When the Manchester riots kicked off last month, Twitter went into overdrive, with city residents tweeting information about what was going on and, most importantly, where it was happening.
One of the most common tweets, which did the rounds the night before rioting began, was a quote from Tony Wilson. It was one I retweeted myself. It read: “This is Manchester. We do things differently here.”
After the riots ended, Manchester City Council launched its ‘I Love MCR’ campaign, complete with the hash tag #ilovemcr and a logo taken from a 40-year-old New York advertising campaign. It could have, but didn’t, take inspiration from the organic charm of the riot clean-ups around the UK, nor did it attempt to exploit advances in technology by putting QR codes or augmented reality features on ‘I Love MCR’ posters around the city. We didn’t do things differently.
The idea of the #ilovemcr hash tag was that people from all over Manchester would tweet the things they love about the city in an act of solidarity. There’s no faulting the idea or the sentiment behind those tweeting, but who exactly was tweeting? In my own personal experience, Twitter is a largely middle-class pursuit. Its very nature, largely idle thoughts on nothing, fits snugly alongside traditional definitions of middle-class living. It is no great leap of faith to assume that the #ilovemcr hash tag was primarily frequented by those in the middle class.
A trip through Manchester, all of it – not just the Northern Quarter and South Manchester – shows that the city has by no means shed its working class roots. The differences between Didsbury and Moston, or Fallowfield and Blackley, are almost unreal. The money pumped into the Northern Quarter – which was almost unrecognisable 20 years ago – must be considerably larger than investment north of the city centre. Now, with the #ilovemanchester campaign, the poorer half of the city may be excluded again. I love Manchester, but Manchester is not just the Northern Quarter and South Manchester.
I don’t know exactly why people decided to riot last month, but it isn’t outlandish to suggest that an underlying social unrest over the divide between Manchester’s haves and the have-nots could be responsible. By attempting to stage some sort of reconciliation on Twitter, a middle-class platform, that margin can only get bigger.