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It’s been 25 years since the IRA bombing and victims are still waiting for justice

Why was no one ever arrested for the attack on our city?

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Robert Wade / Flickr & Manchester Fire / Flickr

Twenty-five years ago on this date, Manchester fell victim to one of the biggest bombs ever exploded in the United Kingdom. 

It was a beautiful, unusually sunny morning in Manchester on June 15th, 1996 – England were about to take on Scotland in Euro ‘96, football fans were swarming the city centre for the next day’s Russia v Germany fixture at nearby Old Trafford, it was the Saturday before Father’s Day, and the Arndale Shopping Centre – built just twenty years prior – was heaving with weekend shoppers. 

However, the festivities of the warm summer’s day were all set to change when a security guard on the other side of the city received an anonymous tip off. 

Sometime after 9:38am, Gary Hall – a security guard at ITV’s Granada Studios – received a phone call from a man with a ‘very calm’ Irish voice, as per The BBC. The anonymous man went on to inform Gary that he had planted a bomb in the city centre and it would be exploding in one hour. Following the phone call, the police were immediately notified and they sprung to action locating the bomb and evacuating 80,000 people from the area. 

However, this proved to be quite the task. At first, people were not keen to go; it was the 1990s and Mancunians had become seasoned to bomb scares. One hairdresser allegedly refused to let his clients leave because they still had chemicals in their hair, arguing it would be ‘too dangerous.’ Alternatively, a group of workmen wanted to stay put because they were on weekend rates.

Slowly, though, the severity of the situation began to sink in, and authorities were able to successfully evacuate the centre, with some people screaming and running for their lives. 

Amid the chaos, police spotted a stationary white lorry parked on double yellows outside of Marks & Spencer with wires running from its dashboard. A bomb squad was swiftly dispatched from Liverpool; however, their attempt to dismantle the device using a remote-controlled robot failed.

At precisely 11:17am, the 3,300lb device exploded.

Smoke mushroomed above the city as the explosion shattered glass windows and rained building debris onto the people below. In the aftermath, emergency services scrambled to deal with the injured civilians – around 220 of them, to be precise – and fire crews searched shops and offices for casualties. In the confusion, some fallen shop mannequins were briefly mistaken for bodies while, over at Manchester Royal Infirmary, they were treating dozens of casualties within minutes.

Yet despite the horror and the devastation, not a single person was killed in the explosion.

Nevertheless, Manchester’s city centre lay in ruins, historic landmarks such as Manchester Cathedral and the Royal Exchange Theatre needed what has been estimated to be billions of pounds worth of repairs and renovations and, most gravely, hundreds of people were left with life-changing injuries, both physically and mentally. 

But now, a quarter of a century on from the devastating attack, the people of Manchester are still waiting for justice.

Quite remarkably, an arrest for whoever was responsible for the bomb was never made – it is widely believed that, while both Greater Manchester Police and Special Branch investigations identified the prime suspect, he was never actually arrested because of fears it could derail ongoing peace negotiations in Northern Ireland.

Graham Stringer, who led the council between 1984 and 1996 and who is today MP for the city’s Blackley and Broughton constituency, told The Independent: “I am sure the security services know who did this and I think it got caught up in the peace process.

“It’s appalling. In a democratic society, for someone to blow up the centre of a major city and injure hundreds of people, and then get away with it? It is wrong.”

Stringer, who’s own mother was injured in the explosion, added: “Justice should be seen to be done. If bombers are going to be let off then we should at least know who is being let off and why and what the greater benefit of that is… I do think somebody should have been [prosecuted] even if they never got sent to jail.”

In a 2006 review, GMP said there was no longer any ‘realistic possibility’ of a prosecution. 

Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Mole said: “The Manchester bomb affected many people which is why the case has remained open and has been kept under constant review. As the 20th anniversary of the incident approaches, it is now the right time for another assessment of the case in order to identify and explore any possible potential investigative opportunities.

“If new information comes to light it would be considered, and I would urge anyone with information relevant to the investigation to get in touch with police.”

Feature

Street photographer creates incredible Mini Manchester and Blackpool nostalgia photo series

The photography series aims to encapsulate significant parts of Manchester’s history

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@giselaszlatoszlavek / Instagram

Whether it be retro beer cans or vintage match boxes, there isn’t much that Gisela Szlatoszlavek will limit herself to to capture the spirit of the city.

