Discover more from The Mill
Outside of Manchester’s thriving city centre, child poverty is on the rise
Plus: University occupiers face expulsion and Metrolink comes under fire.
Dear readers — welcome to this week's briefing and an especially warm welcome to our 35 new members who joined after reading Joshi's editor's note about Phillip Schofield (kind of) last night. The note has been blowing up on Twitter and provoking lots of debate about the future of local journalism — do join in.
Our big story today: Alarming new research shows that 45% of children in Manchester live in poverty. Our data reporter Daniel Timms has been looking into the numbers to see why they continue to head in the wrong direction, and what can be done to reverse the trend.
Elsewhere, University of Manchester students who occupied campus buildings earlier this year now face expulsion, and Metrolink’s lack of late night tram services has come under fire after a bumper weekend of events in Manchester.
Over the weekend, we published a wonderful profile of Julie Hesmondalgh — the actor and writer known for playing Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street. She spoke with our senior editor Sophie Atkinson about falling in love quickly, crumbling arts funding and the care it required to play Hayley, the first transgender character on a British soap: “It turned something that was a scary, snarky issue into a person.”
Speaking of Julie, get your ticket to our members' event next Tuesday (13th). This month, we’re celebrating three years of The Mill, and we’re marking the occasion with Julie kindly hosting the night and interviewing founder and editor Joshi Herrmann about why he started The Mill. We're also having an open newsroom discussion about one of our current stories so members can have some input into the journalistic process. You can book your tickets by clicking this link.
A radical new hire at Manchester Museum
From today’s sponsor: A new staff member joined Manchester Museum last week, and she’s not a curator. Chloe Cousins is the museum’s Social Justice Manager, a new post that illustrates the organisation’s mission to be socially responsible to communities in this city and beyond. Manchester Museum has gone from displaying fascinating objects to thinking about its role in a broader sense — as a place that can help people to take action. “The Museum is a huge resource and part of what I’d like to explore is how local communities can take up space within the building and collections,” Chloe says. Find out more and plan your visit.
🌤️ This week’s weather
Plenty more warm weather this week, but the weekend might be a bit more drizzly. Keep your waterproof handy.
Tuesday 🌤️ Turning warm and sunny after a cloudy start. Max 22C.
Wednesday 🌤️ Dry and warm with mostly sunny skies. Breezy. Max 21C.
Thursday ☀️ Warm and mostly sunny but turning breezy. Max 21C.
Friday ☀️ Very warm with long spells of sunshine. Windy PM. Max 24C.
Weekend 🌦️ Very warm with plenty of sunshine but also the slight risk of downpours/thunderstorms.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook — daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
The big story: Outside of Manchester’s city centre, child poverty is on the rise
The top line: New research from the End Child Poverty Coalition shows that Manchester is the third worst place for child poverty in the country. Astonishingly, 45% of the city’s children live in poverty. Three other GM boroughs are also in the poorest 20: Oldham (6th), Bolton (14th), and Rochdale (20th).
Not only that, but the numbers are headed in the wrong direction, with Manchester and Oldham having seen about a ten percentage point increase in child poverty levels since 2015. That compares to a nationwide increase of less than one percentage point. Worse still, much of the data used in the research predates the cost of living crisis — meaning that the true figure could now have escalated to over half of the city’s children.
Why has Greater Manchester seen things get much worse? We can’t say for certain, but it’s possible that more families in GM were already living just above the poverty line, so that when things got worse nationwide more of them fell below it. Across the country it’s those places where poverty levels were already high that have seen the biggest increases — where households have lower resilience to economic shocks like the pandemic.
This makes the difference all the more stark between those who do well, and those who don’t, in today’s Manchester. Parts of the city have grown strongly over the last decade, but that doesn’t seem to have lowered child poverty rates in other areas.
As noted by the Guardian in an editorial over the weekend: “An economic gulf has emerged between the thriving centre and far poorer outlying districts such as Wythenshawe. Rents have gone up at a dizzying rate, amid a serious dearth of affordable and social housing. Expectations that city centre growth would deliver greater prosperity across Greater Manchester have proved unfounded.”
The definition of poverty is a relative one — it means living in a household where income after housing costs is less than 60% of the national median. But, since average wages have been pretty stagnant compared to costs, things are actually getting worse. Across the country, children are much more likely to be in poverty than working age people or pensioners.
The cost: Growing up in poverty can have a number of well-documented side effects, including malnutrition, anxiety, greater risk of bullying and exploitation, and poorer life chances. In 2015, only 33% of children receiving free school meals obtained five or more good GCSEs, compared with 61% of other children.
Commenting on the figures, Graham Witham from the End Child Poverty Coalition — who is also CEO of Greater Manchester Poverty Action — said: “These new figures are shocking but not surprising. Child poverty rates have been rising in Greater Manchester for a number of years, and government failure to adequately support people means there is no safety net when something like the pandemic or cost of living crisis hit.”
What can we do about it? As with many issues affecting England’s regions, much of the power to change things sits with Westminster. The End Child Poverty Coalition is calling for the government to scrap the two child limit on child benefits — children growing up in larger households are much more likely to be in poverty. Another idea is that energy bill support should be extended for poorer households. At the local level, more investment in social housing would reduce the burden of housing costs on lower-income families.
The bottom line: Greater Manchester’s child poverty statistics make for grim reading. While child poverty is often hidden from view, it will have a huge impact on the future of those children’s lives, and our city region. Politicians at a national and local level urgently need to set out their plans for dealing with it.
