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‘They can’t hide behind being MI5’
Arena victims’ families look to sue the security services. Plus: Is Manchester still a 24-hour city?
Dear Millers — welcome to your weekly briefing. Today, we take a look at the aftermath of the Manchester Arena Inquiry’s final report, with victims’ families looking to take rare legal action against MI5 after it was found they missed a “significant opportunity” to prevent the catastrophe.
But before that, we have our usual roundup of the headlines, including the Supreme Court’s first day sitting in Manchester, rail services getting cancelled across the North just as fares increase, and the search for a missing man in Worsley.
We hope you enjoyed Jonathan Allsopp’s wonderful piece from the weekend about ‘Course You Can Malcolm, FC United of Manchester’s “club night in the afternoon”:
“The idea was that a local band or solo artist — typically unsigned by a record label — or comedian, poet or other act would perform for free. An opportunity would be presented: they would get to perform in front of a very different audience, and at a different time of day, from what they were used to. Less playing over a soundtrack of people shrieking over their cocktails, more rapt daytime attention.”
Another piece we enjoyed from the weekend was in the Guardian’s editorial pages, looking at the decline of local journalism. The paper argues that local newspapers are “less and less likely to be owned by proprietors with a stake in their communities, and more and more by big conglomerates prioritising the extraction of cash.” Three big companies — Newsquest, National World and MEN owners Reach — own nearly 70% of local newspaper circulation. This leaves around 400 independents, including the one you’re reading:
“Some hope can be found in newer independents such as the Bristol Cable, a cooperative, Manchester’s the Mill and sister titles the Post (Liverpool) and the Tribune (Sheffield). Run on a shoestring, they provide a valuable service, but to relatively niche audiences.”
Thank Jove for “relatively niche audiences”. And, thanks to our members, who pay to support our work and allow us to put more time into our reporting so it can continue to be the best in Greater Manchester. If you’re a free subscriber and want to help us continue to grow, please consider taking out a subscription by hitting the button below. That was not an intentional rhyme. We hope to reach 2,000 paying members this month, which would be a huge milestone and allow us to produce even better work and expand our newsroom. But now, onwards with today’s newsletter.
🌨️ This week’s weather
Our forecast is from local weatherman Martin Miles, who says this week will be a cold one. Wrap up warm on Thursday — we could see snow.
Monday 🌦 Chilly with rain then bright spells & showers. Max 6C.
Tuesday ☀️ Mostly dry and predominantly sunny, but feeling cold out of direct sunlight. Exceptionally cold overnight with a hard freeze. Max 4C.
Wednesday 🌤️ A freezing start, then another cold and often sunny day with a low chance of a snow shower. Max 3C.
Thursday 🌨️ Cold, cloudy & breezy with periods of snow. Max 3C.
Friday 🌧️ Cold with rain, sleet and hill snow. Slowly turning milder. Max 7C.
Weekend 🌨️ Chilly & unsettled with spells of rain. Milder with temperatures in high single figures.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook — daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
The big story: ‘They can’t hide behind being MI5’
Top line: Over the weekend, the Sunday Times reported that the family of eight-year-old Saffie Roussos — the youngest victim of the Manchester Arena Bombing — plan to sue MI5. Speaking to Times Radio, Andrew Roussos, Saffie’s dad, said: “MI5 have, for me, most of the blame.”
Context: The Arena Inquiry’s third and final report, published last Thursday, found MI5 missed a “significant opportunity” to prevent Salman Abedi, the 22-year-old bomber, from detonating the device he had concealed in his backpack on the 22nd of May 2017.
A “communication breakdown” between MI5 and counter terrorism police meant that two key pieces of intelligence were not shared.
Had intelligence been acted on, said the report, Abedi may have been tracked to the car where he was storing the device and “the attack might have been prevented.”
Saffie: The inquiry’s second report, published last November, found that Roussos might have survived the attack with quicker medical intervention. The second report found that the emergency response to the attack was chaotic. You can read our five key moments from that report here.
Legal action: Solicitors at Broudie Jackson Canter, representing the Roussos family, are looking at a possible High Court claim against the security services. “Legal sources say there may be a claim under article 2 of the Human Rights Act, which protects the right to life”, tweeted the Sunday Times’ Northern Editor, David Collins.
The Sunday Times also spoke to Charlotte Hodgson, the mother of 15-year-old Olivia Campbell-Hardy, who died in the attack. Hodgson would join a class action lawsuit against the security services if one went ahead. “They can’t hide behind being MI5.”
MI5’s inherent secrecy has come under fire in the days after the report’s publication. Richard Norton-Taylor, the Guardian’s ex security editor, wrote about how the Arena bombing isn’t the first time the security service has been known to “jealously guard its secrets, with potentially dangerous consequences”, in a letter to the paper.
In the Times’ editorial pages last Thursday, the paper made the point that for MI5, “success is thankless”. While it may have foiled dozens of “late stage” terrorist plots, its secrecy means those go unnoticed, while failures attract a much sharper spotlight. The service’s director general Ken McCallum has said over 100 improvements have been made since the attack, and in a rare statement following the publication of the final report, said: “To all those whose lives were forever changed on that awful night: I am so sorry that MI5 did not prevent the attack at the Manchester Arena.”
Bottom line: As the families of victims have said before, apologies “mean nothing”. “[In] 2017 we were at the highest alert and everybody was warned of an attack in this country,” says Andrew Roussos. “And MI5 had 22 pieces of information about Salman Abedi. So if they would have learnt lessons, they wouldn't have allowed Abedi to walk into that arena.”
