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Manchester Vigil
Photography Annapurna Mellor

Photos that capture community and love in Manchester

I ❤️ MCR

It’s a rare sunny day in Manchester, warm and cloudless. It seems inappropriate, that on this day when our city is grieving the most, the sun is celebrating.

Unless you’d managed to catch the odd news alert the night before, it was the morning of the May 23 2017 that the UK woke up to the tragic news of a terrorist attack, which killed 22 people and left many more injured. The attack took place at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester’s MEN Arena. Grande is a young American pop star who attracts even younger fans, and many children and young people were among the dead and injured.

But like always, Manchester’s community spirit shines through at tonights vigil, which is hosted in the cities Albert Square. As the sun shines high, the city’s residents from all communities and faith groups crowd the busy square to mourn the loss of lives, and also to stand strong together, proud of this wonderful city we all call home. 

Many hold up 'I ❤️  MCR' boards, others paint worker bees on their faces (the city’s mascot), or carry peace flags around the square. One group of students hold up 'Free Hugs' signs. A local Sikh faith group gain huge cheers as they walk into the crowd carrying 'I heart Manchester' boards. Later you can find them feeding the thousands with bags of crisps, chocolate bars, bottles of water and cans of coke, all free to anybody who wants them. Manchester's Muslim groups also hold their pride on their chests. A group of young boys from the charity Muslim Aid are some of the most vocal, being proudly interviewed for the cameras. Others stand silently beneath signs reading “Love For All, Hatred for None.”

Manchester has always been a multicultural city. A place where over 200 languages are spoken, where you can find mosques, gurdwaras, and churches on the same street. As the cities Bishop David Walker says, “Whatever our background, our religion, we will stand together because we are Manchester.” It's met with huge cheers, and it’s the phrase that clearly epitomises the spirit of the city this evening. 

A minutes silence is held, and then local poet Tony Walsh reads an emotional tribute to the city which brings tears to the eyes of many. After the crowds disperse, many remain to light candles and leave flowers for the victims of the attack. Signs reading “ISIS don't scare us we're Manc”, and “Stronger together” sit around lit candles and colourful bouquets. 

It's a day which has tragically shuck the city, and left us all in shock and grief. Yet it's also one in which we stand proud together, no matter our background or the colour of our skin or where we were born. This is the city we all call home. It's a city with an unrivalled sense of community, and one which will remain strong though this horrific event. As the sun shines down on the thousands, the cities Bishop announces “Love in the end, is always stronger than hate.” Indeed, in this square tonight, that is the overriding feeling.