Comedian Peter Kay has delivered a message of defiance at Manchester Arena’s reopening concert, declaring “we can’t let terrorists win”.
Kay appeared at the We Are Manchester show on Saturday alongside other local heroes including Noel Gallagher.
More than 14,000 fans were there, four months after a bomb killed 22 people.
“The victims will never ever be forgotten, but we’ve got to move forward with love and not hate, and that’s how we win,” Kay told the crowd.
Kay worked as a steward at the venue in the 1990s before going on to perform there more than 40 times.
“There’s been a lot of joy in this room over the years, including the night of 22 May, right up until the terrorist attack,” he said – and the crowd booed at the mention of the attack.
“These last four months have been incredibly painful,” Kay continued.
“Horrendous is putting it mildly. But that’s why you’re here – because we can’t let terrorists win.
“And I know the memories of that night will stay with us for a very long time but we’ve got to remember the good times and let them outweigh the bad.”
Kay then introduced Gallagher, and the former Oasis star performed a string of favourites including Don’t Look Back In Anger.
The song took on special significance in the wake of the bombing after a crowd started spontaneously singing it at a memorial.
“It’s become some sort of anthem for defiance,” Gallagher said. “And every time you sing, we win.”
As well as defiance, the mood at the event had a mixture of pride, catharsis, pure enjoyment – and, for some, trepidation.
Among the crowd were Paul Woodhouse and his son, from Edinburgh, who were at the Ariana Grande concert that was attacked on 22 May.
He said: “Some of us that were there first time were there [at the reopening] to face a fear.
“Not so much of going to a concert, but of going back to the same place. It’s still a bit raw. In time, yes, I think it will have helped, coming back to the same place.”
The atmosphere inside the concert was “quite positive”, he added.
“We found everybody was quite cheerful with everybody. Quite uplifting. You knew everybody was standing together.”
Adrian Thorpe, who was in the arena foyer when the bomb went off, said returning with his daughter and partner was initially “nerve-wracking”.
He said: “It was emotional returning but it’s turned out a happy evening. Last time we were here it was a sad time but it’s been a joyous evening.
“She’s enjoyed it and that’s all that matters now. The kids can put a smile back on their faces again.”
The foyer area was also reopened on Saturday, but it now contains a row of airport-style body scanners and brightly-coloured temporary wall coverings with slogans such as “We are entertainment”, “We are love” and “We are stronger”.
Also in the crowd was Pep Guardiola, manager of Manchester City FC, whose wife and daughters were at the Ariana Grande gig.
He told BBC News: “It’s good to come back to normality and see that life is going on and remember the families that suffered.”
- Manchester Arena attack – full coverage
- Surviving the Manchester bomb
There was tight security at the venue, with backpacks banned and armed police patrolling both the exterior and the inside concourse.
The night started with a tribute to the bomb victims from Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who read the names of the 22 people who were killed by Salman Abedi.
The something-for-everyone bill included 1980s pop star Rick Astley – who was wearing a shirt bearing the Manchester bee emblem – plus Pixie Lott, ex-Girls Aloud member Nadine Coyle, grime MC Bugzy Malone and Stockport band Blossoms.
Manchester band Courteeners summed up how the sense of pride in the city has been renewed since the attack when singer Liam Fray declared during their first song: “Manchester, centre of the universe.”
The concert was hosted by comedian Russell Kane. When a photographer came on stage to take a picture of the crowd, Kane told them: “Let’s show the world what defiance, happiness, positivity and strength look like.”
Proceeds from the concert will go to establishing a permanent memorial to the victims.
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