Discover more from The Mill
Could the Arena attack have been prevented?
Plus: Experimental wine tasting, an independent film festival and a charming terrace in Rusholme
Dear Millers — welcome to our weekly briefing. We hope you had a lovely weekend, and that you enjoyed Sophie’s great interview with Alex Niven about his new book: The North Will Rise Again.
In the book, Niven remembers growing up in a tiny village in rural Northumberland in the 80s and 90s and becoming besotted with the idea of Manchester from a distance:
“This will probably sound ridiculous to anyone who grew up in the city, but going by summaries of the Eighties scene in books and sleeve notes by Johnny Rogan, John Harris, John Robb and Dave Haslam, the basic Mancunian topography of Afflecks Palace, Piccadilly Gardens, Rusholme, Hulme and Levenshulme sounded to me like one of the most exotic places on earth…I imagined the built-up North-West to be a place of ineffable urban glamour, bohemian adventure and limitless artistic energy.”
Last week, members got our analysis of the political drama in Stockport involving two councillors breaking away from Labour, as well as some truly good news from a local campaigner fighting to protect a well-worn riverside footpath from development, who just received a huge win. You can read the whole edition here. On Tuesday, we published a warm and optimistic piece by the freelance writer Charlie Smith, who spent some time with Manchester’s narrowboat dwellers. “Maybe boat life is an answer to the cost-of-living crisis,” one boater told him. “But then everyone would be doing it.” Read that piece here.
Before we get into it, we have some momentous and exciting news to share. After achieving amazing growth in the last two months, we’re now looking to hire two full-time staff reporters in Sheffield and Liverpool to help grow our sister newspapers, The Tribune and The Post. We’d like to say a massive thank you to our community of paying members — it’s down to you that we’re now able to expand our newsrooms, and we’re hugely grateful for all the encouragement and support you’ve given us.
Getting down to brass tacks, here’s what we’re looking for — if you’re interested in joining the team, do take a look by clicking the links below. Equally, if you’re well-connected in Sheffield and Liverpool and might be able to suggest someone for one of these roles, please do feel free to share the job ads below to spread the word.
⌛ The deadline to apply for these roles is this Sunday. If you have any questions about applying or working with us, get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. We can’t wait to hear from you.
Now, onwards with today’s briefing, which includes a look at the final report from the Manchester Arena Inquiry, why Greater Manchester’s police chief wants to be able to arrest and charge suspects, plus the long-awaited school in Bury that will have to be housed in temporary accommodation. On top of that we have our favourite reads from over the weekend and our peerless to-do list. Enjoy.
☁️ This week’s weather
Our forecast is from local weatherman Martin Miles, who says the weather will be dry and chilly this week, with mostly cloudy skies.
Monday 🌥️ Predominantly cloudy & chilly. Max 8C.
Tuesday ☁️ Cloudy and breezy with drizzle in the east. Max 8C.
Wednesday ☁️ Cloudy and breezy. Most places will be dry, but again there will be patchy drizzle in the east. Max 8C.
Thursday 🌥️ Dry with bright spells and light winds. Max 10C.
Friday 🌥️ Dry with bright/sunny intervals. Max 10C.
Weekend ☁️ Mostly dry and settled but feeling chilly.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook — daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
The big story: Could the Arena attack have been prevented?
Top line: This Thursday, the third and final report from the Manchester Arena Inquiry will be published. Based on evidence given over a year and a half of hearings, the report will look at whether the attack could have been prevented. It will assess how counter terror services acted on information they already had in relation to the radicalisation of Salman and Hashem Abedi, who planned and carried out the attack. Here’s what we know so far.
Context: The previous two volumes from the inquiry concerned the responses of security and emergency services to the attack. In both cases, the inquiry found there were missed opportunities and errors made.
Volume I: The Arena’s operator, SMG, and security firm Showsec were criticised for failing to identify Salman Abedi, the bomber, as a threat, and for carrying out “inadequate” risk assessments.
