David Adamson gives the rundown on an evening of heartfelt celebration
When I arrived at the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel on Wednesday afternoon, ahead of that evening’s Pride of Manchester Awards, a small but exuberant crowd of people had gathered at the cordon beneath the building’s ornate arches.
Some were press - like me, sent out in their best suits and dresses, blinking in the sunlight and quadruple-checking their notepads and equipment, just glad to be out.
Some were paparazzi, all mangy anoraks and the smell of rollies, alert but with the jaded body language of a hit squad on their third job of the day.
And most were autograph hunters who, I must say, seemed very excited about the whole thing.
Yes there was glitz, and the free wine wasn’t bad either, but there was no illusion about why we were there in well-dressed solidarity
Manchester may not boast the same year-round calendar of celebrity events like London, that travelling circus of premieres and perfume launches, but when it’s got a reason get dressed up this city doesn’t disappoint.
I picked up my wristband labelled ‘media’ (glamorous, I know), and was shown my spot behind the barrier that ran the length of the red carpet, and before long the attendees began to arrive.
I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never watched Love Island, or Strictly for that matter, but I know a famous face when I see one. Not because I necessarily recognise them and know their name, but because they just look famous. The combination of well-cut clothes, clear-ringing personality and the exterior upkeep of a listed building creates a sort of aura around them.
Fortunately, I was there to speak to some of the winners of the Pride of Manchester Awards, so didn’t need to prepare questions on the intensity of television or how to avoid tan lines. But fair play to the present stars of reality TV and otherwise; when words emerged out of their beautiful faces, they were kind, easy-going and emotionally open: and this is to journalists, who’ll pretty much take a slap in the face if it means getting a few quotes for a story.
And then of course there’s Shaun Ryder, ex of Happy Mondays, a walking aura. A man who has not only stayed the same in the spotlight, but seen the world alter on his axis, the days of saying ‘fuck’ on TFI Friday now as quaint as Austen’s novels.
In the midst of all this was the quiet centre of the evening, the winners of the awards, who looked rightly baffled by the carpet, the lights, the banks of cameras and vaguely desperate faces asking them questions.
As they filed through and into the hotel the procession ebbed away, the magic dust settled, and we headed into the ballroom of the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel.
Deep below the main beuilding is the ballroom, impressive in its size and high ceilings, with a honeycomb of white-clothed tables, each setting appropriately decorated with a pin badge of the Manchester bee along with stripes of yellow and blue.
Soon dinner was served; bone-in chicken breast with gnocchi, a mushroom sauce and curly kale. Miraculously for how many will have been dished up the chicken was perfectly done, the gnocchi well-kneaded and the mushroom sauce an earthy delight. There was Stormy Cape Chenin blanc and Rometta Sangiovese Rubicone, the white as fresh and crunchy as its appley inspiration, the red a spicy, straight up and down tasty glass of wine. The lemon posset cleansed our pallets for the evening ahead.
The ceremony began and host Kym Marsh took to the stage, compering the crowd with an easy manner and later navigating the tonal shifts of the evening in a personable and measured way. Much is made of the ‘down-to-earth’ quality of northern stars but she certainly wears it well.
Florence Coke was awarded the TSB Community Hero award for her tireless feeding of the hungry and desperate in the pandemic and beyond from her Mama Flo’s restaurant in Stockport. Accepting her award from Mama Flo’s regular Will Mellor and a towering Harry Maguire she explained how “my heart bleeds at what I’ve seen”, hammering home a truth that shouldn’t need to be said, that “no one should go hungry.”
Child of Courage winner Taylor Dignan and Young Fundraiser Hannah Miah, both 11, frankly put the adult world to shame with their fundraising for the Children’s Eye Hospital and the Muslim Charity, respectively. While a little shy and obviously delighted at the recognition, their almost gallic shrugs at the good they’d done showed that kindness towards others need not be some personal PR campaign.
The award for Outstanding Contribution went to the Mines Advisory Group, a three decade-old organisation devoted to the clearing of mines in more than 70 countries, whose founder Rae McGrath explained its inception in late-80s Afghanistan with gut-punching emotional heft, saying that “if there was a problem there, there must’ve been a problem everywhere.”
Fundraiser of the Year John Jones wore his nearly half a million pounds raised for local hospices, including that of his late wife Joan, very lightly, and his accordion even lighter as he gamely agreed to play a bit of Sweet Caroline for the crowd. Receiving a Special Recognition award, women’s charity and food bank founder Ehinor Otaigbe-Amedu warmed hearts with her words that “you are never alone, and whatever you are going through, there’s always hope.”
Special Recognition awards also went to lawyer Peter Garsden for his stigma-dismantling work with over 800 adult victims of child sexual abuse, “taking them from crisis to acceptance”, and Deborah Dixon, whose tragic loss of her 23-year-old son Aaron to an undetected heart defect led her to raise £500,000 to pay for over 5,000 screenings.
PC Paul Spinks received the Emergency Services award for his act of selfless courage when off-duty, disarming an unhinged man wielding a machete outside of a primary school, and looked every inch the kind of police officer the public can trust in.
The Children’s Champion award was given to Greg Davis, who set up United Estates of Wythenshawe to tackle anti-social behaviour in young people by simply giving them purpose and, in a previously clapped-out church near his estate, a place to achieve it, explaining that “there’s a screaming need for youth provision”. His wonderful work was celebrated by three former ne'er-do-wells in Shaun Ryder, Bez and Peter Hook.
The final Special Recognition award of the evening was given to Figen Murray, campaigner for Martyn’s Law following the senseless death of her 29-year-old son Martyn Hett in the Manchester Arena bombing. More than a bit of mascara, and a tear from the eye of this soppy journo, ran when she said that “it’s not just for Martyn, it’s with him, because I can sense him all the time.”
Yes there was glitz, and the free wine wasn’t bad either, but there was no illusion about why we were there in well-dressed solidarity - to celebrate the work, in the present and the future of this city, of extraordinary Mancunians.
I couldn’t be more proud.
Read next - Sleuth: Prince Michael's madness & a date with a beef fat candle at Wood
Read again - Pride of Manchester Award winner Figen Murray speaks out
Get the latest news to your inbox
Get the latest food & drink news and exclusive offers by email by signing up to our mailing list. This is one of the ways that Confidentials remains free to our readers and by signing up you help support our high quality, impartial and knowledgable writers. Thank you!