What on earth is going on at Manchester Airport?
Plus: A nurse on her first week in Ukraine, and the rest of our Monday briefing
Dear Millers — in today’s briefing we look at the chaos at Manchester Airport, and hear from a paediatric nurse who has just been sent to Ukraine by the Stockport-based charity UK-Med. Our weather forecast is predicting a week of showers and a warning to gardeners about a risk of overnight frost from Thursday onwards. And we have a gorgeous Home of the Week in Swinton, which seems to have some kind of secret garden out the back…
On Saturday we published a moving piece by Jack about the Salford families shopping in hard times. One reader commented, “Thank you so much for making ‘our’ voice heard.” You can read that piece here. If you have insights into the cost of living crisis and how it is playing out across Greater Manchester, please get in touch: email@example.com.
The barriers to growth for The Mill and its sister titles are trying to persuade the 17k free readers to take up a paid subscription, given that just 8 per cent of Britons pay for news. That much is harder when the local news has been free online for readers for so long due to the dominance of the digital ad model. "We are asking people not just to pay for local news, but re-evaluate the value of local journalism.”
A call from a Ukrainian field hospital
Becky Platt has been a paediatric nurse for over 25 years. She joined UK-Med, a Stockport-based frontline medical charity, in 2017. Her first deployment was to the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh, responding to a diphtheria outbreak. After that it was Samoa, for an outbreak of measles, and now it’s Ukraine — for an outbreak of war.
Her team in Drohobych, a town near Lviv, are delivering primary care to the thousands of displaced Ukrainians escaping the east of the country. Much of what Becky and her team are seeing is no different to what she would expect at home: managing long-term conditions like diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, but all in a context of intense psychological distress.
She is now two weeks into her six-week deployment, buoyed by the support of her team, all of whom share the burdens of the things they see and the stories they hear — the morning we spoke, Becky had met a man who had seen his father shot dead as he tried to save his wife.
With much of her background in paediatric emergency medicine, Becky is spending most of her time with young people escaping the conflict: “Often, these are young people with older siblings or mums, but usually their dads will be far away and often back in eastern Ukraine, and clearly that is a level of ongoing stress and anxiety for the whole family.”
You can donate to UK-Med’s Ukraine Appeal here.
This week’s weather 🌦
Our weather forecast comes from local weatherman Martin Miles, who says: “An unsettled week lies ahead, with temperatures still chilly for the time of year, especially later in the week. Gardeners beware, there will be a risk of overnight frost from Thursday onwards.”
Tuesday 🌧 Mild and cloudy with spells of rain, which will be heavy at times. Breezy. Max 11°c.
Wednesday 🌦 Breezy with sunshine & heavy blustery showers. Windy. Max 10°c.
Thursday 🌦 Bright spells and scattered blustery showers. Chilly. Max 9°c.
Friday 🌦 Mostly cloudy with occasional showers, wintry to the hills. Max 9°c.
Weekend 🌦 Chilly and changeable on Saturday, potentially warmer from Sunday.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook. Daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
🕵️♀️ Our eyes and ears
We rely a lot on our readers sending us tips about things they have heard about and sharing their expertise with us during our reporting process. Building The Mill from the ground up in less than two years has very much been a team effort among thousands of Millers. If you want to tell us about a story or pass on some information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or 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. You can also visit us in our office on St Ann’s Square, if you would prefer to speak in person.
Home of the week
This 4-bedroom semi-detached house in Swinton is lovely and spacious, with plenty of period features. It’s on the market for £500,000.
Big story: What on earth is going on at Manchester Airport?
A video of Manchester Airport’s security gate, shared last Friday, showed throngs of passengers piling belongings in plastic trays while a single staff member tried to help. The camera spun to show people carrying small children and leaning against belongings, tired after waiting for hours to be let through. One airport worker described the airport as “absolute carnage,” another said “we just can’t handle the workload right now.”
The bad news: For over a month, Manchester Airport has watched its reputation implode as it failed to get people to their flights on time. Huge delays have become the norm and bosses expect them to continue over Easter and into the summer.
That’s because of staff shortages. Like many businesses that rely on low paid and casual workers, the airport has not seen furloughed staff return after government support came to an end. The business — which is owned by the Australian firm IFM Investors and the ten councils of Greater Manchester — made a large number of staff, at one point nearly 500 in a single swoop, redundant and cut wages by 10 percent during the pandemic.
The shortage is coinciding with a spike in demand. The easing of Covid restrictions —passengers no longer needing to test before travelling, quarantine hotels and passenger locator forms now mostly a memory — has made travel more accessible, and the airport was caught off-guard.
Manchester councillor Pat Karney, who met with airport bosses yesterday, said the crisis was down to management failures:
They should have seen all this (coming). They should have known the recovery was going to be very quick.
How big was the increase? 28-fold, according to Karney. The councillor said the number of people passing through the airport has increased from 70,000 in February 2021 to two million in February 2022.
Crisis talks: Here’s a round up of Karney’s meeting with Manchester Airport Group:
Recruitment problems are the key driver, Karney said it will take “attractive wages and conditions” to reverse this.
Bags being rejected from security, often for containing hand sanitiser, are also causing delays.
Airport bosses are to publish a six point plan outlining how they intend to return to normal. Karney has called for more communication with passengers.