Volume II: A lack of communication between police, fire and ambulance services resulted in a chaotic emergency response. Two of the twenty-two victims may have survived had the rescue operation been conducted more efficiently. Read our summary of that report here.
Volume III: Where the previous two reports focused on the night of the attack itself, this week’s report will look at the years before: how the Abedi brothers became radicalised, if there were opportunities to stop them ever carrying out the attack and, crucially, how much MI5 knew about the danger they posed.
According to the Times, Salman Abedi appeared on MI5’s radar at least 20 times.
Despite this, he was allowed to travel to and from Libya without facing counterterrorism checks.
In Libya, he and his brother were photographed with heavy weaponry, but Salman wasn’t questioned when he returned four days before the Arena Attack, something MI5 have admitted was a mistake.
Salman exchanged 1,300 messages with ISIS recruiter Abdalraouf Abdallah, before Abdallah was jailed in 2016. Months before the Arena attack, Abedi visited Abdallah in prison and they spoke for nearly two hours. Later that day, Abedi ordered bomb-making chemicals.
The MI5 hearings were held in secret. Sir John Saunders, the chairman of the inquiry, ruled that to do otherwise would jeopardise national security.
The gist: Victim families were given a summary, or “gist”, of the evidence given in secret hearings. They heard that MI5 received intelligence in the months before the bomb that it assessed as innocent, but in reality was “highly relevant to the planned attack”.
Bottom line: The final report will mark the end of an inquiry that has revealed numerous missed opportunities and errors in the prevention and response to the attack, and will likely be similarly critical of the services it scrutinises.
Home of the week
This two-bedroom terrace in Rusholme is a short walk from Platt Fields and has lovely floorboards and a wood-burning stove in the living room. It’s on the market for £200,000.
Your Mill briefing
Stephen Watson, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, has joined the chiefs of West Yorkshire and West Midlands police in calling for charging powers. Writing in the Guardian, they say the police, rather than solely the CPS, should be able to charge suspects of most crimes. “If something is broken, then we should fix it. If we can’t fix it, then we should replace it. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is no longer able to give timely charging advice,” the senior officers write. They argue that letting police charge suspects will help ease the current backlog in the justice system. “For the sake of victims, witnesses and all in the criminal justice system, we need to replace it now, by restoring to the police the ability to charge most offences while suspects are in the cells.” Some believe the proposal to be self-serving. Police forces around the UK are struggling with public perception. Multiple cases of officer misconduct and failures to bring charges have left some of the public feeling as though the police are not doing their job. Is more responsibility the answer?
A big report in the MEN today asks whether Greater Manchester is gripped by a “knife crime ‘pandemic’”. In the past three months, there have been 287 knife-related burglaries, 12 knife-related rapes and three murders involving a knife. The report draws on voices in anti-knife activism — like Jade Akoum, the sister of Yousef Makki, who was stabbed to death in 2019 — as well as community figures reporting a rise in young people carrying knives. “Knife crime is a bit like bullying,” says Glyn Potts, headteacher at Newman Catholic College in Oldham. “If a school says they don't have an issue with it they are either oblivious or they are hiding the fact."
Star Leadership Academy — a long-awaited high school to be built in Radcliffe, Bury — will open next September… in temporary accommodation. The school has been the subject of much local strife for years, and local MP Christian Wakeford recently accused the government of “dragging their feet” in getting it built. The borough’s lead for education, Paul Cooke, said after a meeting with the government that “it would not be possible to open the school in 2024 in its new building” so temporary accommodation will be arranged while final building work is completed.
Salford Council’s property and regeneration committee will meet this Thursday to approve a suite of new developments, including a 41-storey tower and a 42-apartment homeless facility. The latter will be a six-storey development for “people moving on from homelessness with medium to low needs” with Mustard Tree, a homelessness charity, occupying space on the ground floor.
Our favourite reads
‘For the vast majority, the economy simply isn’t good enough’ — The New Statesman
In this profile, Bev Craig, leader of Manchester City Council, reflects on her childhood in Northern Ireland, why she’s sceptical of devolution and how Manchester’s growth can be more inclusive. “That model that focuses on high-skilled jobs and raising productivity hasn’t delivered for low and middle earners,” she tells the author of the piece. “You have to accept that for the vast majority of people, the economy isn’t good enough.”
