Dear Millers — we hope you had a great weekend. In case you missed it, we sent Dani down to Piccadilly Gardens for our weekend read, where she absorbed its strange atmosphere and hung out with a group of teenagers. You can read that piece here.
This week’s weather
Case rates: The number of new infections continues to tumble. The case rate for Greater Manchester is now 318.2, down 39.6% in a week, compared to England’s 291, down 35.1%. Salford has the highest infection rate in GM — around 400. Bolton has the lowest rate of around 300. See our dashboard below.
Hospitalisations: There were 58 Covid-19 patients in critical care in GM’s hospitals last week, down from 66 the week before and 75 the week before that. The total number of patients with the virus in our hospitals is 344, up slightly from 322. Last week Andy Burnham visited Salford Royal and heard that staff shortages and backlogs were putting the hospital under immense strain. "The staff really are struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
Vaccinations: Almost 1.5 million people in Greater Manchester have now had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, or just over 60% of adults. 92% of over-70s have received their second dose, 84% of 50-69s and 42% of 18-49s. These figures were updated last week and you can find them in full here.
The big story: Manchester makes its play for gold
Top line: Every day is exciting at the Olympic Games, but this week has a particular Manchester connection as the all-conquering cyclists who train at the National Cycling Centre (next to the Etihad stadium) go for gold in Tokyo. After the recent gold rush for GB in swimming and diving, attention now turns to the velodrome.
Chorlton champion: 25-year-old Mancunian Charlotte Worthington got things going early this weekend, winning gold in the BMX freestyle final after becoming the first woman to land a 360-degree-backflip. She spent her late teens working as a chef at The Beagle in her home neighbourhood of Chorlton and Racconto Lounge in Bury while training at the Manchester Velodrome, which has a special BMX complex.
In 2017, Charlotte told BBC Sport: “I’d been sweating it out in the kitchen for over 40 hours a week and barely had any time or energy to ride.”
Watch the thrilling video of how she won her gold here.
The history: Greater Manchester has an illustrious cycling history. Alison Crook from the Science and Industry Museum notes that the invention of the bike chain in 1885 by a Salford-based Swiss engineer Hans Renold took cycling to a new level, and by the early 20th century there was a “thriving community” of cycle makers and cyclists in Manchester.
Manchester Wheelers, established in 1883, trained on the Fallowfield Track until its closure and are still considered the most successful cycling club in Britain, producing prodigies like Reg Harris from Bury, who broke world records and won five world sprint championships in the 40s and 50s.
The velodrome opened in 1994 in an effort to improve the performance of British track cycling, and now forms part of the National Cycling Centre. Cycling Weekly described the velodrome as the "beating heart of British Cycling’s ascension to the top of world cycling".
The favourites: Among the hopefuls for Olympic titles this week are Laura Kenny (previously known as Laura Trott) and her husband Jason Kenny. Elinor Barker and Philip Hindes, who train together at the Manchester Velodrome. Philip and Jason will compete in the men’s team sprint, and Laura is competing in the team pursuit, madison and omnium — if she wins gold in all three events, she will be Great Britain’s most decorated Olympian, already having won four gold medals in past games. Elinor is also competing in the team pursuit, having nearly missed Tokyo after being hit by a car in April.
Tune in: Here’s our guide to the British track cyclists to look out for:
Laura Kenny will go in the women’s team pursuit first round and Jason Kenny and Philip Hindes in the men’s team sprint tomorrow 7.30am – 10am.
Laura is also competing in the women’s madison final on 7.30am – 11.15am Friday, and the women’s omnium this Sunday 2am – 5.15am
Jason Kenny is competing in the men’s sprint on Wednesday 7.30am – 11am, and the men’s keirin 7.30am – 10.25am.
Other local news in brief
Arooj Shah, the leader of Oldham Council, has said she will not be "scared away from doing the best for the town". Two men were arrested after Shah’s car was set on fire last month. “Oldham is an amazing, vibrant, diverse and friendly town. The actions of a minority will never overshadow our true spirit.” Read more. To read our latest story about politics in Oldham, including the arrest of online activist Raja Miah, click here.
An investigation into GMP’s contact with a woman who was murdered by her partner is due to take place. Weeks prior to her death, Imogen Bohajczuk reported her partner's abusive behaviour to the force. The Independent Office for Police Conduct said it would be looking at police actions from "the time of that call up to her being found dead". Read more.
Tributes have been paid to Bolton council leader David Greenhalgh, who died last week aged 53. It is understood Greenhalgh had been unwell and had been admitted to hospital. A close friend described his death as “terribly sudden” and that he was “hugely talented, not only on stage with his singing, but as an orator he could enthral a room.” Read more.
Piccadilly Gardens is set for a £25m revamp after Manchester council announced an international design competition last week. Sir Richard Leese said: “We recognise that it needs to be transformed to ensure that it can realise its potential as a welcoming and flexible space. We want to create a place that people are talking about for all the right reasons.” Read more.
A community archaeology dig in Town Hall Square in Rochdale has uncovered historic artefacts ranging from ginger beer bottles, bones and heels from shoemakers. The project is part of the council’s restoration of the town hall. Read more.