Meanwhile, passengers continue to queue for hours in overheated, confined spaces, often missing flights. This morning, there are more queues at terminals one and two building around the security gates. Some passengers have taken to Twitter to vow never to use the airport again. To make matters worse, a baggage-handler has resigned and given an interview to the MEN. Ray Ellis, who has worked at the airport since 1994, said: “to say the lunatics are running the asylum is an understatement,” and that the problem would be better solved by reducing the number of flights.
Karen Smart, the airport’s managing director, said hundreds of candidates were being interviewed for airport jobs every week, but training new starters has also stopped the airport keeping up with demand. The airport’s website currently shows vacancies across the airport, but has put particular emphasis on seasonal and security roles.
Local news in brief
Stop and search powers have now been granted to GMP by Andy Burnham. The mayor tried to assure campaigners at a violence reduction meeting last Friday that the powers wouldn’t be used in a discriminatory way. More here. Go deeper, and read our interview with Damian Dallimore, the director of Greater Manchester’s violence reduction unit.
A Wythenshawe house explosion that killed a 91-year-old man over the weekend was not caused by a gas main, an investigation has found. GMP has said there was nothing to suggest criminality and it was a “self-contained incident.” More here.
The new CEO of Contact Theatre, a leading arts venue, will be the first woman, the first Mancunian and the youngest person to hold the position. Keisha Thompson, 32, first performed at Contact as part of the Manchester Soul Choir when she was 15 before working there as a freelance producer. More here.
Rates of Covid-19 in Greater Manchester are falling. The region currently has a case rate of 527.9 per 100,000 people, down 15.3% in a week. Rates are falling nationally too, with the current case rate for England at 699 per 100,000 people, down 21.5%. In Greater Manchester, rates are highest in Stockport and lowest in Oldham.
Once accused of “destroying the garden of childhood,” BBC children’s news programme Newsround, now based in MediaCity, celebrates its 50th birthday today. It’s the UK’s longest-running news show for children.
Our favourite reads
The defector — The Guardian
In this long read, the Guardian’s North of England editor Helen Pidd interviews Christian Wakeford, MP for Bury South who defected to Labour earlier this year. She finds a man with a sense of humour and an appreciation for fun, but leaves with a few thoughts: “I like Wakeford, but there’s a certain naivety to him, which makes me think no one in his new party is giving him advice: was it wise to go drinking with a journalist when your enemies want to suggest you are a problem drinker?”
Liverpool, Manchester City and a Bar Set Too High — The New York Times
One for the football heads, this article takes a look at the Premier League leaders competing for three trophies this spring, with Manchester City and Liverpool set to go head to head later this month. In football, “glory is measured in bulk,” this article says. “The final eight weeks or so of the Premier League season has long been set up as a battle” between Liverpool and Manchester City.
Manchester’s Black Champion — Tribune Magazine
We enjoyed reading this 2020 piece about Len Johnson, who was prevented from becoming a boxing champion because of the colour of his skin. “In his north Manchester childhood, Len was surrounded by the Jewish, Irish, Italian and Yemeni immigrants who made up much of Manchester’s working class at this time, but the prejudices against his mixed family ran deep — his mother was viciously assaulted and received lifelong scars on her face for having married a black man.”
Fasting and speeding — Big Issue North
The Manchester Marathon was on Sunday, and Gatley-born Emon Choudhury was among the runners. Unlike the other competitors, Choudhury didn’t load up on pasta to prepare for the gruelling race: he ran it while fasting. This article gives a nice insight into his work for disadvantaged children. “Every year, I try to challenge myself to do something a bit out of the norm, a bit mad,” he told Big Issue North.
Our to do list
🎥 Hong Kong Film Festival starts this week at Chapeltown Picture House in Cheetham Hill. The first film screening, I Miss You When I See You, is about a reunion between a man and his schoolfriend, who is living with depression. Starts this evening at 6pm. Book here.
🎶 On Friday Kantos chamber choir will be holding an evening of dramatic choral music contemplating the Passion of Christ in Didsbury. Starts at 7.30pm. Book here.
💐 It’s SpringFest at Victoria Baths in Chorlton-on-Medlock on Sunday. There’ll be Ukele music and a makers market to enjoy. Starts at 11am. Book here.
☕ There’s a welcome tea party at the Whitworth on Saturday, to celebrate the launch of the Open House project. What does a wallpaper collection have to do with people’s stories of home? Find out. Starts at 12 noon. Book here.
🥘 Funky street food market Hello Oriental off Oxford Road has three floors of Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine, including a Chinese bakery and a market that sells soju, sake and Japanese whiskey. More here.
Letters to the editor
I am in a very similar situation to Adele (‘Shopping in hard times’). Thank you so much for making ‘our’ voice heard. We are all too busy trying to survive at the moment to even try to fight this, and know it wouldn’t get us anywhere anyway. The fact that the most vulnerable are ignored just feeds the narrative that everything is OK — and it’s not. Kathy, Stockport
Despair personified in this article (‘Shopping in hard times’). And whilst obviously local, multiply this by the fuel poverty index nationwide and one can only begin to get a handle on the crisis unfolding. Much was (rightly) made of food poverty during lockdown but this has the capacity to bring this now isolated nation to its knees. People like me who are fortunate enough to be cushioned from these price hikes due to personal circumstances can only stand and watch in horror as a real version of the early 18th century Britain starts playing out again. Caroline, Ancoats