Globally renowned for its football teams and music scene, Manchester on Tuesday showed the compassion and defiance on which the city prides itself following Britain’s bloodiest terror attack in years.

Citizens mobilised to support victims and those left stranded in the northern English city as soon as the news broke that an explosion had claimed lives at a show by US singer Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena.

Taxi drivers offered free rides, faith groups served up food and drink on the city’s streets and hotels gave up rooms for those affected.

Staff at blood donation centres turned up to work on Tuesday to find queues of donors waiting outside, with the blood service website crashing due to high demand.

Cherry Brown from the city’s Norfolk House Blood Donor Centre told AFP the response had been “overwhelming”.

Donor David Roberts said the city was “trying to help in any way we can” after being “horrified by events of yesterday”.

The city rallied online, with Mancunians taking to Twitter to offer places to stay for those marooned in the city, using the hashtag #roomformanchester.

“Anybody stuck in Manchester tonight I have a spare room and I just made some really nice soup,” wrote user Robyn Alexander.

A crowdfunding appeal set up by the Manchester Evening News to help support families had already raised £350,000 ($455,000, 405,000 euros), just six hours after its launch.

“We’ve got about 200 taxis in town now just driving around to help those in need (for free), in the hospitals and everywhere,” said taxi driver Ahmad Nurein.

“People have been doing a lot of good things. People have been offering free meals, takeaways, people have been giving free advice,” he said.

53Two, an exhibition venue some 500 metres (yards) south of the blast site, said it would keep its doors open late.

“If you need somewhere to come grab a coffee and await news, head to the arches. We’ve got the kettle on!” they tweeted.

– ‘Sad day for the great city’ –

The city’s most famous global ambassadors — its two Premier League football giants United and City — led calls for solidarity.

United manager Jose Mourinho said the 22 victims were in the “minds and hearts” of his squad as United prepared for Wednesday’s Europa League final against Ajax in Stockholm, adding: “I know, even during my short time here, that the people of Manchester will pull together as one.”

Across the city, the flag of rivals City flew at half-mast while club captain Vincent Kompany tweeted that it was “a sad day for the great city of Manchester”.

The city was a cradle of Britain’s Industrial Revolution and capital of the global textiles industry before lapsing into hard times as factories shuttered in the post-war years, but it has regenerated as a hub of new industries and the arts.

It is renowned across Britain for being uncompromising but also fun-loving, qualities that helped foster a raft of world-class bands including Oasis, The Smiths, The Stone Roses and Joy Division.

They also helped it become the centre of the “Acid House” scene in the late 1980s, as dramatised in film “24 Hour Party People”, which centred on the legendary Hacienda nightclub.

Leading lights from the city’s music scene paid tribute to the victims, with Tim Burgess from indie band The Charlatans calling it an “heartbreaking attack on beautiful people who love music”.

Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher, whose swaggering bravado personified the city during the band’s 1990s heyday, said he was “absolutely devastated”, sending “Love and Light to all the families involved”.

DJ Dave Haslam, who performed over 450 times at the Hacienda, turned to seminal 1980s rock band Joy Division for a defiant message, quoting their greatest hit.

“You’ve got the wrong city if you think love will tear us apart,” he wrote.

Source: Rosie SCAMMELL, AFP