Manchester clubs close their doors as university warns students to cover drinks

Plus a big funding boost for GM - and the rest of your weekly briefing

Dear Millers — welcome to this week’s Mill briefing, which leads on growing alarm about drink-spiking in bars and nightclubs. It also features an extraordinary investigation by the Sunday Times and brings news of important new government funding for Greater Manchester.

This weekend, we published a fascinating piece by veteran business journalist and longtime Miller Michael Taylor. It’s about a group of people who are trying to revive the textiles and garment industries in Greater Manchester.

Last week Mill members got stories about newly-arrived Hongkongers in Manchester, one woman’s 27-year-long labour of love to transform a Salford charity, and the high art of the Inter City Jibbers. This week we have an exclusive report about issues with local sexual health services and a story about asylum seekers settling in Rochdale. Join up as a member to get those stories in your inbox.

This week’s weather 🌧

Our forecast comes from local weatherman Martin Miles, who says “Our weather will turn unseasonably mild this week; however, the mild air will be driven in by low pressure, which will make our weather unsettled.”

Monday 🌦 Breezy and cool with a mixture of sunny intervals and occasional showers. Max 13°c. 

Tuesday 🌦 Mild air will move up on a moderate south south-westerly breeze. Skies will be largely cloudy, and there will be a little showery rain during the morning. Max 15°c. 

Wednesday 🌧 Mostly dry at first, but patchy rain will move in around the middle of the afternoon approx. Windy and very mild. Max 17°c.

Thursday 🌧 Cloudy and windy with outbreaks of rain. Rain will be most widespread during the afternoon and overnight. Max 16°c.

Friday 🌦 Cooler with frequent showers and brief sunny spells. Max 13°c.

Weekend 🍂 Less mild but remaining unsettled and potentially very windy. Don’t forget clocks go back 1 hour at 2am on Sunday morning. 

For the full forecast, please visit Manchester Weather.

The big story: Fears grow about drink spiking

Top line: Concern is growing about the scale of drink spiking in bars and nightclubs across the country, and student groups in Manchester are speaking up about the issue.

Campaign group Girls Night In has called for a boycott of clubs to raise the issue of spiking and the Student's Union at the University of Manchester has backed the boycott.

  • Last week one student called Ruby shared her experience in a student Facebook group. She says that a female security guard in a Manchester club refused to watch her drink while she went to the toilet.

  • The MEN reports: “42nd Street, known to many as 42s, and indie club The Venue will close their doors for the night in support of the boycott.”

Advice to students: In an email to students sent last Thursday the University Of Manchester wrote:

Recent events may have raised concerns about drink spiking and personal safety. We want you to enjoy and feel safe when you are socialising. We are sharing this information with you to help you do that, with no intent to blame victims of the crimes.

The email, which one student forwarded to us, recommends:

  • covering drinks by holding glasses from the top rather than the side and putting your thumb over the top of bottles.

  • not accepting drinks you haven't seen poured or opened — “if someone offers to buy you a drink, go with them to the bar or politely refuse.”

  • looking out for changes in their drink, such as excessive bubbles, foggy appearance or sinking ice.

ATM threat: The university also advises students to use a bank card rather than cash so that they don’t have to make trips to an ATM on nights out, and says: “If you prefer cash, withdraw it earlier in the day or get cash back from a shop. If you need to use an ATM at night, make sure a friend is with you.”

Particular alarm has been caused by stories of spiking by needle after a 19-year-old woman reported “a scratching sensation” as she left a nightclub In Nottingham. But Prof Adam Winstock from the Global Drugs Survey told the BBC that regular drink spiking was much more likely than attacks using needles. He said:

Needles have to be inserted with a level of care - and that's when you've got the patient sitting in front of you with skin and no clothes. The idea these things can be randomly given through clothes in a club is just not that likely.

Andy Burnham said he had spoken to his daughters about issues of safety on nights out. “My daughters tell me some of the things that happen when they’re on nights out and it’s ridiculous,” he told a radio phone-in.

Home of the week

This quaint 2-bedroom house in Audenshaw has beautiful stained glass windows and a spiral staircase. It’s on the market for £350,000.

Other local news in brief

  • Greater Manchester’s plans for a London-style transport system are one step closer to being realised after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced funding worth £1.07bn. The money will be used on electric buses, new interchanges in Stockport and Bury, plus the expansion of walking and cycling routes. Other city-regions like South Yorkshire and the Liverpool City Region also scored big funding packages.

  • Online worshippers at Manchester Reform Synagogue were targeted with racist abuse this weekend during a Sabbath meeting on Zoom. Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen told the BBC: "Halfway through the service, during some prayers, they unmuted, started to shout, and put on the screen a swastika and some other awful racist images.” Read more.

  • A man who had his British citizenship removed because of alleged links to the Manchester Arena bombing has had it returned by Home Secretary Priti Patel. The man was said to be an associate of Salman Abedi and it was suggested that he might have known about the bombing in advance. Read more.

