The passion and poetry of Rochdale's Ian Henderson
Plus: Has Factory International commissioned a giant piece of Instagram art?
Dear Millers — please excuse this delayed Thursday edition! We are currently chipping away at an investigative piece we had hoped to publish yesterday…but alas. There are still some loose ends to be tied up before we can publish, so we’ve subbed in some writing for you to enjoy below.
Instead, we have a gorgeous prose tribute from the pen of Hugh Morris (who you may know as a classical music critic for the New York Times and the Guardian) to football’s prodigal son, Ian Henderson, who recently re-joined Rochdale, plus Sophie’s take on Factory International’s big January announcement. But first: a pick n’ mix of news, opinions and little bits.
As is customary with our Thursday-turned-Friday pieces, we’ve paywalled this halfway down. We hope if you’re a free subscriber and you enjoy this edition, you might be moved to dust off your wallet in support of our crusade: local journalism done attentively and thoroughly.
On Monday we launched a three-week referral push, and lots of you have responded by signing up friends and colleagues to our mailing list (now 27,194-strong). When you use the “Share” button (below and at the bottom of every email), we can now track how many friends each Miller has signed up, and we will soon announce a special prize for the five readers who sign up the most people by Christmas. Sadly we can’t track it when you sign people up by forwarding an email, but the share button allows us to see because it generates a unique code — it works for sharing on social media, WhatsApp or anywhere else you want to send a Mill link. A Miller called Ian is currently leading the race, having signed up three new readers since Monday. Get involved.
On Thursday we published our latest podcast, which delves into the current state of homelessness in Greater Manchester. To what extent has Burnham been able to keep the promise to end rough sleeping that formed part of his election campaign?
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Boohoo, the giant Manchester-based fast-fashion retailer, has had its Burnley warehouse compared to "Victorian workhouses" after an undercover investigation by the Times found its employees working in gruelling conditions. Pickers — who gather items of clothing from around the vast warehouse to be delivered to customers — are monitored at all times, wearing tracking devices that tell their managers whether they are reaching their target. If they don't reach said target (130 items an hour), the tracker alerts a manager who will then find them and give them "a talking to" according to the Times. This results in pickers pushing themselves to the limit, working in a space that can reach 32C°, receiving only two 30-minute breaks across a 12-hour shift. An undercover reporter who worked a month in the warehouse found messages scrawled on the floors of its labyrinthine aisles that read: "prison" and "do not work here."
Fighting words from Andy Burnham about the English National Opera this week. “If they think we are all heathens here, that nobody would go, I’m afraid it doesn’t understand us and therefore it doesn’t deserve to come here,” Burnham told a conference in response to a question about the ongoing controversy. “If they want to come, come willingly. If you can’t come willingly, don’t come at all.” The mayor compared the Arts Council’s funding decision to the BBC move up North. “I remember the BBC saying the same thing to me when I was culture secretary – that it wouldn’t work up here, blah di blah, all the arguments they trotted out. They were made to come and they should have been, because of the way they are publicly funded. Is anybody here going to say to me today that the BBC isn’t stronger by moving to Media City?”
Talking of Salford and opera, at Opera North’s touring performance of La Traviata recently we thought we spotted Kate Green in the stalls, until recently the Labour MP for Stretford and Urmston and a former member of Sir Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet. Has Green been warming Burnham up to the idea of opera? She has just been picked by the mayor as his next deputy mayor for policing and crime, replacing Bev Hughes. Many expected the deputy role to go to Elise Wilson, the former council leader of Stockport until the Lib Dems took over the council earlier this year, and there’s anger about Green’s appointment. “What has she [Green] ever run before?” asks a Wilson ally. Well? Green worked for Barclays Bank from 1982 to 1997 and ran the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in the noughties. Crucially, if she’s backing our opera campaign, we’re all for her.