Your Mill briefing
University of Manchester students who occupied campus buildings in protest of high rents now face expulsion. The university says it is taking disciplinary action against 11 students for property damage and the injury and intimidation of staff caused during occupations earlier this year, like the one in the John Owens building, or as occupiers termed it at the time, the John Owens Autonomous Zone. Students told the Guardian that they were presented with 600 pages of evidence to familiarise themselves with in time for this week’s hearings, where they are expected to defend themselves. One occupier who will be facing a disciplinary hearing told The Mill they were expected to gather evidence and write a lengthy statement while also taking their exams: “They expected everyone to gather all this evidence and write our statements while our exams were going on,” they say. “I'm angry that the university has taken this approach. They've still not engaged at all with our concerns, they've taken a punitive approach. I guess to scare people off from doing this again.”
This past weekend was a busy one for events: United played City in the FA Cup Final, Coldplay performed at the Etihad, Arctic Monkeys were at the Cricket Ground, Elton John was at the Arena. Basically, there were a lot of people in Manchester at the same time. But, as is often the case with these big weekends, the weaknesses of the city’s transport system soon became apparent. Many feel Manchester has become very good at attracting people into the city, less so at getting them back out. “A great night spoilt by the absolute disgraceful service by @MCRMetrolink” tweeted one commuter. The city’s lack of late-night trams has long been the subject of debate. Currently, services end at midnight, but on some routes the last tram from the city centre can leave at just after 11pm. Trials of late-night services have been held to help get hospitality workers out of the city after their shifts and to make women feel safer, but councillors can’t agree on how they should work, with passenger levels still yet to return to pre-pandemic levels. The problem isn’t about to go away; next weekend, Soccer Aid is at Old Trafford, Parklife Festival is at Heaton Park and The Weeknd is at the Etihad. And for good measure, Metrolink staff are on strike.
The owners of Wigan Athletic have said a deal has been agreed to sell the football club. It’s been a tumultuous time for Wigan, who are starting the 2023/24 season on minus eight points after failing to pay wages. Yesterday, two directors resigned amid growing concern about the club’s financial situation; Tom Markham and Oliver Gottmann stepped down after money "promised by the ownership group" to be paid by June 2 failed to materialise.
The death of a newborn at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Manchester is being investigated by police. GMP say Polly Lindop died within 24 hours of being born on 13 March. A spokesperson said concerns were “raised to the coroner and GMP” following Polly’s death, and that "after careful consideration,” the force’s major incident team are investigating possible gross negligence manslaughter.
Home of the week
A charming period terrace house in Didsbury, for £500,000. It has three bedrooms set over four floors, a small garden and plenty of natural light.
Property people: Want to sponsor our Home of the Week spot so we’re linking to your site rather than Rightmove? Hit reply to get a very reasonable quote.
Our favourite reads
Doing things differently again — The Guardian
On the day of the Manchester FA Cup Final, this Guardian editorial took a look at how the city is faring. It credits the “immense buzz” around Manchester with multiple gigs, events and two special devolution deals, but is critical about Manchester as a model for housing and development, noting the wealth divide between the city centre and areas like Wythenshawe. “Expectations that city centre growth would deliver greater prosperity across Greater Manchester have proved unfounded.. extravagant profits have been siphoned out of the city by private investors allowed to seek huge rewards with few strings attached.”
Who is Matty Healy? — The New Yorker
Musician Matty Healy gets the New Yorker treatment in this funny and revealing profile about stardom, addiction and sincerity. Healy, 34, was born in Wilmslow to Denise Welch and Tim Healy and made his name as the frontman of The 1975, but denies that the band is indebted to Manchester’s musical lineage: “We looked like effeminate Catholic schoolboys,” Healy said, recalling their early days. “It wasn’t exactly Oasis.”
How Tina Turner made a comeback after Ike — by the couple who helped her — The Sunday Times
A warm and hopeful story about how a gig in Manchester gave Tina Turner the opportunity to reinvent herself after leaving her abusive husband behind in the US. “She became very successful here and then in Europe, and that was a springboard to having success in America again,” Jenny Marshall remembers, who promoted her concerts along with her husband Barrie. “She loved the rain. Though she sang that she couldn’t stand the rain, she liked to feel it, to smell it. She liked the peace of it.”
Our to do list
📚 Head to Waterstones in Deansgate for a talk from the authors of Twelve Words, a new book that traces the stories of women growing up in Manchester. The playwright Linda Brogan tells the intertwined stories of three ordinary but remarkable women from Moss Side and inner city Manchester to unlock “truth, secrets, confessions and released trauma”. Tickets here.
🎞️ Energy, the music documentary following singer Damo Suzuki on tour with experimental rock band CAN while battling cancer, is showing at the Carlton Club. One reviewer called it “a colourful, thought provoking, humorous and free-thinking journey” and the director has described it as a “wonderful story of hope”. Join here.
🎤 Groove Verse, an improvised jazz and spoken word night that promises “musical mayhem and lyrical wizardry”, is on at Band on the Wall. It has one rule: no rehearsals, meaning you can expect a little bit of chaos and a lot of fun. Tickets are £9.
🎦 The Chapeltown Picture House’s monthly short film festival is back with a wonderfully varied lineup of international short films chosen by a discerning panel of experts. Plus: food and drinks from super-popular street food trader GRUB. Join here.
🎭 Opera North are at the Bridgewater Hall, performing The Pearl Fishers, the story of two close friends who fall in love with the same woman. Tickets here.
🎸 The Old Courts in Wigan is showcasing three up-and-coming local artists who deserve your attention in a night of free live music that includes jazz, reggae, pop punk and folk. More here.