How safe are women on Greater Manchester's streets?

Plus: Covid-19 cases start to rise again

Good morning Millers — in today’s briefing we look at the crime data that sheds some light on women’s safety in Greater Manchester after the murder of Sarah Everard provoked a national reckoning about harassment and sexual assault.

If you missed our weekend story, it was a lovely piece by Dani Cole about the epic mission by a team at Manchester Museum to save the rare and endangered harlequin toad. It even led to us getting a tweet from Panama, where the toads are from.

This week’s weather

It’s going to be cloudy... The location of this forecast is Manchester and it’s sourced from the Met Office.

The big story: A call for women’s safety

Top line: How safe are women in Greater Manchester? Greater Manchester Police doesn’t know. When The Mill asked the force yesterday how many of the 47 homicides it recorded in the year ending last September were committed against women, a press officer told us we would need to submit a Freedom of Information request to get that information. Surprisingly, it doesn’t seem to be a number that officers have to hand.

Context: The murder of Sarah Everard while she was walking home in South London has sparked a nationwide conversation about women’s safety on our streets, with thousands of stories shared on social media about everyday incidents of harassment and assault. Fortunately cases of abduction and murder of women by strangers are relatively rare in this country, but incidents that make women feel uncomfortable and unsafe are extremely common.

Tributes left at the foot of the Emmeline Pankhurst statue in St Peter’s Square on Saturday night. Messages such as ‘Educate your sons’ and ‘End violence against women’ were included. (Photo: Dani Cole/The Mill).

The data: There were 25,260 stalking and harassment offences recorded in Greater Manchester in the year to September, which equates to an average of 69 per day, or around one every 20 minutes. Nationally, around two-thirds of these types of offences are committed against women. And remember: these are just the incidents which victims chose to report to the police, and the ones that GMP — which is notorious for its poor reporting of crimes — actually recorded.

  • Also: 8,361 sexual offences were recorded in GM over the year, which is 23 per day, slightly higher than the England average per population. The stalking and harassment number is slightly below the national average. Both are significantly higher than the incidence rates in London.

  • The areas with the worst rates of stalking and harassment in the country are Durham, West Yorkshire, Cleveland and Cheshire, whose rate is 1.5 times higher than Greater Manchester’s.

On Saturday, women in Greater Manchester held a moving vigil to remember Sarah Everard and share their own experiences. The vigil was hosted by Right To Walk Manchester and Manchester-based independent publication Aurelia Magazine. Andy Burnham said that he recognised his responsibility to lead a conversation with men and boys about changing behaviours towards women.

Kya Buller, who edits Aurelia Magazine (she’s top left in the picture above), helped to organise the event with a group of other women over WhatsApp. “We’ve all experienced the same thing,” she told The Mill. “We’ve all felt a lot of fear about not getting home safe.” Buller, who was born in Salford, told us this morning:

Every woman I know has been sexually assaulted, harassed, or felt under threat. I first experienced sexual harassment in my school uniform. A Manchester man on a Manchester train exposed himself to me, and then said no one would believe me. So I didn’t tell anyone.

Our view: GMP should publish a clear dataset so that women in GM can understand the nature of the crimes being committed against them. We will request all the numbers today via a Freedom of Information request (which takes 20 working days to come back), but these facts should be much more accessible.

Cartoon by Mill member and longtime Private Eye sketcher Tony Husband. If you missed our story about Manchester City Council offering inadequate food parcels to schools, you can read it here.

Covid-19 update

  • Cases: Bad news to start the week — the case rate is rising again in Greater Manchester, up 3% to 94.6. Why? More testing in schools might be a factor, picking up cases among children we might not have known about. England’s case rate (58.3) is still falling, albeit only by 7.4%, suggesting that yes, there is a national change in trend driven by school testing, but that GM might have an additional factor at play.

  • Hospitals: We can expect case rates to rise in the coming months as the lockdown is eased, but the hope is that the vaccination program will prevent those rates translating into high hospital admissions. For now, the hospital numbers are falling. There were 93 Covid patients in GM critical wards in the middle of last week, down from a peak of 170 a month ago. The lower pressure on hospitals means that planned elective care has resumed.

  • Vaccines: More than a million people in GM have now been vaccinated — it was just under 950,000 last Wednesday. At that point, 43% of over-18s in GM had received their vaccine first dose.

Home of the week

This two-bedroom corner apartment on Church Street in the Northern Quarter is on the market for £300,000, but we’re tempted to offer a bit more in return for keeping the bookcases.

Five stories worth reading

1. Liverpool and Manchester lead price surge

“According to property website Zoopla, five cities have seen house prices rise by more than 5% in the past year, outperforming the UK average of 4.3%,” reports The Telegraph. “They were led by Liverpool at 6.3%, followed by Manchester at 6%, then Nottingham, Leeds and Leicester.” The story adds that the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber are predicted to have the highest house price growth in Britain over the next five years.

2. Excavating The Reno in Moss Side

This piece about unearthing The Reno, Manchester’s lost mixed-race clubbing haven in Moss Side, was published two years ago, but one of our members recommended it this week. The playwright excavating the site “recalls how she and her best friend Suzie — who is also mixed race — first entered The Reno together hand-in-hand. ‘It was a bit like the Italian in the film Goodfellas, if you were like us you were ‘made’ in the Reno.’”

