Article published: Sunday, October 4th 2015
An all-female anti-austerity choir staged a flash mob performance at Piccadilly train station on Saturday, kicking off a week of demonstrations, discussions and creative dissent in Manchester.
Emerging from a crowd of commuters and football fans, the group gave an attention-grabbing rendition of ‘Bread and Roses’ against a backdrop of anti-Tory banners.
“They’re not welcome here”, said Sue McCormick, one of the organisers of the flash mob, continuing: “It’s outrageous cheek to choose to come to Manchester. It just shows their arrogance.”
A week of action has been called by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity to coincide with the Conservative Party conference, taking place at Manchester Central Convention Complex from Sunday 4th to Wednesday 7th October.
Centred on the slogan, ‘Take Back Manchester’, a network of groups and individuals will be coming together to express their opposition to the government’s austerity agenda.
However, this stance does not seem to be shared by local establishment figures. Referring to the upcoming conference, Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council (MCC), said: “Large scale events such as this represent a significant boost to the city both in economic and reputational terms. I’m glad that thousands more delegates will have the opportunity to experience what Manchester has to offer.”
In addition, Marketing Manchester, the public relations agency set up to ‘develop the Manchester brand’, have welcomed the event, stating that it will enhance the city’s profile and generate an estimated £29m for the local economy.
But anti-austerity campaigners remain unconvinced.
Penny Hicks, chair of the Manchester People’s Assembly, was sceptical about whether these benefits would be felt by ordinary Mancunians. “They’re talking about bringing £29m into the city, when the Tories have cut our budgets by much more than that,” she said. Faced with cuts to local authority funding, MCC will be cutting £55m from its budget this year. “[Richard Leese] is failing to understand the effect that austerity has on the citizens of Manchester.”
From mass marches to marathon raves, the city will see a diverse range of actions and events this week, all united by an anti-austerity sentiment. Tens of thousands are expected to flood the streets for Sunday’s national demonstration, with further protests, taking aim at specific areas of Tory policy, called throughout the week.
A number of cultural events have also been organised, with gigs, plays, comedy shows and film screenings taking place alongside the demonstrations. Ruth Holtom, a participant in today’s flash mob, highlighted the possibility of using the arts as a tool for social change. She said: “It’s a great way to make it accessible to people. It can have a powerful message behind it, but it’s not aggressive or negative.”
The choir are planning to perform again several times throughout the conference. “We need to puncture the bubble of arrogance that surrounds the Tory Party,” said Sue. Along with the rest of the anti-austerity movement, they are determined to make their voices heard this week.
The full schedule of events can be accessed via the People’s Assembly website
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