Horrifying. Simply Horrifying. On the 22nd May, a terrorist bombing took place in Manchester in the foyer of the Manchester Arena at the conclusion of an Ariana Grande concert. This suicide bombing killed 23 people and injured 116. This attack is sadly in 2017 one of many that have taken place across the western world.
Of course, Manchester isn’t new to this. The IRA had a truck laden with explosives driven into the centre of town in 1996 and blew up the centre of Manchester. Terrorism too isn’t new to the world wherein a fast paced twenty-four hours news cycle, we seem to be hearing about more terror attacks that ever before. So why is Manchester so shocking this time around?
Terrorism, put simply, is an attack on a way of life.
The ‘unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims’. Terrorism, as we know it in the world today, is often a way of placing fear in the hearts of everyday people. This was an attack not just on the city of Manchester and it’s values, as well as an attack on the poor innocent people, many teenagers, children and families but also an attack on a way of life, an attack on culture, an attack on everything we as an entertainment industry stand for.
Live music is a safe space. People go to have a good time. People go to share a common experience with friends and go to see people they idolise, people who contribute to who they are.
People go to escape and be free, to feel a connection with other people. These are all the very ideals that terrorists would love nothing more than to disrupt and destroy. We simply can’t let that happen.
Maybe the worst and most long-reaching implication: This may have been someone’s first concert and this will change how they feel about live entertainment. An attack on freedom and soft power, we saw the same with the Bataclan attack in Paris in 2015 that what should be a safe place turned into an arena of horror and fear following the attack on the Eagles of Death Metal show.
Of course – terrorism is a perpetually self-defeating industry and we see this incredibly clearly with Manchester.
What was meant to strike fear and hate into the hearts of the world has done the opposite, evoking love and compassion and heroic stories of mankind.
Whether it’s the countless stories of hotels opening their doors or taxis working all night for free to make sure people travelled safe or the countless people who ran INTO the building to save people following the attack, it truly brought out the best of a population in defending and saving those who were affected by such a gut-wrenching attack. We can only hope these stories of love and mercy become synonymous with the attack.
But what for those working? Our industry compatriots who were simply going about their day to day?
The riggers, technicians, loaders, production managers, the F&B and FOH staff and everyone in between – these people were just doing their 9 to 5, putting on a show for the masses. Sadly for us as an industry, it’s time we realised that actually, that ‘safe space’ concept that we’re trying to accomplish is a construct and not necessarily a reality. That doesn’t mean we should all be fearful and scared – far from it – but it does mean we need to start taking security seriously and remember that sadly, the fact we create this common experience of escapism, freedom and connection, this common experience of joy and happiness does indeed make us a soft and prime target for anyone against our way of life. We need to start talking about risk and security and making it everyone’s responsibility, for this is the only sure way to ensure everyone’s safety.
There is hope dear reader – Can you imagine a better group of people, a better industry to deal with such things?
We deal with challenges every single day, we deal with issues and problems that often appear insurmountable or dangerous or simply not recoverable but the show must go on! Through the exact same skills and attributes, we can fix this too. This is just one more challenge in the way. The solution is no different – plan, communicate, expect the unexpected, look after each other but most importantly, don’t lose your passion. We do something amazing every day that people need as important as air or water.
We deliver hope night after night around the world and we facilitate connection in a world that is all too often disconnected. Nothing on earth can stop us from doing that.
I’m not alone in suggesting that our thoughts, prayers and love from everyone in the TheatreArtLife community go out to the victims and people of Manchester but also to the Ariana Grande touring team, the local crew, the venue team – we salute you and we as an industry stand together with you – as a global group of people who go to work every day to help make people’s lives better through live entertainment, we can’t let Manchester stop us doing this.
Stay safe out there, look out for each other.
Also by Tom Warneke:
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