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Too weak to stand: Inside the station where refugees choose their safe haven
Plus, a new documentary and the rest of your weekly briefing
Dear Millers — welcome to this week’s briefing. A two-part documentary starting on ITV tonight will explore the Manchester Arena bombing, and the “serious” questions raised about how Greater Manchester Police responded to the atrocity — details on that below. We also have a dispatch from a Miller who is helping fleeing Ukrainians in Poland, and our weatherman is forecasting a drier week after tomorrow, with a “decent Easter weekend.”
On Saturday we published a nice piece about housing cooperatives in Manchester. It included some colourful stories about gangster landlords and interesting ideas about the dream of intergenerational co-living. You can read that piece here.
Last week, members got a story about a woman using TikTok to share her journey out of homelessness, and a bumper Thursday edition that was packed with a photo essay and an analysis about GM’s bus ambitions.
This week, they’ll be getting a piece by former assistant editor of the Financial Times Brian Groom about his new book Northerners: A History and a report from inside the inquest of a 20-year-old who died after taking drugs at the Warehouse Project. If you’d like to read those pieces, hit that button below.
This morning we received a short dispatch from Mill member Matthew Kibble, who is volunteering at Warsaw's main railway station as a Russian/English translator for Ukrainian refugees making their way through the Polish capital. Matthew is a graduate student at the University of Manchester, researching a PhD in regenerative medicine. He sent this report:
I'm standing in Warsaw Central Station wearing a bright yellow vest pinned with Russian and English language badges. Around 40 other volunteers add Polish, Spanish, German, and Ukrainian translation services, all in aid of the thousands of refugees still arriving from the Polish-Ukrainian border. I have only been here a few days and am told the station is less busy than it used to be, however, the work is still non-stop. Everybody here needs something.
In the centre of the station, a kiosk offers free mobile SIM cards, whilst outside, the 'World Central Kitchen' feeds thousands of people in a large white tent. There is free medicine, free accommodation, and even free onward train and bus travel to anyone who can produce a Ukrainian passport with a recent border stamp. The city administration offers advice for those looking to stay in Warsaw, at least temporarily.
The Berlin and Prague trains are especially busy, with several hundred additional passengers, dogs and cats included. Somewhere, three Polish ladies give out pet food, dog muzzles and cat boxes, a thoughtful gesture that illustrates the degree to which ordinary Polish citizens have opened their hearts, homes, and wallets.
However, there is a strong understanding here that this crisis is far from over. Pressure on services is going to become worse, not better, as the fighting increases. For now, the station is coping, but many station staff show visible frustration. There is only so much they can do and only so much more that Poland can offer.
At one point this weekend, an elderly lady with a row of gold teeth asked me to find her a chair. She was too weak to stand, yet still refused to eat. The paramedics took her blood pressure and gave her chocolate, and she eventually ate some bean soup and took two bottles of water for the Berlin train. I carried her bags and the paramedics transferred her from a wheelchair to the carriage.
She never complained and she insisted I get married soon, whilst still young. Sadly, I never found out her name, nor where she was from, and I know I will never see her again. Hopefully, she will pass through the station in the other direction before long and Warsaw will again be happy to receive her. Like all here, we hope for peace.
🕵️♀️ We’re listening
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This week’s weather ⛅️
Our weather forecast comes from local weatherman Martin Miles, who says: “Our weather will be much milder this week with plenty of dry weather after Tuesday. The improved weather will last for the Easter weekend as well.”
Tuesday 🌧 Often wet with heavy showers merging into longer spells of rain. Feeling mild and quite muggy in any brief sunny spells. Max 16°c.
Wednesday 🌦 Mostly dry with hazy spells of sunshine. The sunshine may spark off the odd shower during the afternoon. Max 17°c
Thursday ⛅️ Mostly cloudy with dry conditions and light winds. Max 15°c.
Friday ⛅️ Mostly cloudy, dry and quite cool. Max 13°c.
