Music venues saved, charges coming in Rochdale and concern about Manchester's 'metropolitan elite'

This week's news briefing

Good morning and welcome to The Mill’s news briefing - your weekly run-down of interesting local stories, served with a bit of context to help you understand what’s going on.

Every week some of you email me with your thoughts on issues in the briefing or ideas about what to cover next, which is really useful and it’s always lovely to hear from you. You can also use the comments section on the site, by clicking on the headline of the newsletter, or using the button below.

Leave a comment

Charges coming in Rochdale

Our exclusive story on Friday about a previously unreported grooming investigation in Rochdale prompted a huge response. The story was picked up by the BBC, ITV, The Daily Mirror, The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Metro and the MEN, most of whom managed to credit The Mill for breaking the story.

The MEN reported that detectives have made “significant progress” in the investigation, which tallies with what I’ve heard this week. I’m told police in Rochdale have identified a large number of victims as part of Operation Lytton, and that charges are expected this year.

I’ll keep reporting on this story as I hear more. If you know something, please drop me a line at

Keeping a nervous eye on Covid

Staying in Rochdale for a moment, the town stepped up Covid-19 measures on Friday after seeing one of the highest rates of new cases in the country. The area’s rate of new infections is still less than a third of that in Leicester, according to the BBC. But localised scares in Rochdale - like a mini outbreak at the JD Sports warehouse - have made local officials nervous. A big challenge they face is figuring out whether transmission is happening in homes, shared cars on the way to work, or in workplaces themselves.

Across the North West, overall deaths in the week ending July 10th were 7.2 per cent below the five-year average for that week, or 89 deaths lower, according to the ONS. That’s about the same as the overall picture for England and Wales, where deaths were 6 per cent lower than average. It means nationally we’ve now had four consecutive weeks in which there were no “excess deaths”.

In the week in question there were 62 deaths in this region in which Covid was mentioned on the death certificate, down more than a third from the week before and the lowest figure since the week ending March 27th. The peak week for the North West in mid-April saw more than twenty times that number. Nationally, there were 366 deaths where Covid was mentioned. You can get all the data from the ONS here, including a graph showing the North West’s death numbers versus the five-year average.

Music venues saved

A deal was struck over the weekend to save Gorilla and The Deaf Institute, two important live music venues. MEN reported yesterday afternoon:

Tokyo Industries, which owns clubs and bars including Impossible, The Factory and South, has snapped up both venues and says they'll remain 'at the forefront of the live music and club scene'. Staff will keep their jobs as part of the terms agreed between the company and the venues' current owners Mission Mars, which announced their closure last week.

The news has come as a massive relief, after a week of heartbroken reactions to the announced closures. Of all the hospitality venues that we expect to close in the weeks and months ahead, music venues are particularly emotive, especially ones like these that represented the first step on the ladder for a lot of performers. Mill reader David Dunne has DJ’d in Gorilla and played in its previous incarnation The Green Room. He sent me this memory:

I played there as a drummer in local bands in the late 80s at some of promoter Chris Coupe's Fun Box package nights, which squeezed together 4 or 5 local bands, singers or buskers with poets and comedians, all on one night. Steve Coogan, Henry Normal and John Bramwell (I Am Kloot) were regulars on those at the start of their careers. Chris used to promote these nights on foot, tramping round the city putting flyers and posters into any shop that would have them. I doubt we ever got more than £30, but nobody cared. I think that the outpouring of support from performers, bands and DJs who had played there, many of them famous, many of them not, says a lot about the diversity and quality of the event booking at Gorilla. I hope if it reopens, that will continue. We don't need another corporate music space in the city.

LISTEN: Fascinating interviews with a woman in the 1970s, talking about her family members who worked in the mills, and what life was like at the beginning of the 20th century in Manchester.

READ: A great Twitter thread about why Stockport covered up its river with a road and a shopping centre, and the proposals to uncover it again.

Back on the rails

“Ministers will clear the way for a £6bn investment in railways in the north of England this week,” reported The Sunday Times, although the last line of the story suggested negotiations between the Department of Transport and the Treasury are ongoing.

It seems the money is going towards electrifying and upgrading the trans-Pennine route between Manchester and Leeds, which is a hugely overdue investment, although when government announcements are made via anonymous briefings to journalists they are often light on detail. Instead we get weird Westminster vignettes like: “prompting officials to dub the transport secretary “king in the north”, a reference to the bloody political drama Game of Thrones.”

Among experts in this area, there’s a mix of hope at the government’s seeming desire to invest in the North and scepticism bred by years of announcements that didn’t go anywhere. This weekend’s story is an attempt to get credit for an investment that has been promised many times. The think tank IPPR North found that if the North had enjoyed the same per person investment in transport as London over the past decade, it would have received £66 billion more. So there’s a lot of ground to make up.

And finally:

Culture Minister John Whittingdale says the BBC has to be careful not to make shows that pander to “the metropolitan elite in London and Manchester”. The Guardian’s media editor said the remark - and what it signifies about changing attitudes towards this city - “may please and dismay Mancunians in equal measure.” Judging by the tweets that followed, that’s about right.