‘One Love Manchester’ – Ariana Grande fans tell NME “we shouldn’t be frightened”

"We’re still here, we’re still showing positivity and having a good time.”

Delivering a heartfelt speech at Ariana Grande’s One Love benefit gig, her manager Scooter Braun praised fans for “stepping up and taking action,” and refusing to be deterred by the previous evening’s terror attack on London, which some might have expected would cast a shadow over proceedings. “Last night, this nation was challenged and you had a decision to make whether to come out here tonight. And this is so beautiful,” he said, surveying the crowd of around 50,000. “You looked fear in the face and said, ‘No. This is Manchester….’ Manchester, your bravery is our hope.”

It cut through to the fact that behind each of these 50,000 is an individual with a unique story. Some witnessed the attack and sought “closure”, others wanted to raise money for the Red Cross appeal; some were there to pay joyous and poignant tribute to those they’d lost. What unites them all is that they all showed grit and willpower by making that choice. To choose defiance. To choose love. 

Rachel Carter

Manchester, 29

One Love Manchester attendee

“I was a friend of Martyn’s [Hett]. Today has felt surreal, but I’m sure it will be lovely. He’d have loved it.”

Jimmy Cole

Leicester, 24

One Love Manchester attendee

“I’ve come down for Miley Cyrus and the rest. I love how wild she [Miley] is! The atmosphere is pretty manic at the minute. I wasn’t at all worried about coming down – even in light of last night’s events. I think tonight is going to be epically big.”

Matthew Bond

Sheffield, 24

One Love Manchester attendee

“I went to the concert in Manchester on the Monday night of the attack. Looking online, you can feel that everyone’s come together as a community. I didn’t know anybody who died, but everyone feels the same. It’s a strange feeling. Everyone who was there, it could have been anyone. It’s very strange to think that it could have been me. Even just walking into the city and seeing everyone else in their t-shirts was emotional. It’s hard to describe but you can feel it.”

Were you deterred from coming here at all?
“Not really. The line-up’s incredible, but more importantly, it’s raising money for the families of those who have died or been injured. And you feel reassured by the amount of security. When Ariana comes onstage tonight, it’s going to be massively emotional. Absolutely emotional.”

Gemma Williams

Liverpool, 18

One Love Manchester attendee

“It’s really nice that everyone’s come together but obviously everybody’s still nervous. I was a little bit worried about coming down today but it’s safe enough. It should be fun.”

What has it been like as an ‘Arianator’ during this period?
“Everyone’s been really supportive. Everyone’s been nice so it shows how good fandom is – it’s brought people closer at a difficult time. The fans have been supportive, especially on social media. Everyone’s gathering together, meeting up and having coffee and stuff. It’s brought out the best in people.”

Orla Rooney

Manchester, 17

One Love Manchester attendee

“We arrived at 9am so we could get close to the front. It’s a really good line-up. It’s been a really nice atmosphere. Everyone in the line who’s been here since first thing this morning have all made friends with each other – we’ve been sharing each other’s food.”

Were you apprehensive about attending today?
“Not really. People have told us they’re nervous because of yesterday’s events in London, but the security is so tight here – the street is closed off and everywhere you look, there’s police. I feel safe.”

Megan Collins

Manchester, 17

One Love Manchester attendee

“I’ve come down to support Manchester and raise money for charity. You can’t overstate how nice everyone is. Everyone’s stood together, we’re not going to stay home and be scared, everyone’s become friends today – and we’re not going to let it get to us.”

You’re wearing the Manchester bee on your T-shirt….
“I want to show how proud I feel of the city, especially how everybody’s come together in the last few weeks. Everyone stands together, so it won’t dishearten anyone or prevent anyone from living how they want to.”

Lauren Williams

Liverpool, 15

One Love Manchester attendee

“I think it’s important to show up and show support”

What has it been like as an Arianator during this period?
“50/50, really. It’s scary. The atmosphere today has been nice. Everyone’s come together. But I want the message from Manchester to be that we shouldn’t be frightened.”

