Jonathan Schofield takes a look at a touching new addition to the city centre
The Glade of Light is a mark of respect for the 22 innocent victims of a sick deluded fool with a medieval idea of his religion. It is tastefully done, bringing a moment of contemplation, for those who choose to observe it, in a city and region which exemplified how to react to the horror wrought on 22 May, 2017. We wrote about this at the time and underlined how the reaction was all about identity, reconciliation and togetherness; an utter rejection of presumably what Salman Abedi and his fellow murderers intended.
The memorial is simple in composition and all the better for that
In the weeks that followed the Arena bomb, people turned St Ann's Square into a sea of flowers, an informal memorial. Now the city has the Glade of Light.
The memorial is simple in composition and all the better for that. It is a simple ring of white stone with the names of the 22 people who lost their lives in bronze including personalised memory capsules. The ring has been described as a ‘halo’. There are trees and benches and the whole piece is placed above the River Irwell.
A lovely touch is the inclusion of UK native plants selected for the way they variously follow the seasons. This is the case of the hawthorn which blossoms in spring with white flowers and magically lights up hedgerows right across the country as they wind down lanes and fields. The name for that blossom is ‘may’, the month of the Ariana Grande concert during which the murder happened.
The Glade of Light has a very fine location at the heart of old Manchester, between the Cathedral, Chetham’s, its medieval buildings, and the river. The fact the memorial looks over to Salford is sweet as the Arena bomb was not just about one city but affected many other boroughs.
By the way, this is the first part of a landscaping step-up for the area which will include more gardens down what was Victoria Street but is now all about pedestrians.
The design of the Glade of Light was developed after consultation with affected families by BCA designers and, oddly titled, Smiling Wolf.
It’s not all been plain sailing.
The Glade of Light should have opened to the public before Christmas but instead that ugliest of city furniture, Heras fencing, blocked not only the memorial but all access on a major pathway to Victoria Station for weeks. People got in during early December and treated the space with a lack of respect. Relatives complained and even arranged patrols. It wasn’t a pleasant episode. The lesson is the fewer fences in public areas the better, communal activity deters nasty folk from abusing city spaces.
Another problem issue concerned changes to the original design, notably the decision not to go ahead with a water feature. Understandably relatives felt, if you forgive the pun, this watered down the original proposal. Over the time this will probably prove a good decision and increase the resilience of the memorial. Water features need maintenance and often break down, especially in Manchester.
Of course, the other elements will need maintenance too, so dear Manchester City Council, please make that happen with all diligence. To tend the landscaping and care for the memorial will take considerable effort.
Put those issues aside, along with the on-going enquiry into the way the emergency services reacted on that dreadful evening of 22 May 2017, and take yourself down there, and see what you think. It’s open access and worth the trip.
The Glade of Light lies at the junction of Fennel Street and Victoria Street in the heart of the city and in view of the Arena where the 22 May, 2017 attack took place.