It has been a year since the tragic attack at the Manchester Arena, and people of the city and surrounding area have refused to be frightened away from attending gigs.
Live music is an integral part of the Mancunian identity, even if you prefer Blur to Oasis. When the arena reopened on September 9 – less than four months after the attack – the atmosphere was one of solidarity with 14,000 concert-goers united in their love of music and of their city.
The We Are Manchester charity concert was headlined by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and included a poetry recital by Tony Walsh. Mayor Andy Burnham recited the names of the 22 people who lost their lives during the attack, while the audience – many inked with the Manchester bee tattoo – cheered.
And this sense of pride and companionship has continued throughout the year, with many gig goers continuing to enjoy nights out at the Manchester Arena. The last year has seen concerts performed by huge artists such as Harry Styles, Mariah Carey and Little Mix.
People have made memories and gone home happy, singing their favourite pop songs. Terrorism will not define this iconic venue, or the people who continue to go there.
Trees of Hope outside @ManCathedral as part of a trail along a route from Victoria Station to St Ann’s Square. The trees are intended to be a focus for people who want to share messages of tribute, solidarity & love on the anniversary of the #Manchester Arena attack. #McrTogether pic.twitter.com/iWekDUVwfL
— Manchester Cathedral (@ManCathedral) May 21, 2018
can’t believe i’m finally taking the big step and returning to manchester arena next year to see shawn mendes. i’m already a nervous wreck but i can do this
— ? (@grandescry) May 12, 2018
Indeed, there have been 49 gigs since the arena reopened, and 62 events overall; including sporting and comedy events. The arena has still remained a much loved hub of activity at the heart of the city.
Charlotte from Manchester told UNILAD:
I’ve been a few times since it happened, but specifically I went to the re-opening gig.
The days leading up to the gig you can’t help but be a little worried about going there again – feeling like you could be a target, and I didn’t know how I’d feel being there knowing what had happened. I did think about not going but I felt like I had to go.
The minute I saw the X-ray machines and the armed police it put me at ease and I knew I could just enjoy the night. Seeing the foyer where it happened threw me massively but I’m incredibly glad I decided to go because what a night – I’ve never been more proud to be Mancunian.
Two weekends before the first anniversary of the bombing, Lewis Roberts – also based in Manchester – worked on photography for The Vamps and was impressed by the dedication shown by the security staff:
The atmosphere was great being in the heart of the arena and it was clear security were even more dedicated to their job and the safety of those attending.
For those who were at the Ariana Grande concert on the night of the attack, returning to the site of such painful memories is much more complicated.
Many of those who survived now have life changing injuries. Others have been left with psychological damage, suffering from mental health issues such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
UNILAD spoke with 21-year-old Olivia Evans from Sale, Cheshire who had been at the arena during the bombing, about the prospect of returning to the arena in the future.
I haven’t been back yet but I’d hope that I’d go back one day, I’ll probably be on edge a little but I guess that’s only natural.
I don’t think it’s always going to be defined by it however. People will remember I suppose and always think of the people who died but I’d like to think people will remember the music they’ve seen there instead.
tomorrow will be one year since me and my friends went to manchester arena to see ariana,, i have no clue how i feel about it, in all honesty. my head is everywhere and i can’t get it out of my head :/
— lucy? (@grandesfreed) May 21, 2018
Although Olivia has yet to return to the arena herself, the friend who accompanied her that night has returned and enjoyed a positive experience:
The girl I was with at the Ariana concert has been back since with similar sentiments to myself, that she was a bit nervous. She was seeing Dua Lipa though and she said after a while she just got into it and pushed it out of her mind and had a mint time.
For survivors like Olivia, the first year anniversary of the attack is understandably a very difficult time. However, she has found some comfort in the overwhelming support people have shown online.
Olivia told UNILAD:
I’ve been quite nervous for the past few weeks knowing that a year was coming up and thinking about it more, it’s still really upsetting but then you see the sheer number of people posting about it today and it’s very heartwarming.
People haven’t forgotten them.
Live from St Ann’s Square this morning until 9am – marking 1 year on from the arena Bomb
Poignant scenes and a day of reflection whilst remembering Manchester’s true spirit. #ManchesterArena #forevermanchester #oneyearon pic.twitter.com/vpXkPYnRAE
— Lady Chelsea Norris (@radiochelsea) May 22, 2018
Tributes have been held throughout the city today to remember those who lost their lives in what was the first UK suicide bombing since the 7/7 attacks of 2005.
A service of remembrance was held at Manchester Cathedral today, with attendees including the families who have been affected, the first responders at the scene and public figures such as Prime Minister Theresa May.
For five nights running, song lyrics will be projected onto the pavements and buildings at St Ann’s Square. It was here where the largest of the tributes flourished last year, with flowers and poignant messages of love flooding the square in a touching outpouring of grief and unity.
In a beautifully thoughtful tribute, families of those who died – as well as members of the public – were invited to suggest a specific song lyric which particularly resonated with them as they reflected on the attack.
thinking of you all today and every day ? I love you with all of me and am sending you all of the light and warmth I have to offer on this challenging day
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) May 22, 2018
Today Manchester remembers the 22 people killed in the #ManchesterArena attack last year. @ManCityCouncil will hold a civic memorial service at the city's Cathedral today between 2pm–3pm. Staff and students will be able to observe a minute's silence on campus at 2.30pm. pic.twitter.com/tONgUw80xQ
— The University of Manchester (@OfficialUoM) May 22, 2018
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 22, 2018
Our thoughts are with all those who have been affected by the Manchester Arena bombing.
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.