Our favourite reads

I’ve killed her: the moment a British soldier ‘confessed’ to dumping a mother’s body into a septic tankSunday Times

The Sunday Times’ Manchester-based North of England team — made up of longtime Millers David Collins and Hannah Al-Othman — published an extraordinary front-page investigation yesterday. “For the British soldiers on hot weather training in Nanyuki, Kenya, it started as an ordinary beer-fuelled Saturday night out at the nearby Lions Court Hotel. But it ended — according to the astonishing account of one of those present — with a group of them being led to the hotel’s septic tank, where they were shown the lifeless body of a prostitute one of their number had just murdered.”

Meet the Arcade Lovers Keeping Retro Gaming Alive in the UKVICE

This piece has some lovely atmospheric photos of the Arcade Club in Bury and its punters. “Six years later and now, Arcade Club sprawls across three floors of an old leather mill in Bury, Greater Manchester. Palmer’s 30 machine collection has grown to over 1,500, including more pinball machines and arcade cabinets, and has earned him the title of Europe’s Largest Arcade.”

A memoir: M.J. HylandLondon Review of Books

Manchester author M.J. Hyland writes about her father, who is “five foot nothing” and carried out an armed robbery: “I often use the past tense when I talk about my father, which is strange, since he’s still alive, still an alcoholic, still a gambler and still, technically speaking, a criminal.”

Why George Orwell hated SheffieldThe Tribune

We’re heading over the peaks for this interesting read — it turns out that The Road to Wigan Pier author George Orwell was no lover of the City of Steel. Sophie Atkinson writes: “Orwell is caustic about what he calls northern snobbishness: “A Yorkshireman in the South will always take care to let you know that he regards you as an inferior.”

Sex, Subversion, and Suspicious ParentsLemming

We enjoyed this piece by Lydia Rostant, who writes about cinema’s obsession with the American suburb in Manchester publication The Lemming. “In the suburbs, the good people of America water their peonies, clean their estate cars, barbeque their steaks and talk about the price of gas. Sometimes there are minor infractions — someone’s garage broken into, a car stolen and upended at the bottom of the cul-de-sac.”

Our to do list

📺 Watch | A group of Bury and Rochdale residents who have lived through addiction, mental health problems and homelessness came together and called themselves the Elephants Trail to do some brilliant video reporting in their communities. Watch here.

😀 Workshops | This week Moss Side Powerhouse, Central Library and Longsight Library will be hosting the interactive ‘Storytime Sessions: The Discarded Oil Drum’, which will transport you and the youngsters to the sunny Caribbean. More info here.

🍺 Drinking | Didsbury Beer Festival returns this week, in what sounds like a very regulated opportunity to drink some good pints. “Because of Covid-19 and this will be a much smaller affair than usual in 4 separate sessions and tickets must be purchased in advance.” Tickets here

🎭 Theatre | Glee & Me at the Royal Exchange ends its run this week and there are still plenty of tickets available. It’s about a 16-year-old girl whose time is running out to “get All The Sex” and “definitively discover the Meaning of Life.” Book here.

🎨 Exhibition | The much-anticipated Van Gogh Alive has opened at The Piazza in MediaCity. It features an immersive sunflower room and promises: “Van Gogh’s masterpieces come to life, giving visitors the sensation of walking right into his paintings.” Book here.

🥙 Eat | Vegan eatery Herbivorous looks delicious. They make comfort food like Philly cheesesteaks and fried “chicken” burgers. Currently at Hatch on Oxford Road, but a new restaurant will be opening in Withington soon — watch this space. Have a look.

Fun before the storm

Covid-19 update

  • Case rates: The case rate for Greater Manchester is 405.1, down 3% in a week, compared to England’s 487.1, up 11%. Trafford continues to have the highest infection rates in GM, around 600. Bolton has the lowest — in the region of 300.

  • Hospitalisations: We don’t have updated numbers here, but on October 13 there were 45 Covid-19 patients in critical care, up from 40 the week before. An average of seven GM residents have died of Covid per day over the past week.

  • Vaccinations: 73% of all adults in GM (over 1.7 million people) have now received their second Covid jab. That’s 93% of over-70s, 86% 50-69s, 61% of 18-49s.

Letters to the editor

This is a terrific piece of frontline reporting by Michael Taylor (‘Inside old mills, a group of pioneers are trying to revive the industry that made Manchester’). The 'reshoring' of textiles back to Lancashire was forecast in 2014 by Lord Alliance of N. Brown. David Alliance was born in Iran in 1932, once lived in a single room in Moss Side and tramped the streets of the city as a small wholesaler in the early 1950s. He eventually ran Coats Viyella, employing 70,000 people in 60 countries. In the last chapter of his autobiography, A Bazaar Life, he wrote: “Thirty years ago a Chinese worker earned a fortieth of what a British worker did, but by 2013 it was down to three times. An American consultancy recently forecast that it will be as cheap to manufacture in the West as in China.” Andrew, Lancashire

What an inspirational woman. (‘Dead insects, a leaky roof and one woman's 27-year labour of love.’) Reading of someone who was/is so determined to make a difference in her field is completely inspiring and her story should be shouted from the rooftops. There are others like Wendy, working tirelessly and entirely without support, but what she has achieved so far is nothing short of remarkable. What an uplifting story and evidence of what and where determination to be the change can take society. Caroline, Ancoats

That’s it - you’re all caught up. To send us a story idea, just hit reply to this newsletter.