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‘A snapshot of 70s Britain’: Why does Manchester have so few black leaders?
Plus: How Manchester became the nightlife capital of the UK, again
Dear Millers — the sun is shining and Mill HQ is like a greenhouse. According to our local weatherman Martin, temperatures will hover around the heady highs of 14C this week, which is of course shorts weather.
On the subject of warmth, last week we published a big story about whether Greater Manchester is taking its big climate pledge seriously. The story highlighted how patchy the data is that would demonstrate GM’s progress towards carbon neutrality, and how quickly the local carbon budget is running out. If you’re interested in this area and you’d like to understand more about the big claims local leaders make about Greater Manchester becoming a leading “green city region”, do take out a subscription to read that one.
On Friday night, Mollie joined a packed house at the Oldham Coliseum for the theatre’s last ever show. Then, late at night, she wrote a brilliant and moving piece about a town saying goodbye to one of its oldest institutions, and the anger and sadness she picked up in the room. It was tweeted out by — among others — the actor Maxine Peake.
In today's edition, we bring you the latest from the Guardian's Cotton Capital project, which is investigating the newspaper’s links to the transatlantic slave trade, as well as some more contemporary issues relating to black representation. New analysis shows that black people occupy a disproportionately small number of influential roles in the city's institutions, meaning that Manchester’s leadership is less diverse than cities like Liverpool and Bristol: “I think, particularly with Liverpool and Bristol, there’s been a two-way engagement from the leaders. In Manchester, for many decades there was little or no engagement,” one source says.
Coming up this week: We return to the turmoil in Stockport's local Labour group (for a refresher on that, we recommend you read this) and take a trip to north Manchester, where there is a seriously under-reported story brewing.
🌤️ This week’s weather
This week’s forecast is from local weatherman Martin Miles, who says the weather will be lovely this week, with a little blip of rain midweek.
Tuesday 🌤️ Dry and predominantly sunny. The sunshine will turn hazy later in the afternoon. Max 14C.
Wednesday 🌦 Turning cloudy and damp with patchy rain after a bright start. Max 11C.
Thursday 🌧️ Cool with showery periods of light rain. Max 11C.
Friday 🌤️ Mostly dry and milder with sunny spells, hazy at times. Max 13C.
Weekend 🌤️ Dry and settled with a mixture of sunny and cloudy spells. Temperatures will be close to average with highs around 14/15C.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook — daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
The big story: The Guardian highlights a ‘scandalous’ lack of black people in Manchester’s leadership roles
Top line: Manchester “should consider itself named and shamed” for its lack of black people in prominent positions in the city, says today’s Guardian. Only 4.6% of the people in Manchester’s most prominent positions are black, despite black people making up 14.8% of the city’s population.
Context: The research is part of the Guardian’s Cotton Capital project, which is investigating the paper’s historic links to the transatlantic slave trade.
According to the analysis, black people should hold 32 of Manchester’s 219 most prominent positions across the city’s institutions. Instead, they hold 10.
Those 10 are only spread across the arts, the NHS and the council. Manchester has no black MPs, and there are no black top leaders in the city’s universities, police, chamber of commerce, media or Premier League clubs.
Only in Manchester’s arts bodies are black people proportionately represented, taking up 14.2% of prominent positions.
Halima Begum, director of the race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust, told the Guardian:
“On first sight, anyone studying this [the Manchester] data would be forgiven for thinking they were looking at a snapshot of 70s Britain rather than an analysis of the leaders who preside over one of the country’s greatest, most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities in 2023.”
What’s causing this? Comparable cities like Liverpool and Bristol don’t have this diversity problem, with each having a much more representative mix of people in leadership roles.
“The reason why two cities have (better representation) and one city hasn’t is because of the lack of engagement by the leadership with community groups” says Simon Wooley, the founder of Operation Black Vote. He goes on:
“I think, particularly with Liverpool and Bristol, there’s been a two-way engagement from the leaders. First, Joe Anderson, the former Liverpool mayor, and the Bristol leadership, have engaged with black communities and that’s why you’re seeing the dividends. In Manchester, for many decades there was little or no engagement.”
The Guardian also spoke to three black leaders in the city, including Keisha Thompson, the artistic director of Contact Theatre — you can read our profile of her here — who said: “I think it’s frustrating because I definitely feel that when I was growing up in the 90s, I was exposed to more diversity. What I’ve experienced is the rollback and the danger of complacency.”
Wooley says this has been changing since Andy Burnham became mayor: “he is now consciously nurturing talent, and I strongly believe in five years we will see a dramatic difference.” Burnham pointed to Greater Manchester’s civic leadership programme and racial equality panel, set up to “engage with racially minoritised communities and enable their insight and experiences to influence and challenge policy and decision-making.”
If you want to tell us about a story or give us some information, please email email@example.com. We are always happy to speak to people off the record in the first instance, and we will treat your information with confidence and sensitivity.
We’re just making our list of people we want to interview in the months ahead, and we’d love your help. We’re looking for a wide range of interviewees with fascinating back stories, unusual jobs and amazing contributions to the city. Get in touch.
