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Kerslake report: SMG, Showsec praised for “above and beyond” Manchester response

Manchester Arena operator SMG Europe and security provider Showsec went “above and beyond their roles to provide humanitarian assistance” to victims of the terror attack of 22 May 2017, according to an independent inquiry into the response to the bombing, the findings of which were released today.

The Kerslake review – established by the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and chaired by former Civil Service head Bob Kerslake, Baron Kerslake – found significant failings on the part of the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS), whose firefighters, it says, did not arrive at the scene until two hours after the bombing.

The report also highlights communication issues between police and other agencies – a consequence of the former’s multiple “wide-ranging and testing” duties on the night – and the “complete failure” of an emergency telephony system provided by Vodafone, which caused “considerable distress on the night to families who were frantically seeking to find out more information about what had happened to their loved ones”.

Despite these failures, emergency services, arena bosses, staff, first-aiders and the wider local community were commended for their response to the attack by Salman Ramadan Abedi, a suicide bomber who detonated an improvised device outside the 21,000-cap. venue’s foyer after a show by Ariana Grande, killing 22.

Investment in emergency planning meant staff “were generally able to act with a high degree of confidence”, concluded the Kerslake-chaired panel, while “good judgement was exercised by was exercised key emergency personnel at critical points during the evening”.

“The stewards had formed a human wall to stop people going towards the smoke, which was extremely brave”

“Based on everything seen and heard, the panel believes that staff at the arena made a positive difference and that, without their contributions, the response would have been diminished,” concludes the report. “The panel recognises that SMG, Showsec and EMT-UK [first-aid] personnel went above and beyond their roles to provide humanitarian assistance, and that many of them attended to casualties in the foyer to the best of their abilities, putting aside concern for their own safety in order to try to save others.”

The report also includes several witness testimonies, many of whom praise Showsec’s stewards’ actions in the aftermath of the attack.

“When I was in the main arena, the stewards had formed a human wall to stop people going towards the smoke, which I believe was extremely brave,” said one, with another attendee adding that stewards “were fantastic and were trying to calm everyone down.”

“I felt the evacuation was done as calmly as possible considering,” said another.

Despite this, many of those who attended the show said they believed there was insufficient security at the arena, with bag searches particularly identified as being “inconsistent”. ““The security could have been better and there should have been more searches,” said one concertgoer.

However, Lord Kerslake’s panel countered criticisms of a perceived lack of security, pointing out that “the bomber had not attempted to gain entry to the actual venue, but had remained in the foyer, which was outside of the security zone”.

“There is a lot to be proud of in the response to the attack”

“The Manchester Arena attack was devastating for many thousands of people. We must think first and always of the families of those who have been bereaved, those injured and all those affected by this act of terror,” says Lord Kerslake, commenting on the publication of the report. “We have ensured that their views have been front and centre throughout this process.

“There is a lot to be proud of in the response to the attack, both for the city region of Greater Manchester and for the emergency services. The benefits of collaborative working and planning for emergencies were demonstrated to the full. And there were hundreds, if not thousands, of individual acts of bravery and selflessness.

“But it’s also vital to learn the lessons around things that did not go so well. It matters not just for the people of Greater Manchester and beyond who were caught up in the terrible events of that night, but also for places that might be caught up in such an attack in the future.

“I would like to thank all of those who contributed to this report. There was honesty, there was soul-searching, and there was a determination that their insight would benefit others in the future.”

Manchester Arena reopened on 11 September with the We Are Manchester benefit concert, headlined by Noel Gallagher.


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“A phenomenal success”: We are Manchester unites a city

Music returned to Manchester Arena for the first time since May on Saturday, as a capacity crowd turned out for We are Manchester, a benefit concert that marked the reopening of the venue and raised funds for a memorial to the victims of 22 May’s bombing.

James Allen, general manager of the 21,000-cap. venue, says the show was a “phenomenal success and this was down to the commitment of everyone involved, from the amazing artists to the dedicated arena teams, production and emergency services.

“However, it was the people who attended on the night representing Manchester who embraced the spirit of the event, and showed the strength that Manchester has – and that the arena is truly a part of the Manchester community.”

As with Eagles of Death Metal’s return to Paris, the concert – organised by the arena’s operator, SMG Europe – opened not with a minute’s silence, but a ‘minute of noise’, conducted by poet Longfella:

Other performances included the Courteeners, Blossoms, Rick Astley, Bugzy Malone, Pixie Lott, comedian Peter Kay and headliner Noel Gallagher, who shed a tear before performing Oasis’s ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ – a song which has become symbolic of the city’s resilience, and was performed by Coldplay and Ariana Grande at June’s One Love Manchester concert.

The arena has been closed since 22 May, when a Muslim suicide bomber, Salman Ramadan Abedi, detonated an improvised device outside its foyer after a show by Grande, killing 22.

Security for the reopening was provided by Showsec, with Kay – a former arena steward – wearing a yellow Showsec jacket on stage. The company describes the event as marking both a “new era for the rejuvenated Manchester Arena” and a chance for its stewards to “settle in and feel comfortable working at the venue once again”.

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, appeared before the show and read out the names of all those who lost their lives in the attack. “Thank you for being who you are,” he told concertgoers. “We are Manchester, a city united. Nothing will ever change us. Nothing will ever divide us.”

“We have had to come back to show defiance, to show we are not scared and we don’t want Manchester to be scared”

Those injured in the attack, along with families who lost loved ones, were among those in attendance at the show.

Charlotte Campbell, whose 15-year-old daughter, Olivia, was killed in the attack, told the Press Association: “It feels surreal at the minute. We have had to come back to show defiance, to show we are not scared and we don’t want Manchester to be scared.

“Music was Olivia’s life. If she had been still here today she would have been walking through those doors with us, showing her defiance, that they may have got her but she’s not beaten. She’s here with us. It’s a massive mix of emotions, there will be tears, there will be laughter, but the main thing is we are here. We have proved no one is going to beat us.”


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The 1975 lead Manchester tribute at Parklife

Musicians, festival promoters and the mayor of Manchester paid tribute to the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing at Parklife on Saturday 10 May.

Ahead of Saturday headliners The 1975’s set, screens at Heaton Park were lit up with the text ‘We All Stand Together’ and messages of support from several Parklife performers, including DJs Carl Cox and Goldie.

They were followed on the main stage by people who helped the attack’s victims, including paramedics, firemen, nurses and police officers, and festival directors Sacha Lord and Jon Drape. Manchester city councillor Pat Karney started the 15-minute tribute, joined by Manchester’s lord mayor, Carl Austin-Behan, and its elected mayor, Andy Burnham.

Austin-Behan hailed the emergency services, telling the crowd: “All of these people have helped the victims in the arena,” he said. “The police protected us, the fire services protected us, the paramedics protected us. Let’s have a big round of applause…

“Always choose love over hate”

“I want to thank all those people, from the hotels to the taxi companies, the people on twitter, on Facebook, on social media, they opened their doors… The fact that we’re so unique, so inclusive, so diverse, is what Manchester is all about.”

Burnham, meanwhile, implored festivalgoers to “choose love over hate”.

Matt Healy of The 1975 then took the stage, urging the crowd to make a “minute of noise” rather than silence:

The eighth Parklife, headlined by The 1975 and Frank Ocean, sold out its daily capacity of 80,000. Other performers included Jess Glynne, London Grammar, Run the Jewels, Stormzy, Two Door Cinema Club and George Ezra.


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