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A record-breaking year for sexual offences in Greater Manchester
Plus: Why Danny Boyle is bringing the Matrix to Manchester
Dear readers — welcome to this week’s briefing. Today’s big story is from Shikhar Talwar, who is currently working as an intern at the Mill. Following a Freedom of Information request to Greater Manchester Police, he’s unearthed worrying data on the number of sexual offences — which are headed in the wrong direction. That’s below.
Over the weekend, we published a great piece about northern transport by our data and policy reporter Daniel Timms. Following the government’s decision to scrap the northern leg of HS2 to Manchester, Daniel asked the question: Will our trains always be a joke?
The piece got a big response online. Including from economist and ex civil servant David Higham, who said:
Want to read more about the fiasco of the Castlefield Corridor and Ordsall Chord in Manchester? Of course you do. Here’s an excellent simple summary of the issues from @ManchesterMill and why no one believes Sunak’s mish mash of promises
Last week, members got two double-bill newsletters. On Wednesday there was an extract from an upcoming photography exhibition about Longsight’s changemakers, plus the story of an 18th century circus master’s tragic time in Manchester. Then on Friday we sent out a dispatch from inside the city centre’s newest restaurant, Sexy Fish, and looked into how a south Manchester community has been dealing with a homeless hostel opening on its street.
To get all that and more — including a lovely piece this week about the Kurdish barbers of Wilmslow Road — hit the subscribe button below. It costs just £7 a month to get two extra newsletters a week and support our journalism. That’s, like, two things at Pret.
From today’s sponsor: Fancy doing some truly sustainable shopping that also supports some of the best independent makers and designers at the same time? Now in its 16th year, The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair is back at Victoria Baths this month (Thursday 19 to Sunday 22 October) and will feature beautiful hand-made pieces from the most talented ceramicists, jewellers, textile and glass artists, printmakers, sculptors, blacksmiths and silversmiths in the land, not to mention furniture and lighting designers. As well as browsing the craft on sale and meeting the makers, there are exhibitions, craft demos and free drop-in workshops. Millers can get two tickets for the price of one by following this special link.
Want to support The Mill’s journalism by sponsoring an edition — and (as a side benefit) get your message out to 38,000 incredibly engaged Millers? Get in touch.
🌦️ This week’s weather
This weather forecast comes from local weatherman Martin Miles, who tells us to expect “fine and unseasonably warm” weather for the first part of this week, before turning more autumnal by the weekend.
Tuesday 🌤️ Dry and unseasonably warm with sunny spells. Max 22C.
Wednesday 🌧️ Heavy rain slowly easing to a mix of sunny spells & showers. Max 16C.
Thursday 🌤️ A cold start with patchy fog; turning sunny and mild with light winds. Max 15C.
Friday 🌧️ Milder but wet with spells of heavy rain. Feeling muggy. Max 17C.
Weekend 🌦️ An autumn mix of sunshine and showers; risk of frost on Sunday night.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook — daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
The big story: 2023 on track for record number of sexual offences
Top line: By the end of August 2023 Greater Manchester Police (GMP) had already received 6,547 reports of sexual offences. This number is the highest that it has ever been at this time of the year since the data series began in 2019. March 2023 broke the record for monthly cases — only for the record to be broken again in June.
Context: The number of sexual offences reported to GMP has been rising since 2019. A total of 5,931 were reported in 2020. However, in 2022, the number had jumped by 50% to 8,918. And on current trends, 2023 could see 10,000 cases by the end of this year.
Digging deeper, GMP splits cases between rapes and other sexual offences. The main driver of the growth has been the second group: other sexual offences. It’s a pretty broad group, covering voyeurism, paedophilia, groping and more, making it hard to know what specifically is driving the increase.
A spokesperson for GMP denied that this was primarily about increased reporting, with a genuine increase in these crimes taking place. Nonetheless, it is hoped that a greater public awareness of what constitutes a sexual offence, following recent high-profile cases, may increase the rates of reporting these crimes.
Sexual offences in Greater Manchester since August 2019
The data is still pretty limited. Our earlier requests to get crime data on a more granular level — to help identify problem neighbourhoods — were refused on the grounds that this data will be provided in future. But other police forces already make this available as standard. We also can’t see any further back than 2019. GMP tells us that, due to a change in computer systems, they can’t provide us anything before this time.
In response to these worrying trends, GMP announced last December that they are taking part in “Operation Sosteria Bluestone”, a national programme that aims to transform the way police forces tackle sexual offences. The changes being made include: “suspect-focused investigations, identification of repeat and serial offenders, victim engagement, learning, development and well-being for officers, and better use of data and digital forensics”, with a plan to hire specialists to lead teams in each of these areas. However, The Guardian reported last month that one in eight of these specialist posts across England and Wales remain vacant.
Tackling these crimes will need a close focus on the night-time economy. Introduced by Manchester City Council a year ago, the Women’s Night-Time Safety Charter aims to get businesses across Manchester to train their staff to notice when someone is feeling unsafe or needs help, and more than 350 businesses have now signed up. Manchester City Council leader Bev Craig said: “We see this charter going from strength to strength, being used as the basis to train staff across the city, and embed safe practice throughout the night-time economy.”
Bottom line: GM’s sexual offence statistics are bad, and getting worse. There needs to be a greater push tackle these kinds of crimes by the people, police and politicians of Greater Manchester.
