‘There’s a big piece of the jigsaw that seems missing’
What's behind repeated attacks on a business in the Gay Village? Plus: Manchester Museum grapples with ‘the violence that our collections contain’
Good morning Millers, today we have a double header. First up, Jack has been chatting — or trying to chat — to people in the Gay Village about the spate of attacks at Clone Zone, an LGBTQ+ adult shop. Five times in the last six months, two men have pulled up outside the shop on a dirt bike, getting off to swing crowbars and hammers at the property. Are we any closer to knowing why?
If that story doesn’t slake your insatiable thirst for local journalism this Friday morning, we’ve also got an interesting interview Joshi did this week with Georgina Young, Manchester Museum’s head of exhibitions. They spoke about the 174 cultural items returned by the museum this month to the Anindilyakwa community of Australia’s Northern Territory and how the museum thinks about which objects in its massive collection it should return to where they came from. Interestingly, Young makes the point that the museum contains items that were much more violently and illegally procured than these 174 objects were, and she tell us: “none of these decisions are taken lightly. None of them are taken because of anyone's personal politics.”
As always, this is a members-only edition, although we generously allow Millers to read a few bits at the top so that you can stay informed and consider jumping on the membership bandwagon, a vehicle that is gaining momentum and speed like few other bandwagons ever have. To extend the wagon metaphor, you could say The Mill’s members are circling the wagons in order to defend high-quality journalism in Greater Manchester, which we hugely appreciate.
Very excitingly, we are about to reach a big milestone (staging post?) on our journey: 2,500 paying Millers. After a phenomenal few weeks of growth, we are now on 2,493, meaning that if you’re not a member already, you can grab that coveted prize of being our 2,500th member by hitting that button below.
On Wednesday, we published a bravura piece of analysis from our data and policy reporter Daniel Timms and it was all about buses. Andy Burnham’s much-heralded Bee Network launches next weekend, when some parts of Greater Manchester will start being served by buses that are overseen by Burnham’s team rather than private companies. “It’s a massive moment for Greater Manchester and for Burnham personally, for whom this is something of a litmus test,” the piece says. “Can a mayor — and a devolved administration — who are very good at messaging and public relations show that they are also good at running things?” Daniel also digs into the numbers behind the plans and speaks to insiders about the financial risk the mayor is taking. That’s a members-only piece, but it’s well worth joining for (as is John Tucker’s monthly Theatre Diary, filling up your calendar with shows you need to see, which is in the same edition).
This week, Joshi went on Times Radio to talk about our recent fundraise and our plans in the months ahead. And we just shared a great quote from leading economist Dame Diane Coyle, one of our longest-running members and new investors, about why she has backed The Mill. “High quality, deep local reporting is the bedrock of a democratic society, and an essential antidote to the maelstrom of misinformation online,” she rightly says. Please do share that tweet to spread the word.
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Coming up tomorrow: Someone came into our office this week to tell us about someone they love. They told us they were going through a horrendous time and asked if we would speak with them and hear about their situation. We have, and you’ll hear about it tomorrow — a story of bad housing and a pregnant woman at her wit’s end.
From today’s sponsor: If you’re a lover of independent culture, art, music, and creativity, check out what’s happening in your area on Manchester Independents — a free online platform showcasing the best new independent work. Here's a taste of what you can expect in September:
Toilet Paper Diaries Sunday 24 September, 4pm: A hilarious one-person theatre performance by Porcelain Delaney, on endometriosis and medical gaslighting.
Ward 76, Friday 29 September, 3pm: Sam and Shirley Jamil take you down to a paediatric post-operation ward during a power outage, on a journey of fears, friendships and resilience.
Four Dholis and a Divorce, Friday 29 September, 7pm: Join a gathering of women for a dholki night full of folk songs, drums and clapping, hosted by Hafsah Aneela Bashir.
Your Mill briefing
The government is considering scrapping the second phase of HS2, it’s being reported. The Independent has seen cost estimates that show £2.3bn has already been spent on the line between Birmingham and Manchester, but a further £34bn could be saved if they call off the northern phase. The ambitions of HS2 have already been significantly scaled back, but this would be the most dramatic reversal of plans that were supposed to connect large parts of the country via high-speed lines. Reacting to the news, Andy Burnham tweeted: “It’s coming up 10 years since Osborne’s “Northern Powerhouse” speech and the Tories are set to scrap the last of his rail pledges. The result? The southern half of England gets a modern rail system and the North left with Victorian infrastructure. Levelling up? My a**e.”
The marketing company Social Chain — co-founded by University of Manchester dropout and Dragon’s Den star Steven Bartlett — has laid off more than a quarter of staff. Not that that’s anything to do with Bartlett, who left the company in 2019, although that didn’t stop him trying to take credit for the £600m valuation it achieved afterwards. Social Chain was recently flogged by the company that had it after Bartlett, and its new owner, Brave Bison, has cut headcount by 28% across Manchester, London and New York offices.
The Independent Office of Police Conduct has launched its investigation into how Greater Manchester Police handled the case of Andrew Malkinson. Malkinson was arrested by GMP and imprisoned for 17 years on two counts of rape, crimes that DNA evidence later showed he didn’t commit. GMP have already been found to have destroyed evidence in relation to Malkinson’s case. The IOPC investigation means there are now five official inquiries into what happened to Malkinson.
The council is under fire for chopping down trees in the city centre. “Very frustrating to see mature trees being felled next to New Islington Marina,” tweeted Lib Dem councillor Alan Good. “Initial info from Council is that it was supposed to be a pruning job.” One of Good’s followers replied: “That’s gone a lot further than a pruning!”.
‘There’s a big piece of the jigsaw that seems missing’
By Jack Dulhanty
The only thing that seems to change about the attacks on Clone Zone — an LGBTQ+ adult shop in the Gay Village — is the direction the perpetrators arrive from. Everything else: the unmarked dirt bike, the methods of vandalism and, obviously, the target, remain the same.
On Sunday afternoon, the shop was attacked for the fifth time in six months. CCTV shows the dirt bike carrying two men coming to a stop outside. One man slides off the back and gets into the doorway, swinging a hammer at the open door and smashing a security scanner. Then they get back on the bike and go.
This has been the modus operandi of the previous four attacks. The first few times, they smashed windows, but nowadays the shop just keeps the steel shutters down. “It’s a shocking symbol of things not being dealt with,” says Jeremy Hoad, chair of Friends of Manchester’s Gay Village.
He remembers how one of the indicators of the Gay Village opening up and becoming more accepted was when a business could open with plate glass windows. “That was seen as unusual, it signified progress. This signifies a big backward step: a business that had normal windows, now sealing them over with steel.”
The shop first opened on Sackville Street in 1982 selling fetish gear, sex toys and poppers. It is by no means the most conspicuous business in the Gay Village — it actually sits behind Canal Street, opposite a takeaway and next to an off-license. It wouldn’t be out of place anywhere else in the city.
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