Discover more from The Mill
The ship caught in a social media storm
Plus: A quirky cottage in Oldham and the rebirth of Northern Soul
Dear Millers — we hope you had a great weekend. A very warm welcome to our 20 new members who joined yesterday after reading our Sunday appeal. The theme of that post was the grim fate of many independent media companies and journalism jobs recently, and that trend got even worse over the weekend when it was announced that Big Issue North is closing down.
The magazine — which has produced excellent coverage for more than 30 years — says it could no longer sustain itself after sales declined since the pandemic. Everyone at The Mill sends our best wishes to the team at Big Issue North, including its brilliant editor Kevin Gopal, a longtime Mill member and a mentor to many northern journalists over the years. Scroll down for more on this story.
This year’s FA Cup final will be a Manchester derby for the first time ever after the Reds overcame Brighton on penalties yesterday. But should both teams walk out at Wembley with a ship on their badges? A recent Guardian article about the three-masted ship — which derives from Manchester’s own civic crest — has provoked a lively debate, which we try to unpick below.
Before that: in our latest free podcast, Mollie and Joshi explore the murky world of Oldham politics and chat about a visit to an iconic Irish pub in Levenshulme which closed its doors last week for the final time. Listen here.
Member count: We now have 2,093 members and 34,033 Millers on our regular mailing list. If you’re one of our members, thank you for making everything we do possible. And if you’ve been on our free list for a while and you’d like to support our work, receive eight extra editions from us each month and be invited to our events, please just hit that button below and then drop us an email to introduce yourself.
If you want to tell us about a story or give us some information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always happy to speak to people off the record in the first instance, and we will treat your information with confidence and sensitivity. Here are a few things we particularly need help with at the moment.
Hospitality: We’d like to speak to anyone in the hospitality industry who has experienced issues with not being paid, for a feature running this weekend. Please email email@example.com in the next couple of days.
CSE: We’re working on a piece about child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester and we’re hoping to speak to social workers and other professionals in this area. Any insights would be greatly appreciated — please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elections: Ahead of next week’s local elections, we’re assembling a little team of sources who can keep us updated from the many counts across Greater Manchester. We’re mostly looking for a few live insights into what is happening and a few paragraphs of detail and colour for our post-elections piece. If you can help, please email email@example.com.
🌤️ This week’s weather
This week’s forecast comes from our local weatherman Martin Miles, who says April will end on a chillier note, although temperatures will start rising soon. Gardeners beware: tonight will be cold and frosty.
Tuesday 🌤️ Dry and sunny to start with light winds. Occasional sunny intervals during the afternoon as cloud cover increases. Max 12C.
Wednesday ⛅️ Largely cloudy with an increasing chance of showers. Max 11C.
Thursday 🌧️ Wet with spells of light to moderate rain. Feeling chilly. Max 10C.
Friday 🌧️ Cloudy with patchy light rain and drizzle. Milder. Max 13C.
Weekend 🌦 Much milder but remaining mixed.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook — daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
The big story: The ship caught in a social media storm
Top line: Last Wednesday, the Guardian published an article with the headline: “Abandon ship: does this symbol of slavery shame Manchester and its football clubs?” The piece questioned whether the three-masted ship on Manchester’s coat of arms and on the badges of its two main football teams should be dropped because of its links to the slave trade.
Context: The piece by the paper’s star writer Simon Hattenstone follows the Guardian’s broader reckoning with its relationship with the slave trade — after some of its founders turned out to have directly benefitted from slavery and slave-produced goods.
The case: Hattenstone says that while the ship symbolises Manchester’s trade generally rather than the slave trade in particular, “that trade was linked umbilically to enslaved labour”. He suggests the worker bee would be a more fitting alternative — see our recent piece on the origins of the bee.
Others have argued the ship ought to stay, and that its links to slavery are being overstated. The Sun ran a front page entitled “Ship hits the fan” and when we asked our followers what they thought of dropping the symbol, there wasn’t much support.
Pushback: Local historian Jonathan Schofield, who Hattenstone interviewed for the original piece, wrote a robust response saying the Guardian is “plain wrong”. Hattenstone, he writes, “was a journalist who wanted to claim some guilt with a shock-horror-wham-bam idea and he wasn’t going to let the facts get in the way of the headline.”
But how important are symbols? It is a matter of perspective and interpretation. The Guardian received an email from a reader from the Jamaican diaspora that said they have been campaigning to remove the “slave ships” on the crests. Hattenstone writes:
The reader said that while “our ancestors are screaming for justice” they are “mocked by the very tools (ships) of the trade that decimated the African population”.
UAE connection: In a letter to the paper, Kathryn Fletcher, from Didsbury, pointed out that while reckoning with its links to slavery is important and welcome, Manchester might also want to consider its growing connections to the United Arab Emirates, where human rights abuses continue to be rife.
Bottom line: The Guardian got quotes from Andy Burnham, deputy council leader Luthfur Rahman, MP Graham Stringer and poet Lemn Sissay for their article. But at a time when Manchester is struggling with massive rent increases, stretched asylum seeker support and widespread homelessness, the ship debate feels rather remote from the most pressing issues in the city. Please do tell us what you think in the comments.
