âYouâve got the wrong city if you think hate will tear us apart.â
The tweet from former Hacienda DJ Dave Haslam was only 13 words long, but it said an awful lot. It may be impossible to understand why someone might commit an atrocity of the kind witnessed at Ariana Grandeâs Manchester Arena show, but itâs not hard to see why Manchester â open, diverse, creative, independent â was chosen as a target. As a city, it stands proudly against everything Isis, who have claimed responsibility for the attack, represent. And never is that point made more clearly than looking at the cityâs music scene, which was the focal point of the attack.
Whether itâs the merging of the cityâs black and white influences during post-punk, the diverse congregations that gathered on dancefloors during the late-80s acid house explosion, or the arms-around-shoulders singalongs shared at Oasis or Elbow gigs, the city has always prided itself on a sense of inclusivity. You only need look at some of the cityâs most famous song titles: One Love by the Stone Roses, say, or World In Motion by New Order. Haslamâs tweet was a reference to Joy Divisionâs Love Will Tear Us Apart, but it had a wider message: attacks such as these wonât divide a city that has always embraced â especially through music â the ideal of unity.
âOf course, thereâs more that unites us,â says Guy Garvey, frontman of Elbow, whose live shows are geared towards fostering a sense of togetherness. âManchester shows us that. When I started going out here it was the second summer of love â the Roses and the Mondays â and so that sense of inclusiveness has always been what live music was about for me. Meeting friends, getting together with people … itâs about the gathering as much as anything else.â
Haslam agrees: âThose of us from the Hacienda generation and beyond, we do have a very utopian sense of what music can do,â he says. âWeâve been there and seen audiences full of people from all backgrounds. Weâve felt that connectivity and inclusivity. And I think thatâs a very strong tradition in Manchester. People think that one day in 1988 everyone in Manchester woke up with a pill in their mouth and started dancing, but it was always there. Ian Curtis loved Donna Summer. You had the Ruthless Rap Assassins and all those bands in the mid-80s. The first dancers at the Hacienda werenât Bez types, but black kids breakdancing and doing jazz dancing.â
What made this all possible is the fact that Manchester has always been an immigrant city â home to huge communities from Ireland, the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent. Immigration hasnât just contributed to the culture, but built the foundations of the city itself. And because of it, that city is a place where, in the words of BBC 6 Music DJ Mary-Anne Hobbs, âIf you have a dream in your pocket, you can build your own pathway, brick-by-brick, to realising it.â She talks about the passion, ingenuity and idealism that Factory Records helped inject throughout the 80s, but points out that thereâs a deep sense of community in Manchester that has always existed and continues to mark the city out. A recent show by local grime collective Levelz, for example, saw them ask fans to bring tins of food to a show rather than paying a ticket price: they ended up with six carloads to take to their local food bank.
âManchester has long been a shining example of community, unity and tolerance,â the group told the Guardian in a statement. âThereâs no chance of that changing â everyone in Manny is safe as fuck.â
But if Manchester was chosen as a target because of what it represents, itâs worth noting that the values it stands for are rejected not just from the terrorists but by the Islamophobic punditry so desperate to score political points from such a tragedy that they ignore the fact that Muslim cabbies were busy ferrying distressed concert-goers across town free of charge, while immigrant doctors tended to the injured. âEveryone on Earth is represented in Manchester,â adds Garvey. âManchester has [one of the] largest Jewish settlements outside of Israel, an enormous Muslim community, the biggest international student body in Europe. That inclusiveness is what has given it such a boost in the last couple of decades. Itâs why the cityâs got such a big beating heart. Itâs why it keeps getting stronger.â
For Haslam, concepts such as diversity, tolerance and acceptance are so deeply ingrained within Manchesterâs music scene that it can be easy to stop seeing it. Still, he remembers playing a club night in the city around 1993, when a New York DJ turned to him and said: âYouâd never get this mix of people in New York.â
âI didnât know what he meant at first,â he says. âSo I looked out at the dancefloor, and there were black people, white people, students, dole-ites, fashionable types â¦ for me that was regular. It was just what happens here.â