Manchester. What do you think of when you hear that word? Manchester United? Manchester, hive of industry? Manchester, breeding ground for rock music in the 80s and 90s? Manchester, skies of grey? Like any city, Manchester has its own soul. A spirit so strong you can taste it in the air, hear it in its music, see it in the faces of its people. What is Manchester? Who is Manchester? Come with me and I’ll show you.
The scene unfolds before us, revealing the rail viaduct, brown stones against a flat grey sky. We’re near the canal, and although it’s too cold to smell anything, you can imagine it. It is 5pm, the time of day I hate the most, but at my back are my friends, a rowdy group of boys and girls. Our hearts bounce with the rhythm of our favourite songs, a beat that drives us.
We laugh and we smile, chasing the wind because we know today is just beginning for us, and that it will only end after the last dance, the last drink, the last kiss. Nothing can stop us, this is the primetime of our lives. Pulling each other along, we shout whoops of joy into the flat sky. The worries, the fears, the insecurities that would beat us down we laugh away—they have no place among us today. We are resolute; determination shines through our thin faces, haggard from lack of sleep and ill-health. But no one can tell us how to live this one life of ours.
The world oppresses us; from the pressures of society, our parents, our teachers and ourselves to the damn weather, it seems like everything is always trying to get us down. Life isn’t perfect, and shit goes wrong. But we force ourselves into happiness, we struggle to smile, for we are alive. We sing out with one voice: We are alive! Why should we be unable to smile? We shake with desperation, we run and run, chasing something we’ll never be able to have, but if we can just catch a glimpse of it, this moment can be ours. Manchester is struggle, Manchester is determination, Manchester is my dogged grin, daring you to tell me no. We are the soul of Manchester, and tonight we are unstoppable.
Can you feel it, my friends? This is my Manchester, whose spirit throbs through my veins now. If you’re fed up with this crazy world we live in, come visit. In the words of “Saint” James: “Those who find they’re touched by madness, sit down next to me.” Grab a pint, grab a pew, and we’ll make it through, together. This is Manchester. Welcome home.
[Author’s note: I actually wrote this while I was living in Shanghai, but I am in desperate need of some pro-Manchester energy right now during these gloomy January days, so I figured now was finally the time to post it and share the love!]