A year since the arena terror attack, thousands gathered to pay their respects and unite in solidarity

It was an event that shook Manchester, but also one that brought it together.

And on 22 May 2018, one year since the arena terror attack, the city again united - remembering both those affected and the remarkable spirit of solidarity shown by the city and well-wishers in its aftermath.  

Aptly named ‘Manchester Together,’ the commemoration programme began this afternoon, with a moving service at Manchester Cathedral. National figures including PM Theresa May and Prince William joined civic leaders, first responders and those who were badly injured in the attack, as well as families who lost loved ones. Screened live in Cathedral Gardens (header images), the service included a one-minute silence, which was observed across the city.    

One of the most poignant moments, however, came this evening, when thousands visited Albert Square for One Voice Manchester. 

Launching with a remix of Tony Walsh’s iconic poem This is the Place - first performed during the Albert Square vigil on 23 May 2017 - the event was a powerful demonstration of how Manchester continues to ‘meet terror with love.’

The two-hour singalong began with video recordings from a host of familiar faces, spanning TV casts (Coronation Street, Casualty, Emmerdale, CBBC, Cold Feet) to footballers (Vincent Kompany, Ryan Giggs, David May) and local music moguls (The Stone Roses’ Mani, The Smiths’ Mike Joyce and Johnny Marr, Happy Mondays’ Shaun Ryder, singer J P Cooper, Joy Division/New Order’s Peter Hook, The Courteeners’ Liam Fray and DJ Clint Boon - who praised Manchester’s music legacy). 

Christopher Ecclestone and Sally Lindsay also sent their regards; as did presenter Lorraine Kelly, broadcaster Mark Radcliffe…and Piers Morgan, the only one to prompt boos rather than cheers. 

Rowetta: Everywhere around the world, people love Manchester - its people, its music…

Then followed Speeches from Councillor June Hitchen, who praised Manchester’s emergency staff, and Bishop of Manchester David Walker, who told the crowd how candles burned in the wake of last year’s event were made into 22 large candles - one for each of the victims - and lit today in Manchester Cathedral: “‘our light is their light”.   

A one-minute silence followed (later followed up by an equally symbolic ‘minute of noise’), before a performance from Manchester University Chancellor and poet Lemn Sissay. 

After that, a succession of choirs from across Manchester performed; introduced by the likes of actress Jennie McAlpine, Commonwealth gold medallist Diane Modahl (whose charitable foundation helps disadvantaged young people across the North West into sport), North West Tonight presenters Annabel Tiffin and Roger Johnson, broadcaster Terry Christian, CBBC’s Lauren Layfield, journalist John Robb and Happy Mondays’ Rowetta. 

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The sun shone on Manchester

Choirs young and old(er) performed a repertoire of poignant songs: from the One Voice youth choir with Why We Sing to Bee Vocal, who talked about the mental health benefits of singing in a choir before launching into Wonder, and the AMC Gospel Choir with Proud. Manchester Lesbian and Gay Choir performed a familiar medley of songs, culminating in Oasis’ Wonderwall, while the Healthcare Choir chose There You’ll Be and the Survivors Choir sung Rise Up.

Further shows of solidarity came when many choirs joined together in performance: United and City with Something Inside so Strong; police, fire and ambulance staff with Bridge Over Troubled Water and a medley of groups from across the city to perform Fix You. The performances rounded off with Parrs Wood School, who performed at Ariana Grande’s One Love Manchester concert last year, singing Clean Bandit’s Symphony. 

Finally, it was time for a communal singalong, as the thousands-strong crowd joined over 2800 choir members in song. People from all walks of life sung Ariana Grande’s One Last Time - harking to the memorable One Love Manchester concert she organised last June - as well as Oasis’ Don’t Look Back in Anger, now synonymous with Mancunian solidarity and introduced (via video) by Noel Gallagher. Other band frontmen introducing their songs included Guy Garvey of Elbow (One Day Like This) and Gary Barlow of Take That (Never Forget). 

The evening rounded off with an upbeat jazz rendition of All You Need is Love and an applause for the volunteers and organisers. Just over an hour and a half later, at 10.31pm, bells rang from the Town Hall - as well as St Ann's Church and St Mary's RC Church - to mark a year since the moment the attack took place. 

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Tributes in St Ann's Square

Meanwhile, over in St Ann’s Square - where thousands gathered to mourn, remember and pay their respects in the aftermath of the attack - tributes again surround the central fountain, where song lyrics chosen by the public will be projected until 26 May.

Those who still want to get involved can also find several Japanese maple trees, part of a 28-tree route which runs to Victoria Station. On these Trees of Hope, people can leave messages of tribute and solidarity using specially-designed cardboard tags until 27 May. These messages will be kept alongside tributes left last year in an archive of the city’s remarkable response to the attack.

Today demonstrated, for the final time, how Manchester won’t be beaten by last year’s tragedy 

On the contrary, it’s stronger than ever.