Yesterday I cried amongst strangers. Yesterday strangers opened their arms and the stories of their lives to a public who held them, and loved them. Everyone that walked became a celebrity. By that I mean a person who is publicly celebrated. They were true celebrities and I thank them all for their generosity. Their bravery, and for many their dedication. To keep walking forward when life can throw you backwards.
What is the city felt like an event for Manchester. It felt like the same feeling seeing your friends in their first play at school. You love them because you are them, you support them because you know they are you, you feel exactly what they are feeling, they represent what we are, people of a city, with our own stories and lives, worth building a giant yellow catwalk for. Worth investigating.
The time that we will live in it is hard to feel democracy now. We are often so divided, by politics, by wars, by walls. What this showed was that democracy is not only about politics, it is not founded in ideology, it can be created. I felt in the moments of watching, that our attention wasn’t just forward it was to each-other. I looked into the teary eyes of strangers and didn’t feel alien, or stupid. It felt honest, and human and right that we can all feel something, mutually, even if it isn’t the same thing. I saw people in the audience that I thought could have been on the stage, the rich characters of Manchester. And in a way they were. They saw themselves reflected in the shining eyes of strangers.
It made me think about my own relationship to this city. Growing up attending Jacksons Row synagogue, thinking about my Fathers history growing up in Manchester in Prefab houses on Heaton Park. Manchester to me has always meant community, and family, and yesterday I felt my community triple in size as suddenly I felt like the sister of a city, of its people. Not just confined to my own story. So much about story now is passed to us differently. The folklore of my parents and grandparents generation has dissipated into Instagram and Facebook, but yesterday I felt new folklore emerging. I felt new stories emerging in the way we used to tell them, because we were moved we are compelled to share, because no matter what, feeling cannot be passed through a phone.
People change people. Yesterday people changed people. People lifted people up, people who live outside policies and politics, people who saved people.
I know that new folklore was created yesterday. I know that I will be sharing the story of the couple who maybe fell in love on a catwalk in Manchester city centre. The story of Stefan, who after countless days in cold weather, with open arms let a whole city into his heart.
The biggest lesson I have learnt this year has not come from the Prime Minister. But from Stefan. A pilgrim. Who taught us we were all pilgrims. And if you wait long enough, your whole city will sing to you.
This was a written response for Manchester International Festival, as part of the Creative 50 Initiative.