As a Falmouth journalism student, I’m almost ashamed to admit that I didn’t hear the horrific news from the Manchester Arena until eight hours after the story first broke on social media then on special news bulletins. I’m normally a news junkie, of course, but on the evening of Monday, May 22, I must confess I felt I had to forgo my usual 10 O’Clock News fix.
Even journalism students, you see, need to earn to learn and my summer job entails an early start. So, I thought I was being very responsible when, at the start of another working week, I went to bed at 9pm to get up bright and bushy-tailed for work.
I awoke to find myself living in another world – a far bleaker and more frightening world than the one I switched off my bedside lamp to. Capital Radio Manchester summed it up: “It’s a very odd morning for us all.” We all knew this day could come, but we just didn’t believe it would.
I live in Glossop, a beautiful, quiet market town that is technically in the High Peaks of Derbyshire, but is actually only 15 miles east of Manchester. Just a 25-minute car ride away, Glossopians regard it is a part of Greater Manchester. So many of us work, study, have family and spend so much of our lives in the neighbouring metropolis that we would consider ourselves Mancunian.
Having commuted into the city during my A-levels for two years, I decided that a change of scenery was what I needed and so I bade farewell to the North West for a while to study in Falmouth. I have always loved being by the sea, but living there has made me realise that I am a city girl at heart, and a Mancunian most of all.
As much as I feel at home sat on the beaches of Cornwall, I can’t help but miss the buzz of Manchester. It has been such a poignant place in my life, from which I have countless happy memories. From my first football match at the Ethiad Stadium (home of Man City), to my first concert at the Manchester Arena: Girls Aloud in 2006 and I was eight years old. I remember walking into the arena completely in awe of how huge the place was, how many people could fit in there and that I would be sharing a room with Girls Aloud that night.
There are no words to describe the excitement of seeing your idols performing right in front of your eyes at such a young age. Being surrounded by other adoring fans who shared the same thrill created an electrifying atmosphere that I will never forget. The piercing screams that erupted when the stars finally took the stage left my tiny ears ringing for days and memories that will last a lifetime.
Manchester is renowned for its music scene and that night, at the age of eight, I became part of it. In recent years, I have discovered other sides to the city. The Northern Quarter is probably my favourite part. By day, quirky cafes and vintage clothing shops line the streets and by night, bars and traditional pubs are full to the brim with people of all ages- anything goes in Manchester. For your typical student night out, Deansgate is the best place and has given me many a great night – well worth the pricy taxi ride home to Glossop.
He calmly replied: ‘Business goes on as usual. You can’t be scared of these people.’ But I was scared.
It was quite a culture shock going from endless nightclubs to just the one in Falmouth. I can’t deny that I secretly love Club I, but for me the nightlife in south Cornwall is a severe compromise I make to live by the sea. And besides, it just makes being reunited with Manchester all the more exciting. I was very sad to be leaving Falmouth for the summer though. Sad to be leaving my new friends, but glad to be escaping the last few weeks of all-nighters as deadlines dawned.
I went to work on the morning of May 23. I have worked at the small sandwich shop on the corner of the high street in Glossop for three years now and I work with my friend Grace who was also fairly shook up when I arrived. The conversation rarely changed topic. We never usually have the radio on at work but it stayed on the whole day. Pretty much every single customer mentioned what had happened.
What struck me was how different people react to these situations. One customer scowled: “The bastard blew himself up, didn’t he?” Another asked if we would be at risk in Glossop. One besuited chap, who I assume was on the phone to colleagues, sternly told them: “Nobody goes home.”
My dad adopted the same attitude, heading off to work as normal in Manchester that morning. After further reports of evacuations in the city centre, I demanded he come home but he calmly replied: “Business goes on as usual. You can’t be scared of these people.”
But I was scared. When something so tragic happens so close to home, it’s hard not to be. I felt numb and distressed the whole day. Did I know someone who was affected? Every time the news bulletin aired on the radio, I listened in angst, waiting for more bad news. I felt completely drawn in. I wanted to know everything; I wanted minute-by-minute updates. I couldn’t stop reading and listening. Maybe it helped everything sink in. Maybe it made the tragedy real. One thing was for sure: it made me determined.
Manchester was even more determined. Usually the response of a city or town allows for a smidgen of hope in such unthinkable times. But never before have I seen a response like in Manchester, summed up in the city’s new anthem – Don’t Look Back in Anger – our defiance of violence.
Manchester will look forward and has never felt stronger in the face of evil. I’m sure I speak for all Glossopians when I say we have never felt more Mancunian. Even more than before, I am proud to be in Falmouth flying the flag for this great northern city.