What Is The City But The People?

Opening Ceremony M1F17

A free public event in Piccadilly Gardens

June 29th 2017

Idea by Jeremy Deller

Directed by Richard Gregory

Piccadilly Gardens is sunny and crowded. Friends bump into each other and strangers talk for the first time. Above us is an 80 metre long raised walkway, two giant projection screens and a stage.

MIF17 opens with a single figure walking the runway to the pounding beat of DJ Graham Massey and assorted local buskers and musicians. The same man closes the show, he is homeless and sells The Big Issue

In between, 149 other city dwellers strut their stuff. Dog walkers, lovers, drag queens, protesters, famous Mancunions, The taxi drivers who turned off their meters on the night of the recent bomb in the city. A brand new baby and a Mancunian in her 100th year. Different cultures, creeds and social stratas. Manchester.

This is an artistic statement that celebrates diversity and community. Manchester is one of the most ethnically diverse districts in Greater Manchester. It is the only authority outside London with residents within each of the 90 detailed ethnic groups listed in the Census.

Manchester is growing rapidly with a 19% increase between 2001 and 2011. The population is expected to exceed 550,000 by 2021. It is a city which prides itself on welcoming new people. It is also a city with rapidly increasing numbers of rough sleepers, up 41% in the last year. Some of our newer residents struggle to find a home and have to be creative with hidden, disused spaces. Organisations such as Coffee for CraigThe Booth Centre and The Brick Project are all doing great work. Andy Burnham recently pledged 15% of his salary as Lord Mayor to an appeal intended to end homelessness by 2020.

Post the explosion on 22nd May the city feels kinder and more empathic. The Manchester Values focus on what we have in common and how we all contribute to Manchesterthose who are newly arrived and those who have always lived here. 

As we remember that Muslim taxi drivers turned their meters off and homeless men cradled injured children and carried them to safety. Let’s hope that Dellers vision on the walkway remind us all to be a little kinder and practice empathy.

The walkway took several weeks to build but overnight it was removed after the ceremony. It could have been a great temporary roof for Manchester’s rough sleepers to rest under as well as walk over.

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