'Striking and widening' gaps in vaccine roll-out

Plus: Ever wanted to see a prehistoric bog garden?

Good morning Millers — we had a brilliant response to our weekend read about the superstar novelist Lee Child and how his career writing best-selling thrillers began when he was a disgruntled worker at Granada in Manchester. Do give it a read if you missed it.

Today’s briefing has the latest Covid-19 numbers, a very mournful cartoon from Tony Husband, and some great things to do. Thanks to Dani Cole and Tom Taylor for their help putting it together.

A few months ago we decided to try to recreate some of the elements of an old-fashioned newspaper in this briefing — adding things like letters to the editor, obituaries, book reviews and cartoons that have mostly been stripped away in the digital age. We hope you like the result — please do hit reply with any thoughts you have about other features we can add.

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Thanks to the great Tony Husband, who now contributes cartoons for us. You can share this one from our Facebook page here, and from our Twitter here.

The big story: Vaccine hesitancy

Top line: More than one in ten people in Greater Manchester have now received their first vaccination, or 309,469, as Britain’s inoculation program roars ahead of other countries. 11% was also the rate of progress nationally at the same point in the middle of last week when the GM number was released.

  • A record number of people were vaccinated in the UK on Saturday - 598,389 receiving their first dose.

One growing concern: vaccine hesitancy among certain communities. A study last week found "striking and widening" uptake rates. It looked at a million non-care home residents over the age of 80 and found that 43% of white people in the sample had been given their first dose, compared with 30% among those of Bangladeshi and Pakistani descent and only 21% of the black population.

  • That could matter a lot in Greater Manchester, which is more diverse than the national population. Some parts of it are much more diverse.

Context: In England and Wales, 8% of people described themselves as Asian in the 2011 census, and 3% black. In Manchester, it was 17.1% Asian and 8.6% black. Oldham was 19.2% Asian, Rochdale was 14.9% and Bolton was 13.9%.

Botton line: Reaching non-white communities will be critical to the success of the local vaccination program. Nationally, the government has released a cross-party video featuring MPs like Foreign Office minister James Cleverly and Labour’s Diane Abbott.

  • That approach might be trickier for local leaders. Andy Burnham and both his deputies are white — not to mention every single council leader in GM.

Covid data check:

  • Case rate: The GM rate is now 269.5, down 18% on the previous week. The national rate across England is falling even faster: 279.7 at the latest count, down 31% on the week before.

  • Hospitals: There were 165 Covid-19 patients in critical care in GM when the numbers were released last Wednesday, higher than we’ve seen at any time since Spring last year, showing the NHS is under immense strain.

This week’s weather

The location of this forecast is Manchester and it’s sourced from the Met Office.

Five stories worth reading

1. From North Korea to Bury

“Her long journey to the UK involved leaving her family behind, being smuggled across the border into China - twice - by human traffickers, serving years in a hard labour camp as a prisoner, and being sold into the sex slave trade.” That’s the extraordinary story of Jihyun Park, the 52-year-old Conservative local council candidate for Bury who spent the first 40 years of her life running from the North Korean government, as told by The Telegraph.

2. The future of the city centre

"A lot of the new development does have architectural merit, I think you do have a kind of emerging Manchester style in the way that the warehouses and the brick buildings of our past meld with modern buildings,” says Labour councillor Marcus Johns in this set of interviews with local politicians about the future of the city centre conducted by the MEN. Chris Northwood, the Lib Dem candidate in Piccadilly Ward, says he worries about rental-only blocks. "I think people are less likely to put down roots,” he says.

3. Meet Andy Burnham’s Conservative rival

“I only ever see a bashing of the government at every opportunity, deliberately making it more complicated than it needs to be,” says Laura Evans, who is running against Andy Burnham for the Conservatives in the mayoral election this year. “It’s time for that to go,” she tells Mancunian Matters. Evans went to college in Salford and worked for Trafford Council for eight years. “I grew up deaf and with a speech impediment, not an easy childhood,” she says in the interview. “But I believe opportunity is there for the taking.”

4. The Irish life in Bolton remembered

“By the early 20th century Bolton’s Irish community was well established, though largely still confined to specific parts of the town – ‘ghettos’ as some Irish people themselves described them.” That’s from a Bolton News piece about the history of the community, which has some nice recollections about life there. “There was a dance at Jim Logan’s Dance Hall on Sunday nights where many Irish lads and girls met,” one person remembers. “There was a strict ‘no alcohol’ rule, you could only get orange juice!”

5. A disputed border and some tall trees

“Impossible to miss, these large handsome trees demarcate the boundary between Longford Park in Trafford and Ryebank Fields in Manchester,” writes Andrea Sandor, a regular Mill contributor this time writing for the Manchester Meteor. Her piece is about the growing controversy surrounding proposed development at Ryebank Fields, and confusion about where the area’s true boundaries should be drawn.

If you find a great read that you think we should recommend, please just send it over or tag us on Twitter.

