Albert Square was the site a vigil for peace last night following Monday night’s terrorist attack.
Roads were closed to accommodate the crowd, which extended into the streets around The Town Hall.
Earlier in the day there had been many examples of community solidarity. Buskers sang songs of defiance in Piccadilly Gardens, there were floral tributes in St Anns Square, members of the Jewish community handed out free refreshments on Peter Street, and UK Muslims for Peace displayed a ‘Love for all hatred for none’ banner.
The mood was peaceful and reflective in Albert Square as people paid their respects to the 22 people killed and 59 injured.
New Lord Mayor of Manchester Eddy Newman took to the stand outside the Town Hall to tell the crowd: “We will defy the terrorists by working together to create cohesive, diverse communities that are stronger together” and received a huge round of applause when he thanked the emergency services who had worked tirelessly through the night.
Also addressing the crowd were Greater Manchester chief constable Ian Hopkins, former interim mayor for Greater Manchester Tony Lloyd and Andy Burnham, new Mayor of Greater Manchester.
The crowd cheered when Tony Walsh, also known as Longfella, gave a passionate performance of his poem This is The Place which included the lines:
Our inventions are legends. There’s nowt we can’t make, and so we make brilliant music
We make brilliant bands
We make goals that make souls leap from seats in the stands
Also in attendance were Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow. There was a moment of reflection as Bishop of Manchester the Rt Rev David Walker lit a candle and spoke of the importance of bringing light against darkness.
There were indeed examples of light and hope throughout Albert Square.
Members of the Manchester Sikh Community were distributing free food and drink well into the evening, telling passers by “Everything must go. Help yourself – no restrictions!”
One of them told us: “We are proud to be Sikh, we help everybody and we love Manchester. We opened the doors of the Gurdwara to all from hearing the sound of the blast. We love Manchester all together.”
Volunteers from The Samaritans wearing brightly coloured green T-shirts offered advice. Some people offered free hugs whilst others distributed flowers and messages of hope.
A big banner with the message ‘No Fear Here MCR’ was raised high as the vigil ended with a chant of ‘Manchester, Manchester.’ Lots of people stayed in the square for hours afterwards to reflect.
One doctor who had travelled all the way from Birmingham to show her support told reporters: “As a doctor I treat people of all backgrounds. It is my duty to never differentiate. It really is important that we should share the beauty of our differences at times like this. This is about solidarity with humanity and here we all stand together.”