunian Vigil

Hello I’m Chris, I’m the guy who haphazardly threw this website together this morning in an effort to make sure I could help, even in some small way people affected by this tragedy. I think as tech people we always have a morale responsibility to use our skills to help as many people as possible in whatever way we can and that is a calling that we should all take heed of.

Just back from the vigil and what follows is my account of this sad. solemn, reluctant Mancunian moment. A moment that occurred on a bright blazing day tempered by horror, a moment where we all stood, in the knowledge that only hours earlier last night, 22 innocent young people had just died in the most horrific of circumstances. We shouted “Manchester” and “Love for all Hatred for None”. That is Manchester, that is why it is deserving of the title of ‘God’s City’.

A Most Mancunian Vigil

I arrive having taken a quick bus from my flat in Whalley Range onto Albert Square as crowds gather around me, awaiting the vigil of the fallen victims of this terrible atrocity, after 4 minutes of standing around and waiting to see what was going on I hear voices, chanting what sounds like Arabic, the crowd turns round, a tension in the air for a few hangs for a few seconds before erupting into applause as a group of Sikhs, some old and wisened some young angry for the truth and visibly upset by the actions walk down the street – gripping ‘I Love MCR’ placards, the crowd pays them respect and I already got that Manchester feeling that “Hey man everything’s going to be alright mate”.

I wait around sometime and listen into a few bits of fragmented conversations, which proceed as you would expect, one young girl  telling her friends about how “she cried on the bus”, a small child later to the left of me asks her Mum “why do some people have flowers?”, her Mum unable to tell her the truth trying to distract her from the reality of what has just occurred spins a white liar to soften the blow that no child should have to know. Further on a few minutes I witness many young couples arm in arm, embracing each other and looking so distant, you could see in their eyes how they were still processing this horror. It was an atmosphere of unity and sadness all in one.

The solemn tones of Edward Elgar’s Nimrod then breaks the ambient noise of the crowd, solemn and eternal strings rising over the Square as the Vigil begins, it is a truly bittersweet moment of communal grief, I think we all felt that, it was something I don’t thinkI  have often experienced much in my life – the group emerging from the Town Hall represented Manchester at it’s core, strong, diverse and independent of mind, everything from Political mavericks like Corbyn to Punk Poet Tony Walsh and Priests of all religions. It was a truly triumphant fingers up to those who would seek to divide us, and I think it really started hitting a lot of us then what has occurred, all the horror, the stolen youth. Silence for a few mins, for me it felt like a very painful 4 mins of contemplation, a group of golden balloons released in memory of the fallen, drift into the sky.

The first speakers begin, I will summarise to keep this quick – the first speaker talks deeply and honesty about our diversity and unity and how we are a “successful world city” and how “love is stronger than hate”. All Manchester truisms of course and the crowd applauds his words with aplomb, “These people whose lives have now changed, they are Manchester too” – as he speaks of those left injured and maimed. Finally he summaries by saying we must direct our anger towards helping one another at this time. An eloquent articulation of how we must move forwards.

Next up the GMP Chief Superintendent, who gets a round of enthusiastic applause, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart” he says, his thoughts are with the families, thanking the services for their great work he again stresses the importance of diversity to this city and how “you must all live in harmony with each other”, the crowd applauds.

Next up an somewhat surprisingly for me at least was Tony Walsh, a Manchester based poet I once had the honour of speaking to at an open mic he was performing at Farrago Open Mic for poetry in London when I lived there. I did a few bits and bobs on the poetry scene in London fro a while and I remember conversing with this seasoned punk working class poet and instantly liking his work, we had a quick chat, back then  “he told me to keep on going with it” and gave me some really good advice about “just keeping on writing” and now he stood before a crowd of devastated people and delivered poetry, in the truest sense of the word.

Oh my god it was good, I don’t want to go over the top but at times it was like some straight talking Manchester Jesus had come down to remind us how we’d weathered the storm before and how we’ll make it through again – a mention of Emmeline Pankhurst and everyone instantaneously applauds in riotous noise, and so many incredible moments that I can only recommend you watch his performance of “This is the Place”. A moment of beauty , and grace and a reminder of our strength as a community. Ok The ‘Manchester Jesus’ comment was a bit over the top I admit, but it bought us all together so I’m keeping it in.

Lastly a Christian minister completes  the ceremony with a lighting of candle whilst Adagio for Strings plays in the background, a holy moment for this Atheist here, he speaks of how we much “rebuild this city and dream”, the man could not be more right. The ceremony ends and then all of a suddenly we all start shouting in one united chorus “Manchester! Manchester!” and applause again. A few young men at the back put up a few inappropriate “No Surrender” union jacks as the crowd disperse but they get no more than a few tuts and people moaning “piss off EDL” than anything resembling applause, whilst a banner reading “Love for All and Hatred for none” gets another round of applause from the dispersing crowd.

I walk to my bus, passing through the crowd I see a Rabbi or Orthodox Jew through the crowd, he’s an old man and he looks sad, I nod at him and then he nods at me and mumbles something in Hebrew or Yiddish, I walk past a black guy who points at his heart on the walk to the bus and says this is Manchester, I get on the bus, a Muslim man is reciting Arabic silently, across from him a Mother is with her young child, the man smiles softly at the child and gets off the bus. That is Manchester.

Don’t be afraid and don’t let fear rule your heart. All of this is true and based on direct observation from being at the vigil and taking notes just hours ago.

Chris Godber 

@rationalchaos