Mancunians turned out in force today for day one of the Thank You Manchester weekender - a free festival of fun to bring laughter back to the city's streets and squares, and to help the city say a massive thank you to all those who have helped it get through the last 18 months.
The day began with a heart-felt thank you from city bosses to some of the many local heroes of the pandemic. NHS workers, social care workers, vaccinations staff and volunteers were among the guests of honour to receive a personal thank you from council Leader Sir Richard Leese.
Members of the public were then invited to show their own thanks and be part of an oversized Love Letter to Manchester – a huge installation of human-sized letters, 1.4metres high and more than 14metres long which is in St Ann's Square for the weekend.
Three local artists are decorating the huge letters throughout the weekend, with visitors asked to add their own messages of thanks and gratitude to them. It's hoped that when complete the letters will go on public display somewhere in the city as a reminder of everything and everyone that Manchester has been grateful for during the pandemic.
The city was buzzing again today as live music and sounds took over the streets. With Bollywood and brass, samba, soul beats, cool jazz sounds, and rhythmic drummers, it was a toe-tapping testament to Manchester's rich musical heritage.
There were also plenty of colourful and exhilarating music and dance performances from some of the city's best loved local community groups, familiar sights all of them at city festivals pre-Covid.
The council worked in partnership with outdoor arts specialists Walk the Plank to put together the jam-packed programme of music, circus performances, and walkabout street theatre - all of which will be repeated tomorrow Sunday for anyone who wasn't able to get along today.
Rainbow stilt walkers, giant flamingos, human-sized pigeons, super-friendly special bees, and super-sized squirrels were all out and about in the city centre entertaining young and old.
Councillor Pat Karney, Chair of the Thank You Manchester weekender for the city council, said: "This weekend is our way of saying a great big thank you to everyone in Manchester for supporting each other during these last 18 months.
"We also want to recognise the thousands of heroic workers in all kinds of jobs and roles in the city that we have all depended on so much, and to say a special thank you to them for what they have done to help us all get through.
"There's been a brilliant atmosphere in the city centre today - with lots of families out and about enjoying themselves safely and having some fun in our amazing city. After a year like we've just had, today has been a breath of fresh air, with everyone smiling and loving the show. Manchester has finally got its mojo back."
The day begins tomorrow Sunday, with the chance to come together to remember those we have lost and to reflect on the last year and a half, when the Reverend Canon Nigel Ashworth, joined by the Lord Mayor of Manchester Tommy Judge, will lead a short community gathering of thanksgiving and remembrance at 12:30 pm on St Ann's Square.
This will include musical contributions from the St Ann's church choir and the Greenfield Brass Band, along with communal singing. There will also be a minute's silence for the city to pause, stand together, and remember and reflect.
More information on the Thank You Manchester weekender here