No mires atrás con ira

[Guest post by Len Grant in Manchester, UK] We wake up this morning to yet another terrorist attack. This time seven people killed in London within two weeks of 22 dead in the Arena attack here in Manchester.

I’d already decided I was going to cycle into town today to sketch a city still in shock. And now shocked again.

The streets of Rusholme are unusually quiet. This mainly Muslim area – a favourite drawing spot with its shisha bars and curry restaurants – has been the focus of police activity lately. But I don’t stop. This morning I want to feel the atmosphere in the city centre.

Police are everywhere. A busy weekend has become even busier with a Manchester United game and the Ariana Grande ‘One Love Manchester’ concert later today. The sight of police officers with automatic rifles on our streets is both shocking and reassuring. Mostly shocking.

Clutching bouquets young and old head towards St. Ann’s Square (sketch at top of page) – symposium delegates were sketching here not 12 months ago – which is awash with flowers, balloons, kids’ fluffy toys and messages of condolence and defiance.

The mood is sombre as we all look out across this outpouring of collective grief. Parents cling to their children and children cling back. Strangers comfort strangers.

The calm is disrupted as a pipe band on the other side of the crowd strikes up with Amazing Grace followed by a lone piper playing No mires atrás con ira, by Manchester band Oasis which has become an unofficial anthem of this last fortnight.

I sit and sketch, aware of people looking over my shoulder. Normally I’d be keen to chat, to talk about urban sketching. But today feels different. I decline an interview with a local newspaper reporter. “I’d rather just draw,” I say.

Despite my reticence, the Manchester spirit prevails: “That’s really good, mate,” says one young man with a thumbs-up at my effort.

A grandma gently guides her two young granddaughters from the sorrowful tribute. “There’s a McDonald’s,” she says, “Shall we go and get a Happy Meal?”

Manchester-based Len Grant describes himself as a photographer, writer and sketcher. He is a member of Manchester Urban Sketchers and last year taught a symposium workshop with Isabel Carmona.


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