Know something about the Low Traffic Neighbourhood initiative and its subsequent fall-out in Levenshulme? We are preparing a story on it this week — so please get in touch by hitting reply to this newsletter or messaging Dani on Twitter.

Home of the week

The hexagonal Church House on Corbar Road just south of Stockport is a detached seven-bedroom home that used to be a church. It’s on sale for £950,000.

Our next steps

This year The Mill will go from being an experimental lockdown project run by one person to a proper news organisation that can serve Greater Manchester for years to come.

We hope to hire our first graduate reporter in the coming months and to expand our brilliant network of freelance writers. We don’t have any investors and we aren’t part of a big media company, so every pound we spend has to be generated ourselves by growing our membership.

Well over 100 new members joined in January, and we’re extremely grateful for their support. If you haven’t joined yet, you can do so by clicking the button below.

Letters to the editor

I was moved by your article about the family of Jewish refugees who built a new life in Manchester, and how difficult it was for the parents to talk about their past lives in Europe. There are so many folk in Greater Manchester whose ancestors escaped the horrors of Nazi oppression, and the least we owe those people is to remember what they went through on Holocaust Memorial Day. Your story also made me think about the present day. As this city builds close and closer ties with China and builds towers backed by Chinese investors, we should not lose our moral courage in condemning the dreadful abuse of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang. George Ashton, Salford

I used to work on Princess Street and en route to and from Piccadilly Station was very aware of the Italianate buildings around the canal. I knew at the time that these were influenced by Italian architecture but it was nice to have an article that confirmed my rather vague beliefs and also gave me some nostalgic pleasure. I don't have a favourite building - just a liking for all the city centre buildings that added decorative elements and a sense of style to our streets. I also attended uni in Manchester - before the clean air acts and the subsequent cleaning of buildings. It has been wonderful to see, over time, the original beauty of buildings emerge from uniform blackness. Elizabeth Nicholson, Romiley

Manchester can rightly celebrate the coming into force on 22 January, of the international Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Cities around the world have been celebrating, having passed resolutions supporting the TPNW and encouraging their own governments to engage with this disarmament process. Manchester City Council was the joint first in Europe to do so, continuing its proud tradition of peace as the first in the world to declare itself a nuclear-weapons-free city in 1980. Steve Roman, Manchester

Things to do this week

Visit | Have you ever wanted to see a prehistoric bog garden? If the answer to that is ‘yes’, then you’re in luck. Queen’s Park in Rochdale has their very own, which was created in honour of the Natural History Museum’s superstar Dippy the Dinosaur’s visit in 2020. Pack the binoculars and wellies for a few hours in the fresh air.

Festival | MACFest (Muslim Arts and Culture Festival) is back! It’ll be running until 3 Jul, so hopefully the events will soon start appearing in real life rather than online. In any case, it looks like a great line up this year.

  • What to expect: On Wednesday you can join a panel discussion ‘Islam in Victorian Britain’. Christina Longden will talk to Yahya Birt about his new book, detailing an Ottoman account of Britain's first mosque community in Liverpool, which dates from 1895.

Watch | HOME is showing ‘Synchronic’, starring Jamie Dornan and Anthony Mackie, who star as two New Orleans paramedics who encounter deaths linked to a designer drug. “In a perfect storm of personal crises, their friendship and families are ripped apart by the mysterious pill’s bizarre effects.”

Fiction | If the wait for our ‘Book of the Week’ is just too long, Manchester Wire has compiled a list celebrating 10 Manchester fiction writers so you can get your dose of prose.

Podcast | We enjoyed listening to ‘Strip! How Football got Shirty’ podcast from the National Football Museum. Exhibition curator Jon Sutton and exhibition designer Tim Ashmore discuss the football shirt’s place within the very fabric of the game.

To recommend something for our Things To Do, email editor@manchestermill.co.uk or tweet @danithecole, who compiles the list.

Obituary: Robert Rowland

Robert Rowland was a Brexit Party MEP and fund manager who represented South East England until the UK’s exit from the European Union. Born in Bowdon, Trafford, he attended the prestigious Sedbergh School in Cumbria and signalled his right-wing politics as a student at the University of Newcastle in the 1980s when he wrote a letter to the student newspaper condemning "the fascist left” for no-platforming controversial speakers. Before running as an MEP Rowland worked in finance. Rowland once described opposition to Brexit as a “coup against democracy” and was criticised in 2019 after tweeting that any foreign fishing vessel within 200 miles of Britain would “get the same treatment as the Belgrano.” He died in a diving accident near his home in the Bahamas, aged 54.

Robert Rowland, born January 28 1966, died January 23 2021.

Book of the week

Charlotte Levin, the author of this brilliant 2020 novel, is from Manchester and now lives in Salford. Her protagonist is Mancunian and much of the story in If I Can't Have You takes place in the city. The book is marketed as a thriller, but “is actually about grief, obsession, loss and how far we could go to connect with others,” Levin told The Mill. “It also has a good amount of dark northern humour,” she adds.

It’s currently on sale on Amazon.

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