Jonathan Schofield is planning to interview the Council Leader about the vision for post-lockdown Manchester
The lockdown is loosening. The evidence is everywhere and politicians seemed to be behind the times when it comes to the behaviour of many people.
When the Prime Minister talked of further easing on Thursday evening, such as having six people from outside the household gathering in private outdoor places, it was hard not to shake one’s head. Meetings of more than six people in public outdoor places have been going on in certain areas for the last couple of weeks, if any of the politicians had cared to look.
Is Manchester going to explicitly use the end of lockdown to engineer a ‘new normal'?
Cycling round and sitting in parks and gardens has been a very gregarious occupation for me. Sometimes there have been hundreds of people in these places of recreation, often in groups, often exercising hard. Although they have mainly been exercising their arms as they knock back the booze.
Part of the weirdness of lockdown recently was to see maybe 400 people, mostly social distancing, enjoying the sunshine in Castlefield last week and suddenly realising that this was absolutely normal aside from one thing. Instead of sitting in the gardens and terraces of The White Lion, The Ox, Dukes 92, The Wharf and so on, they’d been deflected a few metres and - instead of bars and restaurants, mostly indies, making the money - Tesco and Sainsburys were raking it in instead.
What is happening is country is falling into two very distinct camps:
Those who behave exactly as requested by local and national government - the cautious camp - and those, especially the young, who are finding it hard to understand the lockdown measures especially when they seem to lack consistency - the libertarian camp.
Manchester City Council and lots of others have now started addressing the lockdown easing. They are putting in measures by which pavements are artificially widened. Huge amounts of plastic is being dumped on key streets as barriers. Some streets have been closed to traffic using the reason, or excuse, of social distancing. So far part of Deansgate and Thomas Street have been closed while Princess Street and others have been narrowed for traffic.
Confidential has secured an interview with the Council Leader of Manchester, Sir Richard Leese, a week on Tuesday. I’ll be asking him what vision the city has for the near future, certainly until we have a vaccine for COVID-19.
Cities are about people, large numbers of people working, living and at leisure – together. They are about bustle and dynamism, so how can Manchester reconcile that city requirement with social distancing and corona-fear? Or is Manchester, and other cities, going to explicitly use the end of lockdown to engineer a ‘new normal’ rather than allow the patterns of behaviour of which we were accustomed to return?
Confidential would like you to contact us via email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or carrier pigeon with your questions or comments for the Council leader on how to deal with the end of lockdown. Do you want a radically different city centre or a return, eventually, to life as we knew it?
We'll consider which questions to ask the day before the interview on Monday 8th June.
Jonathan Schofield is the editor-at-large of Manchester Confidential and also an author and tour guide. He offers regular tours of the city. Presently he is conducting Zoom tours around the city which allows guests to see the city from their sofas. For more details click here.