Manchester-based independent presses have spoken of their sombre mood following the suicide bombing at Manchester Arena last night, as the literary community expressed solidarity with the victims and their families on social media.
Michael Schmidt, managing director of Carcanet Press, and Simon Ross, c.e.o. of Manchester University Press, said all staff were accounted for and, while train station closures have disrupted travel into work, the companies are carrying on “business as usual”, although with a sombre atmosphere. Meanwhile Sara Hunt of Saraband Press and Ra Page of Comma Press, also both based in Manchester, have spoken of their shock and sadness at the incident.
Twenty-two people including children were killed in the blast at the end of a concert by US singer Ariana Grande at around 22.35 last night reported the BBC, with 59 injured. Police said the lone male attacker, who died in the explosion, detonated an improvised explosive device. The blast happened close to the entrance to Victoria railway and tram station and the station has been closed and all trains cancelled. W H Smith in Victoria Station is closed today along with all the other retailers in that location, a company spokesperson said.
Schmidt said: “It brings back 1996 and the big IRA bomb, though given the loss of life this is much worse in human terms. For Carcanet it is almost business as usual, though some colleagues can’t get in to work, and the famous ancient Chethams Library, where Engels worked and where we were to have a quarterly committee meeting today, is behind the cordon.
“Many of us were up much of the night with sirens, helicopters and anxiety. The mood in the centre seems quite sombre, the streets half empty. The trams are much reduced in number…Anyone living out beyond Victoria Station can’t get to work. The city is quieter than usual, apart from the insistent helicopters.”
Ross added: “We made contact with staff early on and all are OK, although some inevitably delayed travelling in ,and sadly some have friends of people directly affected by the event. But it's very much business as usual, though lower key and there are some tired souls in the office, some having been up all night following the news.”
Sara Hunt, publisher at Saraband Press based in Manchester, said: “Obviously it’s a terribly sad day for the people of Manchester and, indeed, for the whole of the UK. We send our heartfelt condolences to all those affected by the events last night, and we're especially sickened that children were targeted. Manchester is as busy as ever today – albeit with a sombre mood in the air – and people are carrying on with their daily lives as usual, as are we at Saraband. It’s the only way to deal with this kind of attack.”
Ra Page, founder and editorial manager at Comma Press, said the company was “deeply shocked” by the news that unfolded overnight. “We all know the Arena well, and know that it's well known for catering for young audiences,” Page said. “We struggle to know what to say on a morning like this, except that Manchester is like any other British city; diverse, welcoming, tolerant and resilient. So yes, it's business as usual this morning, even if our hearts aren't in it.”
Waterstones has confirmed that while both its Manchester shops –in the Arndale Centre and Deansgate – are in close proximity to the Arena, they were unaffected by the blast and will be trading as usual today. Blackwell’s Manchester also reported it was open for business but that the shop was quiet.
Authors, editors and agents are among those who have taken to social media to expres their shock and condemnation of the attack, with many particularly disturbed the attacker had targeted young people.
Turkish writer Elif Shafak tweeted: “Speechless in the face of such cruelty, cowardice, violence; a horrific attack targeting children. My thoughts with families in #ManchesterArena”
Author Matt Haig commented: “So horrifically sad what happened in Manchester. Thinking of all who were affected. Targeting kids like that is beyond understanding.”
Children’s laureate Chris Riddell tweeted an illustration, ‘Deliver us from Evil’, captioned “Mourning Manchester”, while author Patrick Ness highlighted the goodness of people in Manchester in face of the tragedy, retweeting a Sikh cab driver’s effort in offering a free taxi service to those in need.
The trade has been retweeting pleas for information about missing people who attended the concert. J K Rowling retweeted more than 10 such calls from people desperate to find loved ones, as well as updates on the blood donations needed in the area.