Home of the week
This three-bedroom cottage is Grade II listed, with quirky features like a Victorian servants’ bell, and it’s a short walk from Shaw town centre and the nearby Metrolink. It’s on the market for £314,950.
Your Mill briefing
Some sad news: Big Issue North is closing down after its 8 May edition. The northern branch of The Big Issue has been producing its own independent magazine, sold by those experiencing homelessness in the region, since 1993, but is no longer financially viable. Vendors in the North will sell the national magazine and will continue to be supported. “Sadly, since the pandemic, sales of Big Issue North have declined to the point where producing it is no longer financially viable,” it said in a statement. “We have explored a number of alternatives, but ultimately, ceasing production and offering the national Big Issue magazine to vendors in the North is the route that gives the best possible opportunity for the most people to earn an income and change their lives.”
New climate data from the University of Reading shows us how much hotter Manchester has been getting since 1850. The graph below shows how much of Manchester’s warming clusters in the last 25 years. Shades of blue indicate cooler-than-average years, red ones warmer-than-average. Ed Hawkins, who developed the graph, told the MEN: "Our key observation is that regardless of all these factors, the trend remains the same – most of the more recent years have been a lot warmer than most of the years a century ago."
Andy Burnham met the Pope last week to discuss climate change and reiterate the city region’s commitment to decarbonising and increasing biodiversity. Burnham also gave the Argentine Pope Francis a signed Manchester United shirt adorned with the name of Argentina World Cup winner and Old Trafford fan favourite Lisandro Martinez. Go deeper: Read our members-only analysis: “How seriously is Greater Manchester taking its 2038 climate pledge?”
Firefighter cancer monitoring is being launched in Greater Manchester this week. It is part of research looking to identify links between occupational cancers and exposure to toxic fire chemicals. Previous research has shown that instances of cancer amongst UK firefighters aged 35-39 are up to 323% higher than the general population the same age. 100 firefighters from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue will provide samples to be analysed for biomarkers of cancer.
ICYMI: Last week, Bloomberg reported that Manchester is now the best place to find a job in England. That doesn’t mean it’s the city with the most jobs, that’s still London. But it means the city has the largest number of jobs per local worker. Manchester bucks the trend compared to similar cities in the North where employment prospects aren’t so good, partly thanks to our long-term devolved status, says Bloomberg. “Manchester is one of the oldest devolved areas in England, and there are signs that’s really beginning to pay off.”
Our favourite reads
My Manchesters — Big Issue North
After 30 years, Big Issue North is ceasing production. We enjoyed revisiting this personal essay by the writer Nicholas Royle about returning to Manchester after two decades away, having left the city in the 1980s just before the Northern Quarter was invented and before the Hacienda craze. "It’s possible that Manchester has changed more in the last 20 years than it did in the two decades between my leaving it and returning. It was, is, and, I suspect, always will be, an exciting and inspiring place to live."
We loved this optimistic story of culture and community, which describes the tradition of northern clubs playing Black American soul records as “thriving” despite new economic pressures on the nightlife industry. “In the initial days of northern soul, some attendees forged an imagined link between their struggles of existing in impoverished pockets of post-industrial Britain to the Black musicians facing hostility in 60s America… It’s the golden thread that ties each generation of disenfranchised youth together, pondering the same anxieties and landing on the same solution of dancing away the pain.”
A lost world captured on film — The Jewish Chronicle
In May 2019, an extreme heatwave hit Israel and Manchester-born man Shloimy Alman and his wife Linda were forced to evacuate. In the rush to leave, Alman grabbed passports, family photo albums and an unopened box of colour slides taken when he lived in London’s old Jewish East End in the 1970s. The photos featured in this long read capture “kosher poulterers in Hessel Street, stalls with chickens plucked and hanging from a barrow”, all places and perspectives “lost to the passage of time”.
Our to do list
🎨 There’s a new exhibition at HOME from the artist Parham Ghalamdar, who is from Tehran and uses an AI tool to create “social scenes or situations that due to the artist’s political beliefs or sexuality would be impossible in his homeland”.
🗣️ The writer and activist Bernadette Hyland will be giving an online talk about the Manchester trade unionist Mary Qualie, who dedicated her life to the cause of women joining trade unions, which was often met with “jeers, boos, rotten apples, and threats of violence.” It starts at 2pm, and you can join via this link.
🎭 Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, based on the prizewinning novel about an eccentric literary translator living on the Czech border who notices her animals acting strangely, is showing at the Lowry for one week only. Tickets here. It’s one of the shows recommended in our monthly Theatre Diary, which is back in tomorrow’s members-only edition.
🌱 The Portico Library is hosting the launch of North Country, a collection of the North’s best nature writing which features The Mill’s first staff writer Dani Cole's essay about Borsdane Wood. Tickets are just £5.
📚 David Scott, author of Mancunians, a tribute to those who didn’t fit the Manchester typecast — the musicians of colour, the football fans alienated by rampant commercialism, the northerners who didn’t wear parkas — will be speaking at Waterstones in Deansgate from 7pm.
🎙️ There’s an exhibition at the Science and Industry Museum celebrating 100 years of the BBC, with a display that celebrates Manchester as a centre of broadcasting innovation. Visit here.
For an insider’s guide on where to be and what to see this weekend — which we send out every Thursday — hit the button below to join us as a member.