Recently, we put a call out for information about Stockport’s all-out elections next month. If you’ve got a great tip about campaigning in the borough or some insight into what might happen at the polls, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Home of the week
This spacious two-bedroom end of terrace in West Didsbury has views over Cavendish Park, French doors opening to a courtyard and parquet floors. It’s on the market for £450,000.
Your Mill briefing
Martin and Eve Hibbert, the father and daughter severely injured in the arena bombing, have filed a landmark legal case against a so-called “disaster troll” and conspiracy theorist who tracked down survivors of the attack to see if they were lying about their injuries. The legal case echoes the one brought against Alex Jones, a prominent American conspiracy theorist ordered to pay £1.5bn to the families of victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting, after claiming it was a staged event.
Right-wing commentators have criticised an Iftar — the breaking of the fast during Ramadan — being held in Manchester Cathedral last week. The prayers that accompany Iftar describe Muhammad as God’s messenger and God as “one”, which Niall Gooch wrote in the Spectator “should be regarded as rebuttals of Christianity”.
Over the weekend, Manchester became the first city in the UK to introduce a tourist tax. The “city visitor charge” is £1 per room per night and the levy will fund new events, festivals, conferences and street cleanliness campaigns. The ultimate goal is to enhance visitor experiences, says council Chief Executive Joanne Roney.
Our favourite reads
The struggle for a Black history of Manchester — The Guardian
An in-depth long read in this weekend’s Guardian carefully examined Manchester’s links with the slave trade and the “deliberate amnesia” that happens when we talk proudly of the city’s history of protest and rebellion, obscuring the fact that Manchester was “intimately linked with transatlantic slavery”. “The civic institutions of the city that was built on slave-picked cotton have been in no rush to interrogate their connections to slavery,” writes the author of the piece, Lanre Bakare.
Why Manchester is the night-time capital of the UK (again) — The Sunday Times
There’s plenty to say about Manchester being the nightlife city (again), with cheap rents, thousands of people living in the city centre within easy reach of clubs and a club-friendly local authority pushing for the city to be “one of the best places in the world to go out, stay out, work and run a business between the hours of 6pm and 6am”. The journalist writes: “I guess what you feel the most while mooching about in Manchester’s nightlife is that if the wants and desires of young, joyful and reckless people haven’t been gentrified out of existence, they’ve been assimilated, accepted and enabled.”
How racism shaped my critical eye — The New Statesman
Gary Younge, professor of sociology at the University of Manchester, writes a moving essay about experiencing racism from his neighbours in Hertfordshire when he was young, and how growing up black in the 70s has informed what he writes. “I grew up assuming that the official account of everything was at best suspect, but most likely a downright lie. I knew this in part because I was being lied about constantly – who I was, where I was from, why I was here, my intelligence, sexual prowess, propensity to violence, music, sport and elaborate handshakes were all known to people who did not know me.”
‘We never wanted to become a Factory tribute band’ — The Guardian
An interesting interview with A Certain Ratio, a jazz/punk band formed in Trafford in 1978, who were once thought of as “the perennially abstract outsiders” compared to their Factory counterparts. Like the Sunday Times nightlife story, this one contains a theme that is cropping up in lots of Manchester coverage recently — a backlash against musical nostalgia. “It’s a pile of bullshit,” says founding member Martin Moscrop. “We never wanted to become a tribute band like most of our Factory counterparts.”
Our to do list
🎻 Before we get into our usual list, this Friday there’s a performance of Bach’s St John Passion, a “dramatic” and “moving” musical journey that captures the Easter story. It’s being performed by Manchester Baroque at Manchester Cathedral, and promises to be a beautiful concert. Tickets start at just £11.
🎭 The romantic-thriller musical The Bodyguard is coming to the Palace Theatre for two weeks. The musical had its debut in 2012, where it was nominated for four Olivier Awards. Tickets here.
😆 Brickhouse Social, a rooftop bar near Oxford Road, is hosting a comedy night with local stand-up Dom Hatton Woods. Tickets are just £3.
🥗 Vaisakhi, the Sikh spring festival of harvest, is being marked with vegetarian meals and celebrations at Manchester Museum from 11 until 5. Everyone is welcome to attend, and it’s free to join.
🎞️ Chapeltown Picturehouse, a cult and indie cinema in Cheetham Hill, is showing a selection of short films from around the world curated by their expert judging panel. Tickets are £8.
🏳️🌈 Head to Whitworth Locke, a beautiful 19th-century building on Princess Street, for the launch of Out & About, a new photobook of selected archival work documenting the 1990s LGBTQ+ nightlife scene in the North. Reserve a free spot here.
🎤 A selection of illustrations created for Equal Parts, a podcast that documents the real-life love stories of couples from Manchester, will be on display at Kerb Wines in Ancoats. The podcast was created by local producer Maria Passingham and the artworks were commissioned to local artists with one brief: draw what you think the couples look like based on what you hear. Listen here.