3. Inside Middleton’s satanic panic

“At the crack of dawn on a May morning in 1990 a convoy of official cars crawled up the hill from Middleton to the sprawling council estate of Langley. Once there, police officers and social workers converged on five homes. Kids were roused from their beds, hurriedly dressed and taken off in tears as their distressed parents looked on in shock.” So begins a great MEN piece about the “satanic panic” that saw parents accused of ritually abusing their children (and best of all: because of its controversial themes, the story has no ads…).

4. Mother of all rows over speech guide

The University of Manchester has advised staff against using the terms "mother" and "father" to avoid bias and assumption, reports the BBC, publishing a guide on inclusive language which encourages the use of gender-neutral terms such as "partner" or "guardian" instead. The guidance was created by the university's equality, diversity and inclusion team, but the university insists words like “mother” have not been banned.

5. Calling out small-fry levelling up

Writing for The Guardian last week, Andy Burnham argued that the government has disappointed those in the North who hoped significant investment and “levelling up.” The investments being made are the kind of spending that councils would have been able to do had they not had their budgets cut, he says. “Having shattered the foundations of local government finance the Treasury is now handing back small pots of ringfenced funding for basic community needs – but expecting great applause in doing so.”

If you missed it

Didsbury, Sale, Worsley, Elton Vale, Winstanley? Using a data model, researchers predict the long-term winners and losers from the move to remote work. Read the piece (members only).

Things to do this week

Podcast | Listen to 17-year-old youth MP for Bury, Emma Greenwood, in ‘We Built This City’ podcast. This episode discusses “the importance of self-education, what it’s like to work alongside Greta Thunberg, and the power of finding your own voice.” Available wherever you get your podcasts.

Literature | Join the Centre of New Writing and Creative Manchester for their five-part series, ‘Novel Voices’ running from 15 March to 26 April. It will feature Ellah P. Wakatama, who will be in conversation with 10 debut authors who are shaping 2021's literary landscape.

  • On Monday, join Namina Forna and Justin Deabler as they talk about their respective novels, The Gilded Ones and The Lone Star. Tickets here.

Listen | In the run-up to the release of Manchester Collective’s ‘The Centre is Everywhere’ featuring Philip Glass, Edmund Finnis & Arnold Schoenberg (March 26), they’ve produced a series of listening guides. First up is Adam Szabo, who talks us through ‘Company’ by Philip Glass. Listen on YouTube.

  • If you’re unfamiliar with Philip Glass, we recommend listening to ‘Mad Rush’

Events | Join the People’s History Museum this Thursday at 6pm for Manchester-themed bedtime stories for kids. This week’s story takes inspiration from Manchester’s Coat of Arms. Join in the adventure here.

Talk | On Wednesday at 2pm, the Working Class Movement Library is holding a talk by Ralph Darlington, Emeritus Professor of Employment Relations at the University of Salford: 'British labour movement solidarity in the 1913-14 Dublin Lockout', which “was one of the most important struggles in 20th century British history.”

Inside a garden neighbourhood: This morning, the first images inside Manchester’s £250m Kampus development were released. Built on a former MMU campus between the Gay Village and Piccadilly, it is described by its developer Capital & Centric as a 'garden neighbourhood' with public paths, green spaces and independent shops and bars. But can you build a real community out of a transient population of professional renters? That question hangs over the project. One beds start at £1,125 a month.

Obituary: Ron Phoenix

Ron Phoenix played for Manchester City, scoring on his debut against Arsenal in January 1952. Mancunian to the core, Phoenix was born in Stretford and went on to play for Rochdale and Altrincham before his retirement. His brother was a Manchester United amateur and before joining City, Phoenix had been part of Sir Matt Busby’s youth squad. Phoenix was a wing-half, a historic position in football that no longer exists. Wing-halfs were defensive midfielders who played on one side of the pitch in a line of three half-backs — a position that became obsolete as the defensive duties down the flanks were taken on by full-backs.

Ronald James Phoenix, born 30 June 1929, died 11 March 2021.

Letters to the editor

Love the story (‘Low traffic neighbourhood trials are everywhere in Greater Manchester. But will they work?’) but as one of your London based readers I would be very careful about using evidence from Waltham Forest alone. The ‘mini Holland’ paradise there is very much the exception and LTNs elsewhere in London have caused huge concern mainly around the issue of displacement of traffic from side streets onto the main residential roads where air pollution is a serious concern. Paul Wheeler, London

Regarding LTNs: For a community issue that has the potential to become divisive, an old-fashioned approach to consultation needs to be taken. Discussions via Zoom and social media are no substitution for knocking on doors and entering into a discussion with the people in the household. It's also worth remembering that nobody likes being lectured to or being accused of being 'nativist' — strategies that at least one of the activists in Levenshulme was guilty of. People do, however, appreciate being treated with dignity and their concerns taken seriously. Elaine Burrows

Thank you for highlighting the conservation work being done at Manchester Museum (‘With no visitors in sight, Manchester Museum oversees an epic struggle for survival’). People tend to assume museums are dead places that collect ancient objects, but your story proves otherwise! Well done to all concerned, and thanks for giving us these joyful, fascinating stories about our city. Joy Morton, Altrincham

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