Letter from… Manchester

By Joshua Bell, Senior Consultant, Newgate Manchester

It’s week four of lockdown in Manchester’s Northern Quarter and, like almost every major city across the world, many things have changed. Roads have become pavements, weekend nights are completely silent and it’s now just the seagulls that wake you at 7am. This neighbourhood is packed with thousands of people in their 20s to early 30s, mostly living in flats, many without balconies. The reality of this lockdown couldn’t be further from the former lifestyle led by local residents. Despite this, the restraint of the community has, from what is seen, been extremely diligent.

Look more widely around the City of Manchester beyond the Northern Quarter, and the sombre reality and impact of COVID-19 hits home. Most independent shops are boarded up, sirens are relentless, and in the shadow of the usually popular Midland Hotel is the NHS Nightingale Hospital North West, open and ready to care for up to 750 COVID-19 patients.

Across Manchester, the challenge of homelessness which has been a long-standing social issue here, was top of Mayor Andy Burnham’s agenda as the UK entered lockdown. Over 500 homeless people were placed in hotels across the city, with more than 1,000 rooms made available. Despite the steps forward, charities here on the ground, many under financial pressure, are working tirelessly to deliver food and resources to the homeless throughout the crisis. The Mayor has acknowledged the ongoing challenges in a recent press conference and has pledged to continue supporting the homeless and vital charities in any way possible.

For many this has been a moment to reflect and an opportunity to rethink, and for the City of Manchester, its leadership and its residents, they will undoubtedly take this opportunity to do the same.