I have great memories of wonderful nights at the arena – I was 10 when I went to my first event at the MEN and I’ve attended too many to count since then. At the end of every gig, I stand in the foyer waiting to regroup with friends who’ve stood or sat elsewhere. Moments after the lights are up I’ve been in the queue to buy merchandise in that same foyer, every time. But this really isn’t about me. I wasn’t there. Each time the lights have gone up I’ve grabbed my merchandise, met my friends and we’ve literally danced our way back to the car, then relived our gig all the way home. My memories of the MEN are so different to those who attended Monday night’s concert. It’s not that ‘it could have been me’, it’s more a case that those people are the same as me. They had the same story with a different ending. They counted down the days and then let their hair down. They soaked up the atmosphere like thirsty music-crazed sponges and when encore hit, they too probably willed it to last just a few moments longer. They did everything I did; they planned meticulously, talked about it almost every day and they were so excited. Their gig was everything to them as mine are to me.
These gig-goers were also young children, only just bursting into the wonderful world of live music. An arena as large as the MEN (that’s the largest indoor arena in Europe) can be overwhelming even when you’re having fun. I remember feeling overwhelmed the first time; so many people, so many loud noises, people shouting, things being thrown, darkness and flashing lights. Thousands of people making their way in and out and at the same time. So many doors, entrances, exits, a complete maize. Concerts are wild and crazy, people are noisy and weird. But that’s the beauty of it. Live music is a place where you can be yourself. Be loud and with confidence. Being a child attending a large venue as the MEN can be terrifying. But events like that are supposed to be their introduction to an amazing world.
Live music is such a beautiful thing. A place where you can congregate with people like you, or people completely not like you, and share something communally wonderful. Live music should be a safe place where you can escape the stresses of your reality, and be care free for a short time. Many of those young girls will have been amidst their GCSE’s and more than deserved a night to feel good again and relieve a bit of stress. Many of them will have been much younger and this may have been their first ever concert. They were supposed to discover a safe place and fun world, as I once did.
I hope the survivors of this awful event can find that world again and realise that live music is there for them and not against them. I hope they can find the beauty of live music because it will always be there and they don’t deserve to be shut out of it by one hideous man.
It’s so much easier for me to say keep going, because I wasn’t there and going back to an event after that requires serious courage. But I can’t will people enough to keep going out, keep supporting your live music scene and keep doing whatever it is that you love. It’s important now more than ever. I attended two events over the weekend and I’ll be going to another one on Wednesday – we will not be beaten. We also attended the vigil in Manchester on Tuesday and these events show that there are so many beautiful people to hold up the city, the country and the live music scene. Attending these events made me feel so much better. There’s so much good in the world – we can’t let ugly people cloud that.
So, try and be brave. Go and add your body and your face to whatever it is you love and make sure that you’re a part of keeping it alive.