While Gisela works full time as a teaching assistant, she is also a keen street photographer with a passion for documenting gentrified areas of Manchester, with her even having published That Golden Mile, a sell-out book on Blackpool street photography.

And it was a combination of these two professions that sparked the idea for her ‘Little’ series, with Gisela finding inspiration during a photography lesson.

Talking on the birth of the miniature series, which sees her create scenes using tiny models, Gisela told Proper Manchester: “The pupils were working with small figurines around the classroom, and it made me think of how well that would work out in the street. 

@giselaszlatoszlavek / Instagram

“I started with Blackpool, and thinking of places that make the town iconic and recognisable… like the sunburned men wearing vests and local mums pushing prams.”

And being a local lass herself – she hails from Oldham – Gisela knew that Manchester and its vast history would provide the perfect backdrop for her new series.

She explained: “Everything I’ve done up to now is a nod to something special about the city, such as the Haçienda, the Manchester bee, Manchester United, and Manchester City.”

And despite the series only being a couple of months old, Gisela has countless instalments of a variety of different themes under her belt, all of which give an insight into life in both Blackpool and Manchester.

@giselaszlatoszlavek / Instagram

Her photographs range from trips to the football, chippy teas and seaside fun in Blackpool, and even trips to the iconic Haçienda nightclub – complete with a pair of maracas, of course.

And fans of Gisela’s work will notice a recurring retro theme, which in itself is a nod to her own passion for the 1980s: “That era was fantastic, I wish I could have taken these photos back then.

“So I wanted to try and create a lot of my series around that time period.”

A lot of the props used in the series are genuine vintage too, including retro beer cans found on eBay, cassette tapes and even match boxes from the era.

Putting together these images is no walk in the park, however, with some taking Gisela several weeks to complete from start to finish. 

@giselaszlatoszlavek / Instagram

Every aspect of the photo – from the initial idea to the construction itself – is a painstaking process, with Gisela often spending hours at a time scouring through Google Street View to establish which spots will work the best, whether it be the aesthetics, the lighting or just for the finer details to add to the final image.

Gisela then buys the figurines online, and spends even more time hand painting them to adapt them to different scenes – for some photos, she’s even gone to the effort of making miniature outfits using a magnifying glass.

And actually taking the photos is no easier, mainly thanks to members of the public and busy traffic, which Manchester’s city centre in particular has an abundance of.

She explained: “Unsurprisingly, Market Street is definitely the hardest location to work, thanks to the volume of people and things going on in the background. @giselaszlatoszlavek / Instagram

“Because I have to be as low to the ground as possible, I do get members of the public coming up to me and asking what I’m doing and checking that I’m okay… Some people even think I’ve collapsed in the street!

“But most people are lovely, and are just curious and want to know what I’m doing.” 

While the Little Manchester and Little Blackpool series remains as a side project for Gisela at the moment, she aims to one day collaborate with other artists, and eventually take on paid commissions. 

This is only the beginning for Gisela’s Little series, so make sure to follow her official Instagram page to stay updated with her latest work.

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Feature

Londoner shares his list of ‘observations’ about Manchester after spending four days here

City centre traffic, dog poo bags littering canals and Mancunian women dressing like Wim Hoff were all big talking points…

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Mylo Kaye / Unsplash

Whenever someone from the south is brave enough to venture up North, they’re usually met with a bit of a culture shock.

And this week, one Londoner fared no differently.

Taking to Reddit, the anonymous man explained that he had spent four days in Manchester and, while he described the city as ‘glorious’ and said he couldn’t wait to visit again soon, he was left with a few observations and questions.

He began by noting how ‘very small’ the city is – though he did point out that this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because he was able to ‘walk everywhere’.

Fran Serra / Unsplash

Beats getting the tube, doesn’t it?

However, he then pointed out how nobody moves out of the way while walking in different directions in the street (presumably Market Street…), saying it made him feel like he was ‘in the Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony video’.

Other observations included a ‘disproportionate number of great restaurants’ and a lot of ‘beautiful buildings that seem to be falling apart’.

And, in one perception that may surprise many, he gushed at how ‘very quiet’ Manchester’s city centre roads are, mainly thanks to the ‘revolutionary lack of traffic’.