Your Mill briefing
It’s the Labour Party conference this week, in Liverpool. Keir Starmer said Labour are ready for an election in May. Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves criticised the government for cancelling HS2 to Manchester but also didn’t commit to reinstating it if Labour get into power. Deputy Leader Angela Rayner’s mum called her mid-media round.
Also at the conference was Sacha Lord, the night-time economy advisor to the mayor and founder of the Warehouse Project. He outlined a five point plan to “save hospitality”. It included reducing the hospitality VAT rate from 20% to 12.5%, devolving licensing laws to local authorities and introducing a hospitality T level (a vocational course equal to three A levels). “It’s now time for action and not just words, to save the UKs 5th biggest sector,” Lord posted on X. As we have reported in previous briefings, Lord is looking to get in with the next Labour government — should they win the election — with a similar role to the one he currently has with Andy Burnham.
A Metrolink line to Manchester Airport became the subject of ridicule last week when it was included by the government in a bundle of new plans funded by the money saved from scrapping the northern leg of HS2. Many pointed out there already is a Metrolink line to the airport, completed in 2014. Transport for Greater Manchester has now clarified that the government is actually looking at an extension to the line outside Terminal 2, not the airport in general.
Students whose primary school was burnt down in Bolton this summer are now receiving their education at three temporary sites. SS Simon and Jude CE Primary was destroyed in a fire in August, and its rebuild is expected to take three years.
Manchester City Council have started looking for a developer to partner with in plans to overhaul Wythenshawe. Dubbed “Wythenshawe Civic”, the regeneration project is expected to take 15 years, cost £750m and deliver 1,600 homes.
Home of the week
This cosy three bedroom terrace is just off Altrincham’s bustling high street and retains many period features. It’s on the market for £650,000.
From today’s sponsor: As part of Retrofit Action Week, The Home Upgrade Show (13-14 October) in the beautiful Victoria Baths is an unmissable event for anyone looking to create a greener, healthier and more energy-efficient home. It will include “Ask an architect” sessions, a heat pump clinic and advice on how to phase a “deep retrofit”. Go ahead and register for free.
Our favourite reads
When looking for explanations as to why white Britons die at higher rates than any other ethnic group, the answer hovers around the “healthy migrant effect”. One reason for the lower death rates for ethnic minorities is that a larger share are migrants, who tend to be better educated, better off, and lead healthier lifestyles. White Britons, on the other hand, are more likely to smoke and drink to excess. But the worst health outcomes are still targeted in the poorest areas of the country, such as Manchester, which has some of the highest age-standardised death rates in the country.
Aviva Studios, with its eye-watering price tag and delayed opening, left many people “wondering if it’s worth all that money”, writes Debra Craine. “City fathers must be hoping that the venue’s opening attraction will bring them some much-needed good news.” The latest attraction at Aviva Studios is a reimagining of The Matrix, directed by Radcliffe-born, Academy Award-winning Danny Boyle. It features 50 hip hop dancers telling the dystopian fable through movement and soundscapes. But “if the pressure of justifying the building is getting to Boyle, it doesn’t show”. He is confident that his latest project will match the building’s ambition while “shining a light on Manchester’s street dance community,” he says. “There is so much talent in the city, in the north of England, and this is a good opportunity to showcase that.”
‘This is how I’d wish all restaurants would be’ — The Telegraph
A glowing review of Higher Ground, a Scandi-style restaurant near Piccadilly Gardens, that prides itself on sourcing locally — using produce grown in its own garden in Cheshire and meat from a local farm. “Which is how I’d wish all restaurants to be,” writes William Sitwell. “Doing the necessary feeding, but tickling the taste buds all the way without unnecessary flotsam and jetsam. It’s no mean feat; so many chefs are unable to restrain their urges to litter a plate with supererogatory flourishes.”
Our to do list
📷 Random Objects of Kindness is a new photography exhibition showing in the Arndale which features portraits of local people who have experience of homelessness. It’s free to visit, and you’ll find the portraits on the lower wall, next to Monki.
😆 This week marks the start of a new kind of comedy night at the Carlton Club in Whalley Range. Six comedians will perform sets based on the theme of power, promising to speak truth to power, plus some “well-researched nonsense”. Tickets are £8.
📚 Richard Armitage is discussing his first novel, Geneva, at the Lowry as part of Manchester Literature Festival. His debut, which critics have described as “ingenious, fast-paced and unpredictable”, is a high-octane thriller about a scientist developing Alzheimer’s who finds herself in a web of lies and secrets. Tickets here.
🏠 A contemporary art gallery in Marple has invited over 30 artists to divide up the gallery into rooms to create a dream home environment for a tour-de-force exhibition about belonging, creativity and home. More here.
🎧 Hip hop artist Dreamcrusher is performing a gig at the White Hotel in Salford, which promises to be an “immersive journey through avant-garde melodies and abrasive soundscapes”. Tickets are £14.
🍷 Luxury canalside restaurant House of Esk at New Islington Marina is hosting a wine tasting that includes an unusual selection of white wines from Georgia, Lebanon and Spain. Tickets are steep at £33.22, but they’ve thrown in a charcuterie board for good measure, so you’ll come away fed.
Looking further ahead? Members get our unmissable weekend to do list in their inboxes every Thursday morning.