How should Manchester remember the victims of the terror attack?


After the horrific train bombings at Madrid’s Atocha railway station in March 2004, the city raised a 36ft high glass brick cylinder as a memorial to the 191 victims. Inside, in the cool, blue light are inscribed thousands of messages of condolence.

Last November, exactly one year after the Paris terror attacks in which seven gunmen killed 130 people, plaques were unveiled at the national stadium, restaurants, bars and the Bataclan Concert Hall where the murderers struck.

A few weeks ago, King Philippe of Belgium unveiled a memorial sculpture to mark the first anniversary of Brussels terrorist attacks of March 2016 at the airport and on a metro train by three Islamic State suicide bombers, leaving 32 people dead and 320 wounded.

Artist Jean-Henri Compere’s metal sculpture, comprising two 66ft horizontal surfaces rising skywards in the capital’s Euro Quarter, is called: ‘Wounded but Still Standing in Front of the Inconceivable’.

Now Manchester, also wounded but still standing following another act of inconceivable wickedness. How will we honour the memory of the innocents cut down in the foyer of the Arena at the end of Ariana Grande’s concert?

The singer is returning to stage a memorial performance, possibly as early as Sunday 4th June. Whatever happens after that regarding a permanent memorial will be subject to a debate which must include the families of the 22 who died and the scores of people wounded. But that will be some time off.

Not only are memories of the massacre still agonisingly raw, but the painstaking process of gathering evidence for the inquests will be a long one. Then will come another outpouring of grief as the funerals take place.

But suggestions as to a memorial are beginning to appear on social media. Mike Robinson, a Manchester-based freelance photographer, posted a ‘nugget of an idea on social media – #gardenmanchester – and following positive feedback, has set up the Facebook page GardenManchester.

“All too soon the floral tributes left in St Ann’s Square will fade and disappear,” he writes. “A little bit of the person who handled those flowers is contained within them. Could the flowers be composted and used to create a peace/memorial garden in Manchester?”

Co-incidentally, the former Manchester Peace Garden, which was located in St Peter’s Square but lost when the Cenotaph was switched to the site to make way for the expanded Metrolink station, may soon find a new home.

Last October Manchester town hall approved plans for a new sculpture park along the River Irwell close to the city’s Mediaeval Quarter surrounding Chetham’s School of Music and Library, the Cathedral and Victoria Station.

At that time, Friends of Manchester Peace Garden, seeking a new location, argued that the sculpture park should double up as an official memorial space, but the council said the Peace Garden would be better located in Lincoln Square.

However, the town hall’s view that the sculpture park was “not the most appropriate area” for the Peace Garden due to its proximity to a busy railway station may become open to some debate following the Arena bombing. The  main entrance to the Arena Foyer is accessed through that very station – Victoria – just a few yards away.

Indeed, when the location of any permanent memorial to the 22/5 victims is eventually decided, the new riverside park first suggested following the IRA bombing 21 years ago – may be considered to be the ideal location.

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