The city of Manchester was united in song on Tuesday night, marking one year since 22 people were killed and more than 800 were injured — many of them children — in a suicide bomb attack outside an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena.
To mark the atrocity’s anniversary, a series of remembrance events took place across the city culminating in a mass sing-along. Thousands packed into Albert Square and its adjoining streets to be part of “Manchester Together – With One Voice,” a one-off community concert featuring performances from local choirs and encompassing over 3,000 singers in total.
One of the groups performing was the Manchester Survivors Choir, made up of people who were at the Grande concert, who sang a stirring version of Andra Day‘s “Rise Up.”
Parrs Wood High School’s Harmony Group, whose appearance alongside Grande at last year’s One Love Manchester charity concert just two weeks after the attack made headlines around the world, also sang at the free-to-attend event, covering Clean Bandit‘s “Symphony.”
Around 10 choirs performed in total, including ones formed by community groups and emergency services staff, with songs ranging from Simon and Garfunkel‘s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to Coldplay‘s “Fix You” to a medley of Manchester anthems (“Blue Monday,” “Wonderwall,” “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”) delivered with gusto by the Manchester Lesbian & Gay Chorus.
The two-hour event culminated in a mass sing-along of five songs: Grande’s “One Last Time,” The Beatles‘ “All You Need Is Love”, “One Day Like This” by Elbow, “Never Forget” by Take That and “Don’t Look Back In Anger” by Oasis, which was adopted as an anthem of defiance in the immediate aftermath of last year’s attack.
There were also introductory video messages from a number of the city’s most famous music stars, including Noel Gallagher, Johnny Marr, Shaun Ryder, Peter Hook, Guy Garvey, the Courteeners‘ Liam Fray and The Stone Roses bassist Mani.
“My heart is always going to be in Manchester,” said Marr, “always has been and always will be.”
“Tonight, the city of Manchester continues to demonstrate our solidarity with those affected by the terrible events of one year ago,” said Lord Mayor of Manchester June Hitchen opening the event. “We also stand in solidarity with each other as Mancunians and tonight we are going to show the world that we stand together.”
“A year ago, our grief was raw and our shock was intense, but we pledged that night to be resilient and to defy the terrorists,” added the Bishop of Manchester, the Right Reverend David Walker. Reflecting on Manchester’s strong musical heritage and the role that it played in bringing people together after the arena bombing he told the crowd it was “appropriate that tonight we come together and let our music be at the forefront of what we do and who we are.”
Earlier in the day, Prince William and Prime Minister Theresa May joined the families of victims at a special remembrance service held at Manchester Cathedral. The event was also attended by first responders to the scene, survivors of the attack, multi-faith leaders and national politicians.
“We remember with love before God those whose lives were lost — and those whose lives have been changed forever and have to live with the terrible memories of that day 12 months ago,” said Dean of Manchester Rogers Govender during the service, which was relayed to people watching on giant screens in the Cathedral gardens.
Large crowds of people — many wearing T-shirts embossed with “We Love Manchester” or the worker bee symbol that is an emblem of the city — also congregated in nearby St. Ann’s Square and Albert Square to observe a national minute’s silence.
For some, the memories of one year ago proved too much and several people could be seen breaking down in tears and being consoled by friends and family during the service. Others held banners promoting messages of love, solidarity and togetherness.
Numerous other tributes and signs of remembrance could be seen all over the city. Lining the route from Victoria Station to St Ann’s Square a “Trees of Hope” trail has been created, consisting of 28 Japanese maple trees onto which members of the public have hung thousands of messages of support.
One reads: “Gone but never will we forget.” Another dedicated to 28-year-old staffer John Atkinson, who was one of those killed in the attack, says, “Though you may be out of sight, you live forever in my heart and mind.”
Photos and touching personal dedications to other victims of the bombing, along with floral tributes, line the city streets. In Victoria Station, rail passengers have been invited to write their thoughts and memories on “Stronger Together” boards, while messages of unity can be seen in numerous shop windows and hanging from office buildings.
The remembrance commemorations ended at 2231 BST when church bells rang across the city, marking the exact moment when the attack took place one year ago.