It’s almost two years since that horror-filled night in May 2017, which saw an unprecedented attack on young lives at the Manchester Arena.
The hideous act took 22 people away from loving families, but despite the tragic loss it ultimately failed to crush the spirit of the city, nor that of the wider region and country. In fact, quite the opposite.
Nell Jones (aged 14, from Holmes Chapel) was one of the young people who died, whilst enjoying a night out with her best friend.
It was a birthday treat, tragically one which forever changed the lives of those who loved her most.
On Wednesday 17th April 2019 – a day after what would’ve been Nell’s 16th birthday – her family and friends were joined by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham for a special ceremony to recognise the spirit of Manchester.
Mr Burnham unveiled a tapestry designed and created by local artist Pauline Kirton, in the aftermath of the attack, which symbolises everything good about the way Manchester came together in solidarity following the attack.
The tapestry was given to The Remembering Nell Foundation, a charity set up in Nell’s name to improve the lives of young people, having initially been displayed in Manchester Cathedral last year during a ceremony to mark the first anniversary of the attack.
Mr Burnham commented: “This is a wonderful tribute to Manchester, to its people and to the true spirit of unity that we will always remember as the overwhelming response after the attack.
He added: “It is fantastic that Nell’s family have had the tapestry framed and, in conjunction with the Hilton Hotel Manchester, will be making it available for everyone to see and enjoy.”
Nell’s mum, Jayne Jones, spoke on behalf of the family and The Remembering Nell Foundation.
She said: “The tapestry is such a beautiful tribute to Manchester and to those affected in any way, but particularly those who, like our beautiful daughter Nell, tragically lost their lives.
“The care and skill that has gone into the creation of this piece is quite extraordinary. We are truly honored to have been given it.
“It represents the very best aspects of humanity and how a city, and our local community, stood strong in support, something for which we will always be grateful.”
Andy Burnham recently completed the Boston Marathon in the USA to raise funds for charities set up in memory of those who lost their lives, including The Remembering Nell Foundation.
Andy delighted supporters by bringing along a cheque for £1,100 which he handed over to Nell’s eldest brother, Sam.
Sam, who is chair of The Remembering Nell Foundation, said: “Ever since that awful night, ‘Manchester’ has always offered us support in everything we have tried to do.
“So many people, places, organisations, and particularly Andy, have gone out of their way to demonstrate the very best of human nature.
“However, 26.2 miles is above and beyond the call of duty for anyone and we can’t thank Andy enough for including us in fundraising effort, he should be very proud of what he has done.”
Mr Burnham also made a presentation on behalf of Nell’s charity to representatives of The Wood Street Mission (WSM).
Nell’s family wanted to commemorate her 16th birthday by making a donation on her behalf to the WSM’s book appeal.
With support from Nell’s friends at Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School, the charity provided 16 copies of the 16 books most popularly read by 16 year-olds that WSM will distribute as part of their supporting literacy programme as a way out of poverty for disadvantaged young people.
Nell’s mum Jayne went on to explain: “Nell loved school. She was always keen to learn and had a lovely group of close friends who she genuinely loved being around.
“She talked about the end of school proms right from day one at high school, it was something to look forward to.
“Obviously things changed forever that night but we have been very clear as a family that we must find ways for others to benefit from what happened as a true tribute to our Nell.
“She would have loved to think that for her 16th birthday that nearly 300 young people could be reading a book that she was able to give them.
“Thank you to everyone who has made a donation to our charity and for helping us to make a difference to the lives of others”
The tapestry will now be on public display in a prominent location the foyer of the Hilton Hotel on Deansgate in Manchester city centre ahead of the second anniversary of the attack next month.