L-R: Daisy Kupusarevic, Alice Dale, Laura Hole

Manchester, 14

Daisy: “We’ve mainly come down to celebrate and have a good time. I think it’s inspiring how we’ve all come together as one – and forget about all the tragedies that have happened, while still paying tribute to those people who sadly lost their lives.”
Laura: “We’ve been here since 12.30pm. Everyone in the line has joined together really – to celebrate and have a good time. Obviously after last night we were having second thoughts about coming down, but it’s important to carry on and come together – in tribute to those who lost their lives. Loads of our friends were at the gig, but we weren’t. ”

What’s it been like as an Arianator during this period?
Alice: “It’s been really emotional, but also nice that Ariana’s visited the people in hospital. She’s been really supportive and it’s been comforting to see that.”
Laura: “Everyone’s being positive so it’s a really good atmosphere. I think the message from Manchester is to stay safe but enjoy yourself. Despite all the tragedies that have happened, we’re still here, we’re still showing positivity, and having a good time.”

Shaun Cattermole

Hartlepool, 20

One Love Manchester attendee

“The money is going to a good cause and it’s going to be a good concert to see, with all the different artists involved. We’ve had a long drive from Hartlepool, but it will be worth it.”

Who are you most looking forward to seeing?
“Justin Bieber, probably. We went to his concert last year in Manchester – where I picked up this hat – and it was so good, we thought we’d come back and see him again. All fan communities have come together to show this won’t stop our way of life – hopefully we can keep up a united front.”

What has the mood been like?
“It’s been good. Everyone’s been getting along and having a laugh. We’re sticking together and enjoying life.”

Did last night’s terror attack in London make you nervous to come down?
“Not really. I knew there would be a lot of security in place. If that can’t stop an attack, nothing will.”

Heather Parr (left) Laura Turney (right)

Liverpool, 21

One Love Manchester attendee

Heather: “We study at Salford University and obviously we thought the attack was awful. We think this is a brilliant way for everybody to get together and show them we won’t stay in, we won’t be scared, and we’ll still go out and enjoy ourselves.”
Laura: “There’s been loads of bee murals going up around the city and thought it would be fun to dress as bees. When we came out of the house this morning, everyone on the street clapped – they gave us a round of applause for being bees and going out and carrying on.”

Did last night’s terror attack in London make you nervous to come down?
Heather: “No. The police presence here is huge – and comforting. Everyone is chilled and smiling and getting on with life as usual. The mood in Manchester since the attack has been one of defiance.”
Laura: “If you’re cautious enough not to come here, you might a well not live at all. That’s what the terrorists want – and they’re not going to get that.”

L-R: Ronan Speed, Beth Wood

Manchester, 20

One Love Manchester attendee

Ronan: “We were there during the attack on Monday, and thought we should come down. We weren’t worried about coming down – not nervous at all. We’re just excited to be back seeing Ariana and near the front.
Beth: “We’re buzzing. We feel lucky – we managed to run out and we were fine, and escaped with no injuries. I spent a few days in shock, but I’m fine now. You can’t let it ruin your fun, can you?”

What has the atmosphere been like today?
Beth: “It’s been really nice seeing everyone get together as a community. It’s been heart-warming and supportive – I don’t think I have the words to describe it.”
Ronan: “It makes me proud of the city.”
Beth: “I felt sorry for Ariana, but I’m impressed that she’s come back strong – and sooner rather than later. She’s handled it really well.”

What moment most sums up the mood in the city since the atrocity?
Beth: “Probably when I saw the flowers and balloons in St Ann’s Square. That hit me quite badly – when I saw that, I was proud of everybody. I felt overwhelmed and happy inside.”

Do you have a message from Manchester?
Ronan: “No fear.”
Beth: “And we stand as one.

Kirsten Anderson

Ashton-under-Lyne, 17

One Love Manchester attendee

“I was nervous beforehand but now we’re here, I’m really excited. I was worried about coming because I haven’t been in a crowd…you know, since it happened. On Twitter, we’ve all supported each other and we’re really supportive of Ariana herself – because she went through it as well. Today feels half-joyous and half tinged with regret because of the reason it’s happened. It’s hard to describe.”

