Metro mayor Andy Burnham’s upbeat New Year message looks forward to the next 12 months by looking back to the city’s key role in making history.
2018 marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Trades’ Union Congress (TUC) in Manchester and the centenary of the passage of the Representation of the People Act 1918 – granting votes for women for the first time – falls on February 6.
It was a long battled for victory for the Suffragette movement led by Moss Side-born Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst, acclaimed as the greatest northerner in history in a recent poll.
“Both of these movements grew out of the streets of our city and went on to change the world,” said Mr Burnham.
“In this way, Manchester has always given people hope that things can be better than they are; that we don’t have to accept the status quo; that by standing together we can make things fairer for everyone.
“Right now, our divided world needs a new dose of that radical Manchester spirit. So, as we prepare to celebrate these momentous events, we should resolve today to apply it afresh to the many challenges of our own difficult times.”
Mr Burnham set out his five resolutions for the New Year – starting with a pledge to support those affected by the Arena bomb last May.
He added: ” We must also continue to ask what more we can all do to make Greater Manchester safer going forward, as difficult as those questions may be. That is my second resolution.
“In the aftermath of the attack, I established two reviews which will conclude their work later this year. When they publish their findings, I will ensure they are acted upon.
“So we will take a hard look at ourselves and ask what we can do better. But, in return, we expect the government to do the same. Words of praise for our emergency services at the time of tragedy ring hollow when they are followed, as they were, by yet more funding cuts. Those cuts have gone too far and are putting lives at risk. In 2018, we will press the government to face up to this fact.”
Mr Burnham’s third resolution is to keep homelessness high on the agenda as people demand urgent action to improve the situation.
“I am confident that the plans we have developed in Greater Manchester will continue to deliver real results,” he said, “but I will monitor progress closely, as well as continuing to donate monthly to the Mayor’s Homelessness Fund, as we work towards our goal of ending rough sleeping here by 2020.”
His fourth resolution is to initiate a major overhaul of the transport system. The increasing level of congestion on the roads reflected the fact that public transport was “simply not good enough”. Mr Burnham pledged to use new powers to change the way local buses worked as well making the case for new investment in infrastructure.
His fifth resolution is to continue to build the voice of the north and make the case for more devolution: “If we are to rise to the challenges of Brexit, we need to develop a world-class digital and transport infrastructure and have the freedom to innovate on policies which Westminster has traditionally neglected, such as technical education.
“While we live in difficult times, I start this year with great pride in our radical past and great optimism for what we are about to achieve.”
As well as seeing how many of his resolutions Mr Burnham keeps, what else can we look forward to in 2018?
Mancunians will be celebrating New Year all over again in February by welcoming the Chinese Year of the Dog over a weekend of food, fortune and festivities.
A 50ft giant Golden Dragon will take centre stage in St Ann’s Square amid an authentic Chinese food market; the Arndale will be running a series of Chinese craft workshops and on Sunday 18th, the Dragon Parade, led by a spectacular 175ft mythical beast, will wind its way from Albert Square to Chinatown.
Along with a programme of international superstar concerts – including Lady Gaga, Paul Weller, Elbow, Harry Styles and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – the Arena will host three hugely popular family shows in the early part of the year.
The X Factor Live Tour lands on 20th February followed on the 27th and 28th by the Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour and Torvill and Dean bring their Dancing On Ice to the Arena on 3rd and 4th April.
The new year will continue to see Manchester’s dominance of what’s been described as “the biggest sports business on earth” – the multi-billion pound money spinner that is the English Premier League – with almost all the major pundits predicting that, 10 years on from the club’s takeover by Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi, runaway leaders Manchester City already have the championship in the bag.
And the Class of 92’s Salford City look to be a shoo-in for promotion to the National League.
But nothing is ever certain in sport and we can be sure that when Jose’s Reds meet Pep’s Sky Blues at the Etihad on 7th April it’s not just going to be business. It will be personal.
Meanwhile Manchester’s horizons will continue to rise as the giant cranes that bristle from all corners of the city centre build the next generation of soaring towers.
Tourism agency Visit Manchester – an arm of Marketing Manchester – have themed their What’s New in Greater Manchester 2018 with the headline Radical City. A a comprehensive catalogue of information is available here. It includes details of events, food and drink trends for the New Year and a list of fascinating anniversaries coming up in 2018.