Is finding love in Manchester really this easy?
Saying 'I love you' on a first date... and not being ghosted
Dear Millers — after banging you over the head with in-depth reports on sewage pollution and carbon neutrality recently, we’re having a gentler week on The Mill to ease you out of the bank holiday weekend.
On Tuesday, Phil Griffin wrote a very lovely piece about returning to Levenshulme, the neighbourhood where he grew up, considering the rise of Manchester’s former “townships” (“superb bit of writing that,” said one member in the comments). And in today’s edition, Mollie delves into Manchester’s dating scene, via a popular podcast that documents how couples in this city found love. But does it depict what dating here is actually like?
As always, this is a members-only edition, but if you’re a regular Miller you can still read a few bits at the top to stay informed. If you’re on the free list and you want to read Mollie’s piece and all of the stories mentioned above, it only costs £7 a month to join our community of more than 2,000 members, which I think we can all agree is an absolute steal. You will also be invited to our Mill Members Club events and will be able to discuss the issues of the day with other members in the comments and on our discussion threads. Get on board immediately by clicking below.
A warm welcome to Sam, who joined up this week. “Pleased to say that I've taken out a subscription with the @ManchesterMill,” he tweeted. “Came across them a number of months ago by chance and signed up to the free newsletters. High-quality local journalism at its very best that I can thoroughly recommend.”
Oh and just quickly: Has anyone tried Notes, the new Twitter-like tool launched by Substack this week? We posted our first Note the other night just to check if any Millers are using it, and it seems some are. Because we use Substack to publish our newsletters, you can use the same login you use for our site on Notes. So let’s try something: if you’re using Notes, please drop a link to your favourite Mill story on there right now and we’ll enthusiastically “Restack” it.
Your Mill briefing
Protesters stormed a Stockport council building on Tuesday, demanding that the family of an asylum seeker are immediately housed, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service. The Babagar family say they have been made homeless after father Shay was allegedly assaulted at a hotel housing asylum seekers in Stockport. Police are investigating the incident, which allegedly took place last November. Serco, which has the Home Office contract for accommodating asylum seekers, “completely refutes” that any assault or abuse took place at one of its hotels, and says no Serco employee was involved. When The Mill tried to speak to the family last night, a charity who are assisting them said it was a “fast-moving situation” — we’ll try to find out more in the coming days. For now, you can our reporting on the experiences of asylum seekers in a Serco-run hotel in Didsbury: Inside the Manchester hotel booked out for months to house asylum seekers.
Six GMP officers shared racist and ableist messages described as “abhorrent” by the police watchdog. Shared in a WhatsApp group called “The Dispensables”, the messages were uncovered in a separate investigation into whether a GMP officer was supplying steroids to his colleagues. Some of the messages included racist comments about Eid celebrations and ableist comments about people with autism. Catherine Bates, the regional director of the Independent Office of Police Conduct, said: “Messages sent via WhatsApp and on any form of social media cannot be a hiding place for officers with these types of views. Behaviour of this nature seriously undermines public confidence in policing.”
One officer in “The Dispensables” group chat — who was sacked for his membership to the group — told the MEN he had been “incorrectly labelled a racist”. Ashley Feest sent a racist meme about slavery into the chat, he said: “I shared on one occasion, an inappropriate and poorly thought out meme in a private encrypted chat. For that I apologise unreservedly. However, it was a joke, not my words, albeit a poorly thought-out one. I apologise wholeheartedly.”
A Strangeways inmate staged a 12 hour protest on the prison’s roof yesterday. Police were called to the area just after 4pm having received reports of a man on the roof. The prisoner eventually came down at 4:15am. The prison service has launched an investigation into the incident. A spokesperson said: “Staff safely resolved this incident and the prisoner will face punishment as disorder in prisons is not tolerated.”
The sale of Manchester United has entered its third round of bidding. Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s firm Ineos and Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim each filed second bids last month, but the much-hated Glazer family have extended the process again. The Glazers, who bought the club for £790m in 2005, now reportedly value it at £5-£6bn. It was originally hoped the sale could be completed before the end of the season, but that is looking less and less likely. United play Sevilla in the Europa League quarter finals at Old Trafford tonight.
And finally, Andy Spinoza’s book Manchester Unspun is prompting some interesting responses. After listening to our lively interview with Spinoza, recorded at our most recent Mill Members Club, longtime Miller Vaughan Allen has written up his thoughts on the book, arguing that Spinoza’s story about the re-emergence of Manchester is too narrow. “Spending all of our time considering the activities of a group of white (bar Alan Erasmus) men in the late 70s and 80s, we deny the minority narratives of the city, and affect the ability of modern Manchester to breathe, to create anew,” he writes. Our own piece about the book is in the works.
A podcast tells the story of finding love in Manchester
By Mollie Simpson
On a cold night in Sheffield, Sarah and Freddie were hurling snowballs at each other. It was late January and they were at a house party with some mutual friends, in that uneasy purgatory between the end of exams and before university starting up again. She was in flimsy shoes and a dress that didn’t fit right, and he thought she was impossibly cool.
At the restaurant Dukes 92 in Castlefield on their first date, things were going… fine. Just fine — they hadn’t been reduced to discussing the weather — but sparks weren’t exactly flying. Freddie sensed he needed to break the ice, so when Sarah said she needed the bathroom, he deliberately pointed her in the wrong direction. Cue: her walking up some stairs and opening a door onto a room full of men in business suits.
It was a bit mean, but it did the trick — they had something to laugh about and all at once, they felt at ease in each other’s company. Fast forward through the first night: they go to a terrible free stand-up comedy night at the Royal Exchange, they head to an oyster bar, where Freddie gets threatened by a man who thinks he’s hitting on his daughter, they run for the last train, and she accidentally tells him she loves him.
This isn’t the wind-up to a Richard Curtis film. I heard Sarah and Freddie’s story on the podcast Equal Parts, which was created in 2019 by the producer Maria Passingham, who wanted to document the real-life love stories of Manchester couples. It reaches several thousand listeners per episode, who tune in for what feels to me like a slightly rose-tinted version of Manchester’s dating scene, notably more glamorous and romantic than the one I’ve experienced as a mid-twenties woman in this city.
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