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It’s three years since the Manchester Arena bombing and the city will never forget

Today is the third anniversary.

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Manchester City Council

Today, Friday May 22nd 2020, marks three years since the disastrous Manchester Arena bombing at an Ariana Grande concert. 

In 2017, the pop star had just finished playing to a crowd of adoring and particularly young fans, when a terrorist detonated a homemade explosive device in the waiting area of the arena. The bomb tragically took the lives of 22 innocent people. 

This year Manchester will be paying tribute and gathering in remembrance virtually, to commemorate the third anniversary a bit differently with an online service.

Credit: David Dixon

The Manchester Cathedral will be hosting a live broadcast on Facebook and those watching are encouraged to light a candle in remembrance to those who lost their lives.

The Cathedral bells will ring out at 10:31pm, the time the bomb was detonated, with it tolling 22 times – once for each victim. This will also be aired on BBC Radio Manchester.

The virtual ceremonies mark a poignant moment for our city. We stood solid in the immediate aftermath, covered the city in The 22 Bee Project, created the Tree of Hope Trail, stood silent in the Great Manchester Run, projected song lyrics on pavements, hosted the One Love concert as an act of solidarity, and showed the world that ‘This Is The Place’.  

Credit: YouTube

Manchester remembers the 22 victims of the Manchester Arena attack: Georgina Callander, Saffie Rose Roussos, John Atkinson, Megan Hurley, Olivia Campbell-Hardy, Alison Howe, Lisa Lees, Angelika Klis, Marcin Klis, Martyn Hett, Kelly Brewster, Jane Tweddle, Nell Jones, Michelle Kiss, Sorrell Leczkowski, Liam Curry, Chloe Rutherford, Elaine McIver, Wendy Fawell, Eilidh MacLeod, Courtney Boyle and Philip Tron. 

The youngest of the victims was 8-year old Saffie Rose Roussos, whose mum and sister were also taken to hospital on the night of the attack. Her funeral was the last of the victims, and hundreds of mourners attended to celebrate the life of a ‘little girl with a beautiful smile’. 

Nell Jones, 14, has been remembered for her kindness. Shortly after the tragic event her fellow students designed a community space in her name. It was filled with pebbles, each painted with a heartfelt and touching tribute to Nell.

Martyn Hett, a PR manager and social media star, was also tragically killed in the attack. He was widely recognised for his quirky humour and infectious sense of joy. 

Kelly Brewster, 32, was tragically killed as she threw herself in front of the bomb to shield her sister, Claire Booth, and her daughter Hollie. They survived the injuries but Kelly lost her life in a selfless act of compassion. 

Sorrell Leczkowski, 14, from Leeds dreamt of being an architect to ‘build her mum a house’, but her dreams were robbed as she tragically lost her life in the incident. Her mother and grandmother survived the explosion and remember their ‘clever, talented, creative girl’. 

A Police Officer of 19 years, Elaine, 43, lost her life while waiting in the foyer with her partner, Paul. Paul left the explosion with serious injuries while Elaine tragically lost her life. She is remembered for her ‘kindness, love’ and ‘huge heart’. 

Many other parents and family were waiting to pick up their children after the concert, including Alison, Lisa, Angelika, Marcin, Jane, Michelle, Courtney and Philip. 

Ariana Grande released a message of solidarity to her fans and the victims of the attack this week on the approach to the anniversary saying: “I want to take a moment to acknowledge and send my love to everyone that is feeling the sadness and tremendous heaviness of the anniversary coming up this week. 

“Not a day goes by that doesn’t affect u and all us still. I will be thinking of u all week and weekend. My heart, my thoughts, prayers are with u always.” 

Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives or were otherwise affected on that tragic day – we will never forget.

Feature

The story behind Manchester’s mysterious Withy Grove Stores

It looks like it’s not been touched for 40 years, so what’s really going on in there…

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Surrounded by chicken shops and takeaways sits an oddity in modern Manchester, the Withy Grove Stores.

At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s abandoned, a relic from the 1980s that time and gentrification forgot, confusingly located round the back of the Printworks.

In fact, the safe and office supply store is very much still active, although you can’t just walk in off the street and have a browse – the whole thing raises so many questions, like who owns it? Why hasn’t it been bought and turned into a chicken shop? Is it being used as a front?



Well, the guys over at Manchester’s Finest had a bit of a dig around into the history of the building, and we now have some answers to your questions.

They spoke to a safe and office interior company called Withy Grove Office Interiors, who explained that the company began on Withy Grove in Manchester all the way back in 1850.

However, the history goes even further back, when the Richmond Safe Company was set up by John R Solomon back in 1799, supplying iron-branded and ironclad strongboxes for ships.

The Richmond Safe Company continued to operate until around 1840, at which point they located to offices on Withy Grove and renamed themselves Withy Grove Stores. From here the company expanded, eventually running three sites in the North of England – Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds (the company still operates from Leeds now).


For over 130 years the shop on Withy Grove flogged safes and furniture, impervious to the rapid change and development around it – the Withy Grove Printing House, which printed the Daily Mirror among other titles, closed down in 1985, while the Arndale popped up over the road in the late 1970s.

During the 1980s, it appears the Solomon brothers all fell out over something and each site was broken up and given to one of them to look after. The Leeds site was sold off to private owners by Casper Solomon, but the Manchester location is still very much owned by a Solomon to this day.

A quick check on Companies House shows the Directors of the company are Brian Solomon and Anthony Solomon, and both still own and run the Withy Grove Stores on Withy Grove. Financial statements show the company ran at a substantial loss in both 2018 and 2019, which isn’t really surprising.


