When I came to this city something good happened for me.
It must have, I have enjoyed the best years of my career here. They have been great years, incredible years of making history. Yet, even more than that, these have been the years of building a family.
My wife, my kids, they’re Mancunians – I can’t tell you how proud that makes me feel.
What is it about this city? I’m not sure I know, but lots of us share in it. Maybe it’s because people have faced tough odds here and yet built a city known across the world for its humour and its friendliness. Maybe it’s that.
Whatever it is about this city, when I began to think about my ten-year anniversary, I knew that I wanted to do something a little different to a normal testimonial year. I wanted to do something collaborative, something that could be shared.
Over the last ten years, we’ve all shared in the progress this city has made. Just look at the new buildings, the new facilities, hospitals. We’ve had some brilliant times and we’ve stayed together during some bad times. This city is a bigger, better place than the place I came to ten years ago.
Yet through it all, homelessness has become a growing concern. We must be honest about that.
That’s why I came up with this idea.
My idea is simple. I want to shine a spotlight, raise money and to work with partners so that people do not have to sleep rough. I want them to have the dignity they deserve. To do this, I am working with the Mayor, Andy Burnham, and with important partners like the Manchester Evening News. I am honoured to have these people alongside.
So, obviously this is not about being Blue, Red, any colour or no colour. It is about being a Manc.
One thing I am sure about Manchester is that people are proud of their history. They are proud of their football, music, the industrial revolution and all the amazing things that were invented here.
It doesn’t take long to find out that this city also has an incredible history of social reform and social action. There is an incredible history of caring for others and trying to make things right. We could talk about the suffragettes, the cooperative movement, Peterloo, and lots of other things. Even the football clubs themselves were founded for the sake of communities.
So, the point is that a social conscience is as much part of being a Manc as is a love of football or music.
I know it is not easy, but I think it is in the character of Manchester to get started on a problem and then work out all the issues and details as we go along.
And the problem is urgent. That is why I am dedicating my testimonial year to the homeless of this city.
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