Grist to The Mill: If you want to tell us about a story or pass us some information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always happy to speak to people off the record in the first instance, and we will treat your information with confidence and sensitivity. Get in touch.
Home of the week
A 2-bedroom flat in a Grade II* listed building is up for £290,000 in Bury, with a grand hallway, high ceilings and many original period features.
Our favourite reads
The Guardian: Mill contributor David Barnett, who wrote a piece for us about the Manchester-based Mines Advisory Group (MAG) last year, recently travelled to Iraq to document the group’s work there, including using detector dogs to sniff out explosives. “The dogs start work at 5am, so that they can finish before the sun is too high — last week temperatures there hit 49C (120F).”
New Scientist: We liked this long read by immunologist Daniel M. Davis about his research into the immune system on a molecular scale at the University of Manchester, which aims to engineer antibodies to “create bespoke immune molecules". He believes this process of redesigning antibodies has the potential to help us fight HIV and cancer.
BBC Future: This fascinating piece by BBC Future explores the future geological legacies that will be left by today’s mega cities. David Farrier writes: “A city like Manchester in the UK, which is situated on ground still rising after the last ice age, will erode entirely over time, washing a trail of brick, concrete, and plastic particles out into the Irish Sea."
The Observer: “At 61, Winterson is, as ever, a disarming mix of warm homeliness, dizzying flights of intellectual fancy and simmering belligerence.” We thought this was a great interview with writer Jeanette Winterson about her new collection of essays 12 Bytes, that places women “at the centre of the tumultuous 200-year history,” beginning when teenage Mary Shelley “conjured the myth of Frankenstein from the embryonic science of electricity.”
Things to do
Podcast | Nazir Afzal, who brought the Rochdale sex grooming gangs to trial in 2012, sits down with Lauren Laverne on Desert Island Discs. Afzal retired from the Crown Prosecution Service in 2015, and now advises the Welsh government on issues of gender-based violence. Listen here. And read ‘The ghosts of Rochdale’, our interview with Afzal from last year, here.
Love hotel | Fall in love with a new BBC Arts comedy by Levenshulme-based producer Loran Dunn, about the world’s most romantic hotel. The Silky Hotel has been designed by “love gurus” and the air here is infused with the “delicate aroma of oysters.” Watch here.
Dine out | Habesha Restaurant on Sackville Street does fantastic Ethiopian cuisine — it’s a hidden gem, tucked away on a second floor. We recommend getting the lega tibs (lamb cubes) and shiro (powdered chickpeas cooked with onions and garlic). More information here.
Monastery | The Monastery in Gorton is reopening today after 18 months. This Grade II* listed building is classed as one of the world’s top 100 most endangered sites of historic interest. We think it’s absolutely worth a few hours of wandering around, plus it’s free to visit. More information — and some shots of how it looked in its previously derelict state — here.
Folk Festival | The Bruntwood Stage at Homeground and St Ann’s Square will be welcoming some of the biggest names in traditional and contemporary folk to Manchester this weekend. No ticket is required, just turn up for the performance you’re interested in. More information and full line-up here.
Book of the week: Theft
Original takes on the post-Brexit landscape of Britain are few and far between, but we thought this exploration of the different tribes in London and the north west hit the mark. Written by University of Manchester lecturer Luke Brown, Theft explores the obsessive relationships of one man who enters the orbit of a wealthy family in London, while his Lancashire hometown declines. “Paul has awoken to the fact that he will always be better known for reviewing haircuts than for his literary journalism.”
Theft is available to buy here.
Stories from the street
There is joy in music: nobody knows this better than Jali, the Kora player who you’ll find around Manchester city centre. His father played the Kora, and growing up, his house in The Gambia would be filled with melodies and noise. Jali started playing when he was nine years old, and now makes the instruments — which combine the features of a lute and harp — at his home in Cheetham Hill. “It’s like the ocean,” he says, describing the effect of the music as his fingers dance over the strings. For Jali, playing the Kora is therapeutic, good for the body and mind. He’s applying for Arts Council funding to help him set up a studio and workshop, where he hopes to teach people how to play.
Letters to the editor
It was a delight to read of Nicholas's book-seeking travels. ('Buy a book, kill the Kindle'). I have a friend who works in one of the bookshops mentioned, and his flat is a second home for a large number of volumes he has accumulated over the years. From time to time he has to reassure his landlord he is not a threat to the infrastructure of the building. Tudor, Stockport
Thanks so much for researching this issue. (‘Inside at-home care in Greater Manchester’). It’s one of those things that you know nothing about, until you need to know about it, and then it becomes your whole world. Just an extra insight into direct payments — that you don’t name, but mention at the end — my daughter has a severe disability, I had to beg the council just for one hour of help a week. They have given us money to employ a carer, but the amount of paperwork that involves actually takes more time than the break it gives us. The whole system is in shambles, but, like most people, I am so grateful for the dedicated people who devote so much to helping others. I look at the pay professional footballers get sometimes and question what our society values the most. Kathy, Stockport