Has the Saudi Arabian government — infamous for its treatment of LGBTQ+ people — profited from a gay music event in Manchester? In 2020, it was revealed that The Private Investment Fund (PIF), the Saudi Arabian government’s sovereign wealth fund, owns a 5.7% stake in Live Nation, the ginormous entertainment company that owns, amongst other things, a majority stake in the Warehouse Project. Earlier this month, Warehouse Project hosted Homobloc, a very popular “queer block party”. High Hoops, a local DJ, posted to Instagram saying: “it is unacceptable that an organisation such as Pif would benefit from an event such as Homobloc. [And] Worse the event amounts to pinkwashing for these investors.”
The Royal Exchange has announced its 2023 Spring/Summer season. The Mill's resident theatre buff John Tucker writes in that the line-up is "artistically ambitious with a classic Tennessee Williams in there to follow on from the wonderful Menagerie, and a fascinating mix of new stuff." Writers from around the world will be putting on shows. One of which is Kimber Lee, from New York, whose play/polemic untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play will be staged in the summer. It was meant to be at the Sheffield Crucible, but was pulled after it transpired the Crucible were also showing Miss Saigon. Lee said her play was "born of rage" against the way Asian Americans are represented in musical theatre — particularly, as the title hints, in Miss Saigon. New Earth Theatre, the company touring Lee's play, said the 1989 play was “a musical that perpetuates deeply held notions of Asian inferiority”.
The Edenfield Centre, a mental health hospital in Bury, will be subject to the highest level of NHS intervention after a BBC Panorama investigation uncovered a "toxic culture of humiliation". Staff were filmed using physical restraint inappropriately, swearing at and slapping patients. Since the investigation was broadcast in September, staff have been sacked or suspended and NHS England have appointed the Recovery Support Programme, a special support body designed to speed up improvements, to provide support. Speaking to BBC Radio Manchester yesterday, Paul Baker, the founder of mental health charity CHARM, said Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (who run the Edenfield Centre) need root-and branch reform. “Our mental health trust is, in itself, in intensive care. I mean, this is the situation that we’re in.”
Metrolink commuters faced big delays this week after a tram derailed near St Peter’s Square. Passengers had to use replacement buses for services cancelled as a result of the incident. The derailed tram — the second to jump the tracks in as many months — has since been moved and services are now operating as normal. Know more about what is causing these incidents? Please drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org ahead of our Monday briefing.
What is the human effect of the North's shattered rail network? The Guardian's northern editor, Helen Pidd, spoke to commuters whose lives have been plunged into misery by companies like Avanti West Coast, who have slashed services and put up prices — all due to, they say, a shortage of drivers. Pidd has heard from people who have lost jobs because of the service collapse; whose relationships have been put under intense strain; and who have spent thousands on tickets only to be delayed or diverted from their destination. In a powerful piece, she asks: "is that levelling up?"
Michael Gove visited the estate in Rochdale where two-year-old Awaab Ishak died as a result of living in a mouldy flat. He met a tenant who broke down in tears over how the black mould in her home (which Rochdale Boroughwide Housing have been alerted to but not fixed) may affect her unborn child. He said the government would introduce legislation to remove funding from social landlords who “are not in a fit state to spend that money effectively, because they can’t even look after the homes which are their first responsibility”.
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Here’s To You, Ian Henderson
By Hugh Morris
If my partner and I ever get a cat, we have whittled down the list of potential names to a shortlist of two. The first: Mersey, after the river. The second? Henderson, after the footballer.
Fans on Spotland’s terraces sing Ian Henderson’s name to the tune of the Simon & Garfunkel song “Mrs Robinson”. “Rochdale loves you more than you will know,” so the tune goes. But I imagine Henderson has more than an inkling of how appreciated he is around these parts.
When the veteran striker re-joined the club last summer (after a brief spell with widely despised, cash-rich Salford City), Rochdale’s social media team sprang into action, with a series of ‘epic’ montages and snaps of Henderson mid-thousand-yard stare, calling his return to Spotland ‘The Last Dance’.
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