‘I feel stronger, like I will be alright’
An update from Eunji Noh, plus a visit to the opera
Dear readers — we’re having a cultural week on The Mill. Last week, senior editor Sophie Atkinson went to HOME for a reimagining of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. In her piece, she asks whether it lives up to expectations.
On Tuesday, Joshi went to see La Traviata at the Lowry and spoke to some opera lovers about the prospect of the English National Opera moving north, and how the media has responded. “They must think because we’re up North we’re not cultured,” one woman told him.
We also have an update from Eunji Noh, the owner of the Thirsty Korean in Chorlton, who spoke to Jack yesterday for the first time since his long read about the founder of Manchester Confidential. This time, she was getting in touch to tell us a weight has been lifted — and a feel-good read follows.
This edition is for Mill members, but those who haven’t yet subscribed as a paying member will be able to read the top of the email. If you’d like to read the rest, please join our 1600+ paying members to enjoy all our high-quality journalism and be part of our discussions and events. In last weekend’s member appeal, Mollie wrote that “it’s about being part of a community, and doing something for the future.” Get on board.
🎧 Our latest podcast episode is out. Jack talks about how his long-read about the founder of Manchester Confidential came together, and Darryl and Joshi discuss the future of opera in Manchester, a deeply-reported New York Times piece about a controversial murder case in Manchester and the tragic death of a two year old in Rochdale. You can listen here.
Your Mill briefing
Faisal Abdullah and Aisha Amin have accused their social housing provider Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) of not listening to their concerns about the black mould in their flat which would eventually kill their son, Awaab Ishak. Awaab died in 2020, shortly after his second birthday, and a coroner ruled this week that his death was due to “prolonged exposure to mould in his home” and the flat was unfit for human habitation. Faisal Abdullah moved to Manchester from Sudan in 2016, and was joined by his wife Aisha Amin the following year. In 2017, they reported mould growing in their one-bedroom flat in Rochdale, and were told to paint over it.
In 2018, Awaab was born prematurely at 31 weeks, but there were no concerns about his health and he was described as a “engaging, lively, endearing” boy. The problems started in 2020, when he started suffering shortness of breath and a continuous cough. In the final weeks of his life, he could no longer breathe through his nose. In December, he was taken to Rochdale Urgent Care, given a small dose of steroid, an inhaler and discharged home, but he started to deteriorate the next day, and his parents were advised to take him back to urgent care. While he was being transferred, he suffered respiratory arrest and cardiac arrest and died after arriving in hospital. Delivering a narrative conclusion, at Rochdale Coroner’s Court, the coroner asked: “How does this happen? How in the UK in 2020 does a two-year-old child die due to exposure to mould?”
Granada reported that in 2020, a letter from a health visitor supported the family’s request to move, and after taking legal advice, a solicitor prompted RBH to carry out a disrepair report into the flat. That report from the housing provider would claim the majority of the mould was caused by “lifestyle and bathing habits” and that its policy indicated they could not carry out works while a disrepair claim was in place, unless the claimant’s solicitor agreed. The inquest found this was untrue — there was no policy that required them to wait for that agreement, and they could have treated the mould problem.
RBH will now come under three separate investigations by the housing ombudsman as a result of the inquest, after investigators were alerted to three complaints. For the first time, the housing ombudsman will use a power that enables them to gather any information required to see if the complaints are indicative of a wider failure. The case has seen hundreds of people calling on the chief executive of RBH, Gareth Swarbrick, to resign, including Greater Manchester Tenants Union and the secretary of state Michael Gove, who accused him of “hiding behind procedure” and a “terrible dereliction of duty”. The MEN, who have been reporting on this inquest all week, requested an interview with Scarbrick but were refused: “You've had a statement from RBH. I'm not in a position to say anything other than that. I think you understand that.”
The travel experts at Lonely Planet have selected Manchester as one of its 30 must-visit destinations for 2023, alongside Istanbul, Sydney and Marseille. Manchester is the only UK city on the list, which council leader Bev Craig attributes to “the result of long-term planning and partnership”. Looking at the city through tourist eyes, the guide mentions jazz nights at Matt and Phred’s, live music at Band on the Wall and clubbing on Canal Street as its hot nightlife tips, and praised the city’s dynamic arts scene as well as the launch of Factory International.
Soho House, the private members’ club aimed at those in arts, media and politics, has revealed their new Manchester venue. Housed in the top three floors of the Old Granada Studios Warehouse in Castlefield, it will have a rooftop pool, a plush seating area and a drinks bar that turns the workspace into a club by night. It’s launching next year, but you can see a teaser of the pool here.
Amid the cost of living crisis, University of Manchester students now have the support they’ve been asking for. After offering a 3% pay rise for graduate teaching assistants and a one-off payment of £1,000 for staff who earn less than £71,000, the university has also agreed to scrap library fines, offer cheaper food and give students a payment of £170, or £85 for part-time students. More here.
By Jack Dulhanty
The night before our weekend read on Mark Garner dropped, Eunji Noh couldn’t sleep. As one of the piece’s key sources, she was nervous about the repercussions of being quoted, and her portrait appearing in the story.
During my reporting, we met multiple times and spoke extensively about what going on the record would mean. Noh went out to get sushi with her staff one evening to discuss it — she wouldn’t go on the record without their backing. The day after, I received a message: “Hello. I decided to go on the record. Thank you.”
“On Friday night I was so scared,” she told me yesterday evening. “I was so worried. I mean, I blamed myself for about a year for the stupid mistake I made,” said Noh, describing her apprehension over how people would react, she was worried about how Garner would react. “He's much bigger than I am, like, he's been in Manchester for a long time, and is almost as famous as a celebrity.”
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Mill to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.