Much love, Manchester.

This isn’t the sort of thing I’d usually write about but sitting outside, enjoying the sunshine today, my thoughts were pulled back to those innocent victims who wouldn’t be doing the same thing and I felt compelled to get my thoughts and feelings out.

Monday night’s atrocity instantly reminded me of my childhood; spent gallivanting around London enjoying concerts from many beloved artists… particularly Girls Aloud! Now, in my twenties, those memories are some of the happiest times from my childhood, and I still have friends whom I met on those journeys. But now, I wont ever step foot inside another concert arena without the chilling reminder of what everyone faced that fateful night and how their experiences have been ruined, forever, because of it.

My first concert was in fact Hear’ Say, back in the days when mobiles and digital cameras weren’t a big thing so (un)fortunately I don’t have any horrifically embarrassing photos to share… But I’m sure my Mum does somewhere! My older brother and sister-in-law were the lucky beings who got to share in my first concert experience with me, and I felt so proud and grown up being beside them… and of course staying up late on a school night!  We laughed, we danced, we sang and I left with a beaming smile, decked in the latest Hear’ Say merchandise, ready to recount my experience to anyone who would listen! It was a magical night, a right of passage for any young child, and a memory the three of us still recount fondly today.

Later I went on to attending shows with friends (when my sister in law didn’t beg to come – as much as she pretended she didn’t like them!) Some I’d even met through the artists themselves. Girls Aloud tours were an annual thing back then, and most definitely the highlight of our year. They took many weeks of careful outfit planning, dance routine practising and rushing to ensure we were there hours before the event, in case we chanced a glimpse at the girls themselves. I longed for those tours, to be in a room surrounded my people who knew what I felt, who loved the music as much as I did. They were some of the most carefree moments of my youth.

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Seeing those five girls, who I idolised, up-close and personal, singing our hearts out and feeling completely carefree is a feeling that I still remember so well today. It is a feeling every person in the Manchester Arena was robbed of on Monday night. They should all be spending this week in a bubble of excitement, recounting the night over and over, but instead many are facing the week in hospital, in pain and mental torture, and 22 of them will never make it home.

I’ve always looked forward to the day my nieces and nephews, and maybe one day even my own children, are old enough to go to a concert. I’ve wanted desperately to be the one to take them, to share in that magical experience of their very first concert and to make it as special as I possibly can for them. But the constant reminder of how that went so very wrong, for so many people attending Ariana’s show on Monday, will forever be imprinted in my mind. Those names and faces who lost their lives and their loved ones, those who fought so bravely to help those in need, will be constantly reflected in every concert I now attend. And I know I’m not alone.

It saddens me how such wonderful memories from my childhood, have been destroyed for so many young people there on Monday night. No one should go to a concert, somewhere that should be filled with joy and happiness, and not return home at the end of it. The only comfort I can find, is remembering that buzzing feeling that flooded my body immediately after a concert. It was one of the greatest feelings, a true sense of happiness, and that is what everyone there experienced in the moments before the tragic event.

I know words are not much, but they are all I can offer. My thoughts and love are with every single person affected by Monday’s nightmare and they will be, forever. I cannot begin to comprehend the unimaginable grief those families will be going through, as I struggle to make sense of it all myself. To those who lost their lives, may they sleep peacefully, and to those who battle on, may you find peace.

Much love, Manchester.

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