So what do they do there and why is it never open? Manchester’s Finest rang up the store’s phone number – found on their still active website – and this is what happened: “The phone was answered by a lovely woman, and we were told that the shop is indeed open and she proceeded to bang out some rather erratic opening times for the week ahead.”

So there you go, if you are in the market for a safe or office chair, give them a ring and grab yourself a retro little number when lockdown is over.

A thread on Reddit also delved into the mystery of Withy Grove Stores, and some people revealed their own experiences with the shop, including actually buying stuff from it.

A user called MR_EXCELLENT wrote: “I rang Mr.Solomon myself a few years ago to ask if I could rent a bit of space in the building, he declined stating he gets dozens of calls every week asking him to ‘sell up’. He told me his dad built the building and he’ll never sell, I told him how much I like the building and how much I’d hate to see a big company ruin it, he told me he thought it would make an excellent Italian restaurant. Good chat! He seemed to be happy to talk to someone who appreciated the building but he could have just been too polite to tell me to fuck off.”

Redditor asidonhopo added: “I went in about 8 years ago or so. Wanted a nice comfy computer chair and it looked like they had some interesting old school office stuff in there, so I rang and the lady said she’d be around that Saturday and to knock on. Her dad used to own the place apparently, she was dead happy for me to just root around through all the old stuff and chat away.”

Pedro-a-go-go actually bought something from there: “I’ve bought stuff in there before, admittedly about 15 years ago. Needed a load of office ‘in trays’ for work. There was a lot of standing about as the bloke was dealing with someone buying a safe, and couldn’t work out how it to change the combination on the safe he was demonstrating. He ended up snapping a teaspoon and jamming it in the lock to try to get it to change. The person didn’t buy the safe. Also office in trays are REALLY expensive….”

And so did Redditor scottynoble: “I bought a safe from there in 2008. Still have it. Friend who recently passed away was a big deal at printworks recommended the place and got me a discount. Was like stepping into 1971, lovely people.”

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Feature

If you’re having really weird dreams this lockdown here’s why

(Don’t worry, you’re not the only one)

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Matthew Henry / Unsplash

If you’re finding yourself having super weird dreams and actually being able to remember them in the morning, don’t panic, you’re not alone.

Tonnes of people across the country have been reporting the exact same thing during lockdown. Luckily a scientist has given us a clever explanation that will calm down all our fears that self-isolation might be getting to us.

There are a lot of contributing factors that stem from being in lockdown that are changing our dream patterns. One of the biggest one is increased stress and anxiety levels due to the uncertainty of the world right now.

Credit: Stephen Oliver / Unsplash

Many, in fact, most people are finding themselves with financial worries and pressures like never before.

Cabin fever is also a huge factor to our unconscious thinking patterns and a lot of people are having dreams of being stuck, whether that formulates as a room with no doors or a shipwreck you’re stuck on – it all comes down to a feeling of being stuck inside. Which is pretty self explanatory.

We’re all also spending more time than ever with the same few people which will be having an effect on your dreams.

Other reasoning comes down to the fact that our homes are physically warmer because we’re all in it, potentially with the heating on. When we’re asleep and warm we have more vivid dreams.

Credit: Kate Stone Matheson / Unsplash

Some people’s dreams might not be that spectacular – finding themselves down the local having a frosty pint of their favourite beer (which does actually sound spectacular tbh) – and that’s completely fine too.

Life has become monotonous, what with ‘going to work’ including rolling out of bed and walking the 10 steps to the dining table. Basically we’re just missing normality and craving the things we would do in an average week.

There’s even a reason as to why we’re all remembering our dreams like they’re a blockbuster movie too.

Credit: Damir Spanic / Unsplash

As we’re all having a little lie-in in the morning, with some of us not even setting an alarm, we can move into that REM sleep.

While we’re in REM sleep our brains are more active, dreams get longer and more vivid. With our alarms not going off, we stay in this type of sleep for longer, dreams extend, get weirder and we can then remember them when we get up.

So whatever your dreams involve, you’re not crazy just isolated!! Keep dreaming kids!

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Feature

Who remembers Manchester’s hugely popular Granada Studios Tour?

Ahh the memories…

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cantwont & Markus Schroeder/Flickr

It was Manchester’s answer to Universal Studios, but with the Coronation Street set…

After a successful decade-long run of providing fun for Manchester, the demise of the Granada Studio Tour began after visitor numbers dwindled – meaning the tour sadly shut up shop for one last time.

One of the biggest reasons as to why can be put down to poor businesses practises at ITV, which saw the company lose millions.

The main culprit was the Sky-like service called ‘ONDigital’, which launched in 1998 and was forced into administration just four short years later.

Granada Studios Tour, Manchester
davekpcv / Flickr

It was pretty much the exact same concept as Sky, only the exclusive shows were essentially rubbish and the whole thing flopped.

At this point the Granada Studios Tour was seen as a large and unnecessary expense, and unfortunately closed down.

The tour was the brainchild of Granada producer David Plowright, who proposed to create a ‘Hollywood-on-the-Irwell‘ – and that he did. Sort of, anyway.

The tour first opened its doors in 1988, expecting to welcome 250,000 in the first year, but in the initial eight months alone 600,000 people visited to take in the sights.

Arguably the most popular attraction was the Coronation Street set which in 2013 moved to MediaCity, built on an even bigger scale with the chance to go inside too!

In 2018 Victoria Street was added, which features a garden and memorial bench paying tribute to the Manchester Arena bombing 22 victims and Coronation Street super fan Martyn Hett.

The old Granada Studios Tour might not have been the bright lights of LA or Hollywood, but you don’t get much more Mancunian than that cobbled street! 

What are your favourite memories of the tour? 

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