Do you have a message from Manchester?
“Just to stay strong and show that nothing can tear us apart.”

Danny Levitt

Barnsley, 22

One Love Manchester attendee

“The mood’s been really relaxed considering the circumstances. My partner and I were at the gig, so I think it’s going to be emotional at points. It’s been really nice seeing everyone coming together and uniting. I feel really proud of Ariana. We’ve come down to prove a point that we’re not going to be beaten by what’s happened. Everybody’s going to come together in one place, have fun, enjoy ourselves and prove we’re Great Britain. It’s helping to know how other people have coped with it and realising that it’s not the end. Things like this can go on.”

Do you have a message from Manchester?
“We’ve not been beaten – and we will not be beaten.”

Rosie Jones (Middle)

Manchester, 23

One Love Manchester attendee

“We came down just to support everybody today. From start to finish, it’s been absolutely amazing. I can’t even get the words out of me to describe it. It’s been lovely. It’s been so chilled as well – everybody has been in good spirits.”

What was your favourite moment?
“Probably Take That at the start. And then when Ariana came out – only rivalled by Liam unexpectedly turning up. The mood all day has been perfect.”

L-R: Jessica Murphy-Griffiths, Dawn Murphy-Griffiths

Manchester, 25 & 48

One Love Manchester attendee

Jessica: My cousins were at the Arena during that Monday. They came out completely unharmed, but we wanted to support Manchester and show them we’re not scared of what they’ve got.”

What was your favourite moment?
Jessica: “Everything Ariana…”
Dawn: “I’m her mother and mine is Take That and Robbie Williams.”
Jessica: “And Liam Gallagher turning up out of the blue. Where did he come from?”
Dawn: “It’s just nice that you see Americans supporting us with Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, etc. It was very, very emotional.”
Jessica: “It’s hard to be strong. We pretend we’re strong but to come out and do it is terrifying, because you’re nervous – especially with what happened last night. But we can’t let them beat us otherwise we’d never leave our houses and we’d never celebrate anything again. We’re a strong nation. As a city that’s been through terror recently, we want London to know they have our support.”

Luke Barratt

Manchester, 24

One Love Manchester attendee

“It was really nice. It was empowering. It was a mix of uplifting and heartfelt songs. My brother went to the original Manchester Arena concert and I wanted to go to that – luckily, I didn’t. But I felt I couldn’t stay away from this one because I needed to show my support. He’s fine, but still shaken. He was walking towards the bomb when his friend changed the direction they were going. He literally left a minute before. But he was here tonight and we both really enjoyed it.”

What was your favourite moment?
“When Ariana joined The Black Eyed Peas for ‘Where Is The Love?’. And ‘One Last Time’ by Ariana – that song touches me anyway, but this time it was especially emotional and poignant. It was nice to see all the people come together; it was really heartfelt. Seeing all that together helps to keep you strong.”

Given the London terror attack last night, were you apprehensive about coming?
“I was apprehensive about coming anyway, but the fact of what happened last night made it feel more important to stand together. They won’t defeat us; we’ll just get stronger. We will come out like we have tonight and stand against you and win.”

Callum Shaw

Manchester, 18

“It’s been so good. My face hasn’t been dry all night – I’ve cried through every single song. It’s been really emotional, but I’ve loved every second though. Just looking round seeing how many people are here for the same cause and no-one’s scared – we’re here to pay our respects to those who lost their lives and who were injured. My friends were there when it happened. They left a couple of minutes before, and it makes you appreciate everything so much more. Tonight I’ve had the massive realisation that Manchester is one big community – and it’s the best.”

What was your favourite moment?
“The entire thing! When Ariana Grande started crying, it honestly broke me.”

Jimmy Cunningham

Fife, 28

One Love Manchester attendee

“It’s been amazing. It’s been everything we all wanted it to be. We were at the original Manchester Arena gig, and this was beautiful and emotional.”

What was your favourite moment?
“Seeing Ariana sing with Miley Cyrus was probably one of my best. My boyfriend has been sitting at home crying, getting emotional thinking about it all. We all just wanted a little bit of closure – this has provided it.”