Piccadilly Gardens is sunny and crowded. Friends bump into each other and strangers talk for the first time. Above us is an 80-metre raised walkway, two giant projection screens and a stage. MIF17 opens with a single figure parading down the runway to the pounding beat of DJ Graham Massey and assorted local buskers and musicians. The same man closes the show. He is homeless and sells The Big Issue.
In between, 149 other city dwellers strut their stuff. Dog walkers, lovers, drag artists, protesters and famous Mancunians. The taxi drivers who turned off their meters on the night of the recent bomb in the city. A brand-new baby and a Mancunian in her 100th year. Different cultures, creeds and social stratas. Manchester. This is an artistic statement that celebrates diversity and community.
Manchester is one of the most ethnically diverse districts in the country, and the only authority outside London with residents from each of the 90 detailed ethnic groups listed in the census. The city is growing rapidly, with the population is expected to exceed 550,000 by 2021. It is a city which prides itself on welcoming new people, but it is also a city with rapidly increasing numbers of rough sleepers, up 41% in the last year. Some of our newer residents struggle to find a home and have to be creative with hidden, disused spaces. Organisations such as Coffee for Craig, The Booth Centre and The Brick Project are all doing great work to address the problem. Andy Burnham recently pledged 15% of his salary as Lord Mayor to an appeal intended to end homelessness by 2020.
After the attack on 22nd May the city feels kinder and more empathetic. Manchester values call us to focus on what we have in common and how we all contribute to Manchester– those who are newly arrived and those who have always lived here. We should remember that taxi drivers of all religions turned their meters off and homeless men cradled injured children and carried them to safety.
Let’s hope that Deller’s vision on the walkway remind us all to be a little kinder and practice empathy. The walkway took several weeks to build but overnight it was removed after the ceremony. It could have been a great temporary roof for Manchester’s rough sleepers to rest under as well as walk over. (AD)
- Amanda Dunlop
Links relevant to this diagnosis:
Homelessness - Manchester Evening News
Andy Burnham Salary Donation - Guardian