Little did I know about Manchester before I moved over here. The stronghold of northern Englishness, red bricked terraced houses,'English bulldogs' fuelled by a sturdy diet of 'sausages,chips & mushy peas', is actually the hub of multicultural Britain. From the renowned Rusholme Curry Mile to the festive Chinise New Year celebrations in the town centre, Manchester masterly embraces, fuses and showcases a number of ethnic groups, cultures and customs over the traditionally suggestive backdrop of typically Victorian architecture and reminiscences of an industrial scenery. Fast moving, vibrant, tollerant, progressive and remarkably open to change and modernization are traits of a city that moves on without ever discrediting its own origins and history.
About 200 years ago a wave of Irish emigrants touched the Mancunian shores and made their permanent residency there, merging with the locals and giving the city a whole new identity. If you speak to any of the kids in our youth club, they all claim Irish ancestors of some sort or have Irish family names - despite wearing hoodies and sounding remarkably Manc! Saturday, as you all know, it was Paddy's Day (St Patrick's) - the biggest celebration in Manchester after Christmas - go figure! It was also my friend's birthday, which kinda got overshadowed by this sea of drunken, leprechaun-like, green-wearing Mancs, ghastly resembling the damned spirits out of Dante Alighieri's Hell. * (By the way, 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY,MY LOVE,I SHALL MISS YOU LOADS WHEN YOU ARE GONE!') So I find myself having to deal with all these drunken idiots, police everywhere and not the sign of a free taxi for over an hour in the freezing cold at past 2 o'clock in the morning...no wander I have such a nasty cold today!More than a merry parade for an Irish saint, it reminded me of reading in my high-school geography book about the Belfast riots in the 70's! However, Manchester's inclusive attitude to cultural diversity does not stop at geographical multeity, but it extends as far as religious beliefs, culinary preferences and sexual inclinations. The prominent gay village is one of the most flourishing areas of town, blossoming with restaurants, pubs and clubs able to cater for all preferences. I left Italy as a traditionalist lefty, stiff-upper-lip perfectionist and opinionated religious young girl. I then moved to England to study theology and left Bible college with more passion and enthusiasm for God, yet more questions and an increased sense of grace than I ever had. Having analysed the Scriptures, philosophy and human kind inside out, I was left with a sense of wonder, disappointment, love, beauty, hope and back. I then moved to Manchester and encountered a variety of cultures which paradoxically surpassed any from my extensive travels. From 'judgmental little prat' to working and living in an environment surrounded by members of the gay community where, suddenly, being 'heterosexual and Christian' was abnormal...what a journey! Now 'judging' has all of a sudden become harder. It is much easier to make assumptions and judgements about people you don't know or don't care about. However, Manchester has actually taught me a lot more about Christianity than it meets the eye: this city, like what is at the essence of my faith,it's a place where strangers become brothers and enemies are embraced into a friendly hug. Where you can, if you want, become 'one of the crowd' but where, even staying at the fringes, you can still experience the ripples of God's love.