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The stars are out: reflections on One Love Manchester

“There will be a very emotional song from Ariana Grande coming up next,” Jo Whiley promised BBC radio listeners.

“The world is very much watching Manchester tonight . . . and London, too, of course.” At the One Love benefit concert at Old Trafford, the strain of extending sympathies over yet another incident in London had both those on stage and those commentating on the radio almost throwing up their hands. More vans, more knives, more acolytes on the web enjoying the wickedness.

On the BBC, where the concert was aired simultaneously on several stations, Jo Whiley, never big on analysis, sounded as if she was smiling with her mouth closed to conceal a cavity.

“There will be a very emotional song from Ariana coming up next,” she promised, as the choir from Parrs Wood High School in Didsbury trooped on stage to join the dainty Floridian star, who had been repeating, “I love you so much, thank you,” like someone with PTSD. “That was incredibly emotional,” Whiley confirmed. Scott Mills added: “Wow.” Nobody was bothering much with their vocab.

Earlier, on BBC Radio Manchester, the presenters Jason Hardy and Chelsea Norris had been outside “next to the pizza and chips van”, commenting on the mood as concertgoers arrived. “The buses say WE LOVE MANCHESTER,” someone pointed out, and everybody seemed pleased. But not as much as when Miley Cyrus landed, bringing her alien Disney slickness.

Yet she sounded so old – more so over the radio. Twenty-four, but talking like a practised Liza Minnelli, a contrast to the surprisingly shambling notes Justin Bieber hit on his acoustic guitar. “God is good in the midst of evil,” he whispered, but the crowd was still ecstatically chanting his best lyric: “My mama don’t like you, and she likes everyone.”

More songs, more brief lines of commentary. The direction, correctly so, had been to allow the concert to run and simply broadcast it. “Let’s go say hi to everybody,” Cyrus commanded Ariana, taking her hand as the pale grey day turned into dark grey night and the Learjets revved at the airport. There was little question of who was in charge here (even when Liam Gallagher appeared, bearing a tambourine, maracas and polite new haircut). “What an incredible display of sisterhood,” said Whiley, perhaps crossing her fingers. 

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 08 June 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Election special

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SRSLY #99: GLOW / FANtasies / Search Party

On the pop culture podcast this week: the Netflix wrestling comedy GLOW, a new fanfiction-based web series called FANtasies and the millennial crime drama Search Party.

This is SRSLY, the pop culture podcast from the New Statesman. Here, you can find links to all the things we talk about in the show as well as a bit more detail about who we are and where else you can find us online.

Listen using the player below. . .

. . .or subscribe in iTunes. We’re also on StitcherRSS and SoundCloud – but if you use a podcast app that we’re not appearing in, let us know.

SRSLY is hosted by Caroline Crampton and Anna Leszkiewicz, the NS’s assistant editor and editorial assistant. We’re on Twitter as @c_crampton and @annaleszkie, where between us we post a heady mixture of Serious Journalism, excellent gifs and regularly ask questions J K Rowling needs to answer.

The Links


The show on Netflix.

Two interesting reviews: New York Times and Little White Lies.

Screen Rant on the real life wrestling connections.


The show on Fullscreen.

Amanda Hess’s NYT column about it.

Search Party

The show on All4.

For next time:

We are watching Happy Valley.

If you’d like to talk to us about the podcast or make a suggestion for something we should read or cover, you can email srslypod[at]

You can also find us on Twitter @srslypod, or send us your thoughts on tumblr here. If you like the podcast, we’d love you to leave a review on iTunes - this helps other people come across it.

We love reading out your emails. If you have thoughts you want to share on anything we’ve discussed, or questions you want to ask us, please email us on srslypod[at], or @ us on Twitter @srslypod, or get in touch via tumblr here. We also have Facebook now.

Our theme music is “Guatemala - Panama March” (by Heftone Banjo Orchestra), licensed under Creative Commons. 

See you next week!

PS If you missed #98, check it out here.

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