@mangopearuk / Unsplash

He also questioned if all Mancunian women are avid followers of Wim Hoff, a Dutch motivational speaker famed for his love of running through snow and ice wearing next to nothing.

With this, he admitted that their ‘ability to sport such minimal attire in such minimal temperatures was humbling’.

And staying on the topic of Mancunian clothing, the Redditor pondered what the obsession is with suit style jackets for women, while also pointing out the ‘lack of effort from their male counterparts’.

He added: “Tight Jeans, a branded white tee and some Yeezy’s seem the standard uniform.”

Chris Curry / Unsplash

However, not all of his observations were so light hearted, with him noting a blatant difference in Manchester’s racial diversity compared to that in the capital.

He wrote: “It’s very white. Having grown up in London I am used to seeing a fairly even spread of brown people. For such a metropolitan city this was the biggest surprise for me.

“I only had one instance of racial abuse. This is something that I don’t get in London.”

And he rounded up his observations with a question that many Mancunians will have asked themselves over the years: “Why are there loads of dog poo bags scattered along the canal toe paths? [sic]”

You can read the full post here.

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Feature

MANCHESTER’S MOST HAUNTED: The haunting of the Town Hall

More than just council officials lurk the Town Hall’s corridors…

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Steve & Michael D Beckwith / Flickr

Manchester has had its fair share of ghostly happenings over the decades, what with its dark and grizzly industrial past.

There’s the poltergeist of Westhoughton, a ghostly Black Shuck dog lurking within Manchester Cathedral and the sinister Grey Lady of Cheetham’s School of Music.

But did you know that the city’s Town Hall has its own sinister story?

Completed in 1877, the Grade I listed building is home not only to Manchester City Council, but apparently a few ghostly residents, too.

Manchester Local Image Collection at Manchester City Council

There have been countless reports of ghost sightings within the walls of this historic building over the years, with the spirits of deceased councillors allegedly roaming the many halls and corridors.

But the most frequently seen ghost is that of a Victorian police officer who is said to have died in the late 1800s.

Rumour has it that despite his death hundreds of years ago, this ghostly bobby continues to patrol the halls of the building, scaring off countless visitors and ghost hunters in the process. 

Ian Waring, a member of the Tameside-based paranormal investigations group Shadow Seekers, claims to have seen the spirit in the flesh in what he called an ‘incredibly strange and bizarre’ encounter.

Manchester Local Image Collection at Manchester City Council

It happened during one of his guided tours of the building, where he takes on the ghost hunting persona ‘Flecky Bennet’.

Ian told Mancunian Matters at the time: “I took this big gentleman around the first part of the tour in the town hall, and then he disappeared.

“He was stood in the middle of the group, but no-one saw him disappear and there was nowhere he could have gone, it was a big open area.

“The next day I explained to the town hall what had happened and they said he sounded like a police officer who died in the late 1800s.

Manchester Local Image Collection at Manchester City Council

“I looked up a photograph of him and it was definitely the man who was on the tour. It was incredibly bizarre, really strange.”

But people had been experiencing this ghostly copper decades prior – around twenty years ago, an unsuspecting electrician had been working late at night in the upper reaches of the building when he felt an eerie ‘disturbance’. 

When he looked around, he found a Victorian-looking gentleman staring at him and silently smiling. 

The electrician fled the scene and reported what he had seen to his foreman, who of course didn’t believe his tale. At this, the foreman instructed the terrified man to return to upper reaches to collect his tools, which he refused to do.

Manchester Local Image Collection at Manchester City Council

Eventually, the foreman went to collect the tools himself but, minutes later, returned with a look of sheer terror, having clearly experienced a firm telling off by the officer himself.

Other myths in the building include a spirit that hates the sound of whistling – anyone found to be making the noise is plunged into darkness with a few slamming doors for good measure.

Some members of staff also claim that the late Mayor of Manchester Abel Heywood haunts the the clock mechanism room, which seems appropriate considering he gave his name to the hour bell in the clock tower. 

But fast forwarding to today, the Manchester Town Hall is still undergoing its extensive £328m renovation, which poises the question as to whether its ghostly inhabitants will still be there upon completion. 

Though there will be only one way to find out…

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