Home of the week
This Urban Splash apartment in Altrincham has three bedrooms, a south-facing roof terrace, and communal gardens that sit beside Bridgewater Canal. It’s on the market for £400,000.
Your Mill briefing
The Supreme Court will sit in Manchester today. It’s the first time the court has sat outside a capital city — its permanent home is London, and it has also sat in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. The highest court in the land wants to be as accessible as possible, inviting members of the public and press alike to this week’s hearings. So, for those who have been waiting to watch United Utilities and Manchester Ship Canal Company duke it out over the former discharging foul water into the latter’s canal, now you can! If you’d rather just receive an enlightening long read on the court coming to Manchester by former MP Harold Elletson, you should subscribe to The Mill by hitting the button below, because we’re publishing just that tomorrow.
Train cancellations in the North of England continue to bring misery to thousands of commuters and hamper the region’s productivity and growth, politicians say. In the four weeks between 8 January and 4 February, TransPennine Express — which operates services between Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and York — cancelled 1,781 services, almost a quarter of all its trains. Oh, and by the way, today is the day rail fares go up across England and Wales by 5.9%. “On the day rail fares go up,” says Andy Burnham, “services are cancelled across the North. People deserve so much better than this.”
Human remains have been found by police searching for Peter Baglin, a grandfather who has been missing for almost ten weeks. Baglin was last seen at a garage near Worsley in Salford. He left his phone, hat and headphones beside Bridgewater Canal, and the remains have been found nearby. Around the time this newsletter was sent out, GMP confirmed that the remains found belonged to Baglin. His wife, Michelle, said: “Today is a day we wished would never come and our family is absolutely devastated at the news of Pete’s passing.”
Our favourite reads
“Manchester is to English clubbers what Rome is to Catholics,” writes Snake Denton, who headed to Manchester to investigate the phenomenon of the 24-hour city. To do this, he endured a student house party in Fallowfield, a karaoke bar playing 90s classics and an early morning at the White Hotel.
Will Young’s long, wry goodbye is a heartbreaker — The Telegraph
Will Young recently returned to the stage to play Willem in Song From Far Away, a one-man play about a Dutch banker living in New York whose brother dies suddenly. How does he fare in this role? Dominic Cavendish, the Telegraph’s theatre critic, calls it a “brave performance”, adding that Young’s own personal loss (his twin brother took his own life in 2020) gives the play’s monologues an “added emotional heft”. “Here's no interloping ‘pop star’, just an ordinary soul, plaintive with loss.” It’s showing at HOME for one more week — book here.
Manchester Unspun — the story of the city’s resurrection — The Financial Times
Manchester Unspun begins with Andy Spinoza asserting that without the Haçienda, there would be no “new Manchester”. Is this an overstatement? Later in the book, Spinoza says it might be. Jonathan Derbyshire writes that Spinoza tells a “vivid story” of a city in “apparently inexorable decline”, tracing the roots of Manchester’s regeneration back to business, politics and music.
After a breakdown, Steve Brown found poetry — Salt Magazine
Last summer, we published a long read by Dani Cole about Steve Brown, his history of mental illness and his personal experiences of homelessness. In this optimistic feature for Salt Magazine, Dani follows up with Steve to show us how he has found meaning despite the challenges in his life. “Not all his poems dwell on the darker chapters of his life,” she writes. “Interspersed are ones about love, spirituality and hope.”
Our to do list
📚 At Manchester Central Library, prizewinning author Sebastian Barry will be discussing his new novel, Old God’s Time as part of Manchester Literature Festival’s spring programme. In the book, a retired policeman moves to a tiny village overlooking the Irish Sea and is drawn back into a decades-old case when two former colleagues turn up at his door. Tickets are £8.
🎸 There’s a free gig from NONUNONU at Northern Quarter jazz club Matt & Phred’s this week. Heavily influenced by how jazz and Indian classical music can intersect, expect a rich variety of genres and sounds. It starts at 9pm.
🛣️ Jen Orpin, a renowned artist known for her oil paintings of motorways, rendered in miniature, is exhibiting a new body of work at Saul Hay Gallery in Castlefield this week. Visit for free.
👭 To mark International Women’s Day, a collective of trade unions, feminist organisers and women’s rights campaigners will be gathering to raise the alarm about gendered violence, with a particular focus on the long list of Greater Manchester Police officers currently under investigation for sexual misconduct offences. It starts at 5.30pm, 61-69 Oxford Road, and everyone is welcome.
🗣️ Feel Good Club, which has an admirably inclusive ethos to curating events all year-round, is hosting an evening of spoken word storytelling to raise money for the Pankhurst Trust, who offer support to women suffering domestic abuse. Reserve a place here.
🎵 Coby Sey, vocalist, producer, regular DJ on NTS Radio, is performing at SOUP. On stage, his compositions are “dreamlike” with a touch of “uneasy dancefloor energy”, spanning genres from hip-hop to drone to jazz. Tickets are £13.
🍷 In Kerb, the tiny natural wine bar in Ancoats, there are free wine tasting sessions each Thursday which offer a range of wines from unusual winemakers and regions. Glasses are always more than half-filled, and they have a great music selection too. More here.
🎭 Beginning, described as an intimate and funny play about finding love in the aftermath of a raucous house party, is showing at the Royal Exchange for one more week. Tickets here.
🖼️ A visual art exhibition from Fleur Yearsley, who explores playfulness and memory through surreal, pop-art inspired paintings, is showing at Edge Theatre and Gallery in Chorlton. It’s free to visit.
For an insider’s guide on where to be and what to see on a wintery Manchester weekend — which we send out every Thursday — hit the button below to join us as a member.