A catwalk with no models:
Four-day-old James is carried along the catwalk to meet the world for the first time.Ninety-nine-year-old Mickie, who drove army trucks during World War Two, makes her way up the runway with a walking stick.
Stefan, the bearded The Big Issue North seller from Manchester Victoria station, slowly twirls and waves as he goes.Helen, who’s had cancer and a drink problem, pauses at the end, tilting her head to look to the sky.
This is no ordinary catwalk, and these aren’t ordinary models.They’re real people who are walking a catwalk in the middle of Manchester to create a live “self-portrait of the city” – an idea dreamed up by artist Jeremy Deller.
It’s a simple idea. A platform that normally celebrates superficial appearance is instead used to celebrate the everyday brilliance and resilience of the people of the city.
And it’s more beautiful than any fashion show. Beautiful, heartwarming and life-affirming.
About 150 people walk the 100m yellow runway while the gathered crowds – maybe a couple of thousand – read snippets about their life stories on the screens.
There’s Chris, who’s been in Strangeways prison. He’s beaming with a fist in the air like a rock star.
There’s Kate, who was christened Andrew; trainee doctor Sermed; Wajid, who’s had a kidney transplant; Vincenzo, who cleans the town hall; Jehona, who saw 19 members of her family killed in Kosovo and was herself left for dead.
There are two taxi drivers who turned their meters off to give stranded Ariana Grande fans free lifts home on the night of the Manchester Arena attack.
There’s Bruce, who waits at the end of the catwalk for his blind date. A few minutes later, Frankie emerges, and they smile broadly and embrace in the middle before departing for their date.
It could be the start of something special.
As each new person is applauded – literally – for being themselves, whatever form that takes, this joyful parade becomes surprisingly moving.
While this alternative catwalk show was planned long before last month’s Manchester Arena attack, that incident – and the emotions it stirred – make this more potent.
Titled What Is The City But The People?, it’s the opening event of the Manchester International Festival, the city’s biennial arts festival.