Easter 🌤 High pressure should bring a decent Easter weekend. Sunny spells, mild temperatures and mostly dry conditions are likely. Temperatures will peak between 16-18°c with the highest temperatures coming on Sunday.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook. Daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
Home of the week
This lovely semi-detached 4-bedroom house in Heywood has lots of historic features and is set in a picturesque location. It’s on the market for £400,000.
Big story: When worlds collide
The first part of a new documentary aiming to piece together the events of the night of the Manchester Arena Bombing will air tonight.
Worlds Collide tells the stories of the families who went out to enjoy a pop concert, and that of the terrorists Salman and Hashem Abedi who targeted it.
The documentary will draw on new revelations and interviews with witnesses, journalists and experts.
It looks to reveal where opportunities were missed by emergency services, the police and MI5.
"Obvious" mistakes: David Anderson QC, a former reviewer of terrorism legislation, is interviewed in tonight's instalment. He says MI5 missed "pretty obvious" intelligence on Salman Abedi.
There was a meeting scheduled for the 31st of May to examine evidence on Abedi, nine days too late.
MI5 agreed with Anderson that Abedi should have been stopped when he returned to Manchester from Libya four days before the attack.
David Collins, Northern Editor at The Sunday Times, features in the programme and says it scrutinises how the emergency services responded on the night of the attack, particularly the police. He told us:
[There are] serious questions raised for GMP — not only in how they coordinated the response to the attack, but how they tried to PR manage in the aftermath how effective their response was. This will hopefully be exposed — in time — by the future findings of the public inquiry into the bomb, which are due at the end of July.
The inquiry is set to publish its second report, which will examine the actions of the emergency services, on the 22nd of July. The inquiry’s first report, published in June 2021, looked at where opportunities to stop the Abedi brothers were missed.
Tonight's episode of Worlds Collide will focus in on Martyn Hett, who grew up only 10 miles away from Salman Abedi, and will look back to when the family of the bombers first came to Manchester, and interweave their childhoods with those of their victims.
Worlds Collide will air tonight on ITV at 9pm. You can watch it online here.
Local news in brief
An odd weekend for Manchester's football teams. Each played Liverpool sides but much of the focus was off the pitch, or a few thousand feet above it. First, there was the bizarre scene of Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo slapping the phone out of the hands of an autistic 14-year-old boy, an incident now being investigated by Merseyside police. Then, we saw a banner reading "British to be a minority by 2066" — a nod to a far-right trope that white people are being demographically overtaken — flying over the Etihad during the first half of Manchester City's game against Liverpool. It’s thought to be part of the nationalist group Patriotic Alternative’s “Demographic Replacement Awareness Month of April” or, “DRAMA month,” though this hasn’t been confirmed. More here.
Grant Shapps, transport secretary, said the government will not "cut corners" on airport safety in response to Andy Burnham's request to speed up Manchester Airport's staff vetting process to help solve the staff shortage that continues to cause long delays for passengers. Manchester Airport Group said that half the candidates it offered jobs had been employed elsewhere by the time they had been vetted. More here.
Children of refugees and asylum seekers in Manchester are taking lessons in hotel car parks. Children are having "one or two hours" of ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) lessons a week while they wait for news on their asylum applications, the Guardian reports. Manchester charity Refugee and Asylum Participatory Action Research have called on Manchester City Council to address the problem. More here.
Hooters, the American restaurant chain known for its scantily clad serving staff, has applied for a licence to open an outlet on Salford Quays. It comes two months after the chain had a licence granted to open in Liverpool, despite the city's mayor saying the restaurant promoted a "misogynistic environment". More here.
"The pub scene is companionable, the dining scene lively, and the scenery is life-enhancing." That's Prestwich, according to The Sunday Times Best Places to Live in the UK 2022. It was included amongst six other North West neighbourhoods, and is one of just two Greater Manchester areas included in the list. Although if you picked up the print edition, it was listed as being in Cheshire, a mere 45 miles away. More here.