A Tribute to a Vanishing British Institution — Tribune Magazine
Why did Peter Kay immerse himself in working men’s clubs to reveal the “everyday surrealism” and cultural decline of working class life? This retrospective of Phoenix Nights, Kay’s 2001 comedy show set in a working men’s club in Bolton, argues the show was a “gorgeously observed” celebration of everyday working life, and “a testament to what happens when ordinary people are allowed to make things in their own image”.
Over a career spanning a half of a century, he became the bard of English football — The Financial Times
“Many of English football’s biggest moments of the last half century were voiced, impossibly mellifluously, by John Motson,” writes Simon Kuper in this warm obituary to John Motson, who was born in Salford and dreamed of becoming a newspaper reporter. Known for his commanding voice and obsessive preparation before each game, he became a regular fixture on the BBC and was often assigned to commentate on the biggest games. “His job was to tell a 90-minute story, carried by his childlike exuberance yet free of the slightest factual error.”
On Beyoncé — Granta
In this essay about Beyoncé’s latest album, writer Okechukwu Nzelu describes the profound impact of feeling recognised and celebrated for his Black queer identity while attending a Black Pride Vogue Ball in Manchester. “I realised, when I walked into that room, just how lonely I had been, and just how much I needed to be there.” In case you missed it, read Sophie Atkinson’s interview with Okechukwu Nzelu: ‘If I were famous, you wouldn’t have to ask, would you?’
Our to do list
🥑 Studio Bee, a tiny photography studio above Peer Hat, is hosting a series of life drawing sessions hosted by local artist Àgata Alcañiz. Tickets are £15, and include wine, beer and tapas.
📚 At Blackwell’s, prizewinning novelist Ayòbámi Adébáyò will be discussing her new book A Spell of Good Things. Set in Nigeria, the story tackles the devastating impact of violence, inequality and family secrets. Tickets here.
🎨 DogWasher creates magazines, bleached hoodies and t-shirts emblazoned with cartoonish illustrations and gritty poetry, examining themes like masculinity, vulnerability and pop culture. His work is exhibited at SeeSaw Cafe, which you can visit for free.
🖼️ Rebecca Allen, best known for creating the visual material for Kraftwerk’s 1986 album Electric Cafe, is exhibiting a selection of her digital art at Modal Gallery, in the School of Digital Arts at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her art represents a “fascination with the movements of human and natural forms” and how they “translate to the digital”, raising questions around the possibilities of the human experience. More here.
🎞️ There’s a monthly independent film festival at the Chapeltown Picture House in Cheetham Hill, which shows a varied selection of short films from international artists. It starts at 7.30pm, but we recommend arriving early for a few craft beers from GRUB. Tickets here.
🎭 When Darkness Falls, a haunting production about a paranormal expert and history teacher sharing ghost stories on a stormy night in Guernsey, is showing at the Lowry this week. A Guardian review called it “brilliantly spooky”, intertwining local history with folklore storytelling. Reserve a space here.
🎵 Ojerime, a rising star in the R&B world known for her signature ethereal vocals and nostalgic lyrics, is performing an intimate gig with a selection of songs from her new album, Bad Influence, at Canvas on Oxford Road. Tickets are only £13.50.
🍷 Head to Wandering Palate in Monton for a selection of wines from “experimental” vineyards in Spain, which are becoming more ambitious and unusual in their wine producing. Tickets are steep at £25, but you’ll get the chance to taste six glasses of wine. The tasting finishes at 9pm, giving you plenty of time to sleep off the hangover before Friday morning.
📽️ The Whitworth is showing Familiar Phantoms, a new film co-created by artists Larissa Sansour and Søren Lind, which draws on Sansour’s family history in Russia and Palestine to meditate on the relationship between personal and political identities. More here.
For our glitteringly well-informed weekend to-do list — which we send out every Thursday — hit the button below to join us as a member.