The morning of 15th June 1996 we were to set off to Liverpool to record the demos (with The Lovers), but our gear was locked up at the rehearsal rooms on Jersey Street. We got there for 9:00 that morning so we could pick up the gear, but even though our drummer Iain ran the rehearsal room complex, he hadn’t organised the door keys so we drove pointlessly around Manchester city centre trying to locate the bloke who had locked up the place the night before.
I noticed as least five police helicopters in the air over the city, which I thought was odd, and many of the routes around town seemed to have roadblocks. Eventually we decided to wait for the keyholder to turn up at the lock-up, and to go and have a fry-up in a greasy spoon café in a prefab just off Great Ancoats Street. We went in and ordered the food but I realised I had left my mobile in my car, so I went back outside. Just as I got the phone, I heard a thunderclap. I turned around and saw an emerging cloud of dust rising from above the Arndale Centre. I had just witnessed the explosion of the biggest ever mainland bomb in the UK, planted by the IRA. I went back in and the waitress had just placed four breakfasts on the table in front of the rest of the band. They were in a state of shock, as no one really knew how to act after a bomb exploding. Someone said, ‘What should we do now?’ Not quite sure what to do, we ate our breakfasts.
Three days later, I caught a bus into Manchester to work in my shop. Once I saw the devastation caused by the bomb, and realised just how many people we knew would lose their jobs, the shock I had experienced on the day of the bombing evaporated and I began to cry torrents of tears. The disruption caused by the bomb led ultimately to my wife’s clothing business failing in 1999, and many of the shops in the Royal Exchange and the Corn Exchange going bust. The council insisted that store owners continue to pay thousands of pounds in rent while it was impossible for customers to actually come in and buy anything. At least the Council and the property developers eventually got to institute a lot of the changes and redevelopment that they’d been intending to carry out if Manchester’s bid to host the 2000 Olympics hadn’t been dashed in 1993. Every cloud…
Extract from Carpet Burns: Life With Insiral Carpets by Tom Hingley.
Launch event Friday 26 February, Tap & Barrel, Pontefract.