Rates of Covid-19 in Greater Manchester are falling. The region has a daily rate of 319.6 new cases per 100,000 people, down 43.9% in a week. The daily rate for England is 437.8 new cases per 100,000 people, that's down 41.9% in a week. Rates are highest in Trafford and lowest in Oldham. Today's Times reports that NHS chiefs are asking for new measures to stop the spread of the virus, warning that restrictions falling away has left A&E departments vulnerable to "a brutal Easter as bad as any winter." Last week, inpatient numbers with Covid-19 in the UK rose to their highest since February 2021.
Two women enjoy ice cream in the sun on Oxford Road. Photo Tim Jokl on Flickr.
Our favourite reads
Paid for by the State — Spiegel
As sanctions rain down on Russia, Manchester City's ownership by a repressive autocratic regime has once again been highlighted by the German magazine Der Spiegel, which reports that underage players were allegedly pressured to sign contracts with the club through monetary payments, and the majority of payments came from Sheikh Mansour, a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family. Over the past 10 years, the club’s transfer fees arrived at a total of €1.7 billion. “No other football club in the world spends as much money on players as Manchester City.”
What it’s like to report from Ukraine’s front line — Sunday Times
It’s croissant hour in London in this interview with Bolton-born Clive Myrie (known as “Uncle Clive” to fans), who meets the paper on a brief return from anchoring the BBC’s coverage in Ukraine. “The joke at the BBC goes that Myrie has become an overnight success after 30-plus years of grafting. After Bolton Sixth Form College and studying law at Sussex University, he narrowly dodged becoming a barrister by joining the BBC as a trainee local radio reporter in 1987.”
The zine documenting fox hunt sabotage in Northern England — The Face Magazine
We’re back out in the mud and running across fields in this piece, which looks at Manchester Hunt Saboteurs. “One of the most pertinent images in the zine shows a member of Manchester Hunt Sabs who was allegedly “beaten up and left for dead in the woods” by badger baiters, another illegal blood sport, which Alec infers has links to the wider fox hunting community.”
‘It’s a scandal in plain sight’ — The Guardian
“Bleary eyed and sleep deprived, I left home later that morning and began the three-hour commute from my constituency in Bolton to my office in the House of Commons.” Yasmin Qureshi, MP for Bolton South East shares her experiences of being a full-time carer for her mother and brother and reports that 72% of carers have not had a break since the pandemic began.
Our to do list
🎶 Our friends Manchester Baroque will be performing Bach’s St John Passion in aid of the UK-Med Ukraine Appeal this Friday at 7.30pm at Manchester Cathedral. Tickets start at £10. Book here.
📚 Brian Groom's book Northerners: A History is out on Thursday 14th April. Brian is a former assistant editor at the Financial Times, and this comprehensive book celebrates the expansive history of the North of England. Available to pre-order here.
📺 ITV is showing two-part documentary Worlds Collide: The Manchester Bombing this evening and tomorrow. Tonight’s episode will tell the story of Martyn Hett. Starts 9pm.
🖼 Portico Library has a new exhibition called In The Margins, which challenges the traditionally “male, stale, and pale” reputation of historic libraries. Running until 27th June. Info here.
🕵️♂️ On Wednesday, the John Rylands Library is hosting a fascinating workshop about forgeries and will be exploring the letters of early Christian writer Ignatius of Antioch. Book here.
🍸 On Friday, Bar Pop on Canal Street is holding an alcohol-free event, “Spill the Tea.” You’ll get to sample delicious mocktails and have a boogie. Starts 7.30pm. Book here.
Letters to the editor
This kind of thing only seems to be developed in big cities though where services and transport issues link up...supposedly (‘Should we be living together again?’). Anne, West Midlands
The plight of young workers today is far removed from when I was entering the labour market during the early to mid-1970s (‘Temping forever: meet Greater Manchester’s precarious workers’). Most jobs then were permanent, and wages were much higher in relation to the cost of living than they are now. Elaine, Bury
I love this idea (‘Should we be living together again?’). I hope we hear more and more about this kind of movement. It's such a sustainable and social way of living. Debbie, Glossop