The first anniversary of Salman Abedi’s murderous terror attack on the Manchester Arena, which left 22 people dead and more than 500 wounded – many of whom are still receiving treatment for life-changing injuries – will be one of the most moving and poignant events in the city for decades.
Just as the shockwaves from the suicide bomber’s atrocity reverberated around the world on 22nd May last year, the impact of the commemoration, dedicated to the victims caught up in the carnage will echo far beyond Manchester.
Ariana Grande’s concert at the Arena had drawn fans – many of them children – from far and wide. The victims came from all over Greater Manchester, from Leeds and Sheffield, Liverpool, Lancashire, Cheshire and Tyneside. Eilidh MacLeod came all the way from Barra in the Outer Hebrides to lose her life at the Arena, aged 14.
The Scottish airline Loganair named one of its aircraft “Spirit of Eilidh” in her honour – just one of many and varied memorials dedicated locally to those who lost their lives.
The anniversary of the bombing will be marked by Manchester Together – With One Voice, a series of events beginning with a civic service of remembrance at Manchester Cathedral between 2pm and 3pm. It’s poignancy will be heightened by the presence in the congregation of families of those killed and injured in the attack, some of the survivors, and members of the emergency services.
The service will be screened simultaneously at York Minster, Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral and Glasgow Cathedral.
In the evening, the Once Voice event will culminate in a choral programme beginning at 7.30pm in Albert Square followed by communal singing between 8.30pm and 9pm which will be broadcast live on BBC Radio Manchester.
Organisers of the event took their inspiration from an unforgettable moment in the aftermath of the attack when the crowds gathered to observe a minute’s silence for the dead spontaneously began singing the Oasis anthem Don’t Look Back In Anger.
Sir Richard Leese, whose leadership of Manchester city council began just days before the IRA’s bombing of the city in 1996, said: “Music is in Manchester’s soul and it is only fitting that it should play a central part in marking what will be an emotional anniversary. We saw in the aftermath of the 22 May attack how spontaneous song captured the city’s spirit, its solidarity and refusal to give in to hatred.
“Coming together in song will once again demonstrate that remarkable sense of togetherness and we invite choirs who can help lead us in raising our voices to get in touch. It is a fitting way for us to honour those who went full of joy to a music concert but never came back, or saw their lives changed forever.”
He added: “The horrific events of 22 May shocked not just this city but the world.
“Those who lost loved ones, and those who were left physically or mentally injured, will always have a place in our thoughts and we will never forget the 22 people, including children, whose lives were taken away.
“The first anniversary of the attack will be an intensely emotional time for a great many people. Everyone touched by those events has a unique personal experience and we have tried to be mindful of this in planning a range of events.”
Families of the 22 who lost their lives have been invited to choose lyrics close to their hearts and the programme will be chosen to ensure it covers a range of musical genres and is as inclusive as possible.
A further music-related element called There Is A Light has also been announced – a projection of song lyrics onto St Ann’s Church in St Ann’s Square – where the ocean of floral tributes was assembled in the days after the atrocity and was visited by thousands of people – and other parts of the square during the nights of 22 May to 26 May inclusive.
The We Love Manchester Emergency Fund, which has amassed more than £20 million to help victims of the attack, has released money to provide sessions at The Manchester Institute of Health & Performance for up to 40 people identified by doctors as suffering from continued disability after major physical trauma.
Alongside rehabilitation, the partnership will create a legacy, as a research project will be launched to provide the NHS with lessons on how to treat those suffering as a result of such physical injuries, which will support the care of other patients in the future.
Dr Jason Wong, from Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, is overseeing the project. He said: “As healthcare professionals, seeing patients get better is our greatest satisfaction. There are still people affected by the Manchester Arena attack who are struggling physically from life-changing injuries.
“We have this bold ambition to do things differently in Manchester and it struck us that there was a real opportunity to work closely across rehabilitation disciplines to help these people find their former function.”
Sue Murphy, chair of the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund, said: “The city and the world responded with such kindness, generosity and solidarity in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena attack. To raise more than £20 million is an amazing response.”
A charitable fund – entirely separate and distinct from the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund but complementary to it – will be set up to hold funds to help pay for a memorial, or memorials, for the victims of Abedi’s attack.