The kindness of strangers
Anthony Doran died alone – but his story touched thousands
Dear Millers — on Tuesday, Dani went to Southern Cemetery for another "public health funeral” — one organised by the council because no friends or relatives had come forward. This time, she was joined at the graveside by Mill readers who had been touched by her weekend read, ‘A death unseen’, and wanted to be there. More about that in Dani’s lovely piece below.
We also have a new data feature we are going to try — ‘7 numbers on’ — which today brings you some fascinating stats about Greater Manchester’s economy, culled from an important report that came out yesterday.
As always, our Thursday editions are for Mill members, including the two features and some great recommendations for things to this weekend at the bottom. Non-members can read the top, and can read it all if they join up as a member now.
“Do you support or not support Factory International?” one reader emailed last week. “Interested to understand your official stance.” Disappointingly, we don’t have an official stance on this or most other things — except the dreadful “event space” that is covering half of Piccadilly Gardens and is unambiguously bad — but we’re interested in the debate going on about Factory, which we covered last week.
One reader wrote under the piece that Factory International “is imaginative and expands the North West’s cultural capital exponentially. It is an investment, not simply a cost.” Others found the cost hard to stomach. “Another £25m price hike for the Factory announced by MCC,” tweeted Isaac Rose from Greater Manchester Housing Action. “Completely indefensible while the Theatre Royal stands empty, the Nia Centre remains with a giant hole in its roof, and countless community arts venues & studios struggle for survival.”
Last year, Rose (and two co-authors) argued that the Factory project “raises questions about the type of city that is being built through Manchester’s pursuit of culture-led urban regeneration”. Cui bono? They argue a major beneficiary of its completion will be Allied London, the property company developing the “St John’s” neighbourhood surrounding it. “Despite being almost entirely funded by the public, therefore, it is large developers that are poised to reap the financial benefits from this project.” They add: “Public funding for the arts is being used to create the conditions for private profit.”
Your Mill news briefing
HS Property Group or HSPG, the housing provider who supply lots of temporary accommodation for Manchester's homeless — and who we investigated recently — made a £15,000 donation to Liz Truss's leadership campaign, it was revealed today. Director Guy Horne told the Subplot property newsletter that he doesn’t regret the donation. "It is early days yet – we wanted to have a government that is socially conscious, and felt that Truss was more socially conscious. But it is difficult to judge after a few weeks."
A 13-year-old girl at risk of suicide has been languishing in a Manchester hospital for three months. Despite an extensive search by Manchester City Council, there are no therapeutic homes or similar placements available for her to be discharged to. Yesterday a judge approved an unregulated, unlawful placement for the teenager, saying it was "the only hope" after so many refusals. It will cost £9,650 a week.
Nonfire Night: Manchester City Council has cancelled all Bonfire Night firework displays. They're blaming the rising costs involved, safety measures and the ambition to be a net-zero city by 2038. It is the third lot of council-organised displays to be cancelled, the two previous due to the pandemic.
7 key numbers on: the local economy
Listeners to The Mill’s excellent and entirely free podcast may have caught our recent interview with Professor Diane Coyle, a longtime Mill member (she hails from Ramsbottom originally) and a professor of public policy at the University of Cambridge.
Diane is in the news this week after she chaired a panel of eminent economists tasked with examining Greater Manchester’s economy — their fascinating report was published yesterday. So what did we learn when we read the ‘2022 Greater Manchester Independent Prosperity Review’? Here are seven numbers that jumped out at us.
That’s how many more people in Greater Manchester left the labour market between the end of 2019 and the end of 2021. In parts of the city region, nearly a third of the working age population was inactive at the end of 2021 (Oldham: 32.1%; Rochdale: 30%; Bolton: 29.5%), some of the worst rates in the country, suggesting that “pronounced social distress has followed the virus in hitting traditionally low-income areas”.
An estimated 450,000 households in GM, or around 40% of the total, have a “discretionary income” — what’s left after taxes and other living expenses — of less than this sum per month. These households are much harder hit by inflation than higher earners.
That’s the proportion of GM children who are eligible for free school meals — which equates to around 121,000 children. That’s five percentage points higher than the England average.
The estimated investment required for GM to reach carbon neutrality as planned by 2038. Presently, we are only four years away from using up our carbon budget, “unless rapid reductions in emissions are achieved, especially in how we heat our buildings and transport ourselves (totalling 71% of current emissions).”
Greater Manchester “punches below its weight with regard to export performance,” the report says, with exports growing only 3.2% between 2016 and 2019, compared to 18.3% across the country.
The healthy life expectancy (the number of years the average person lives in good health) for males in Oldham, ten years below the state pension age. The report also finds that men born in Trafford can expect to live almost four years longer than those born in Manchester.
That’s how much of the variances in employment rates between neighbourhoods in GM can be accounted for by differences in health. “Improving population health and reducing health inequalities is critical to address economic under-performance in the city region,” the authors write. “This could include continued expansion of mental health provision, and recommissioning and scaling up employment support programmes that take a health and employment approach.”
Read the full report here.
The kindness of strangers
By Dani Cole
It was another Tuesday. We were burying another Tony. There were more mourners today at Southern Cemetery: 10 people had come, plus Hayley Cartwright the celebrant.
A few of them had seen her Facebook post asking people to attend, while others had read or heard about our article. They had all — just as I had — been compelled to come. He was actually Leonard Dixon, but everyone knew him as Tony Dixon. He was 62 when he died at home on Stanley Street in Openshaw in July.
Around us, the trees were slowly turning to gold. One mourner, Gill Cotterill, had come with a bouquet picked from her garden: Japanese maple, spindle tree springs, stems of lavender, and vivid Italian lords-and-ladies berries.
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