Stockport Air Raid Shelters … Census Maps … Greater Manchester Pride Events


Stockport Air Raid Shelters

This week we took the train from Manchester to Stockport to visit the Air Raid Shelters.

In the mid 1930s preparations were being made for the threat of war with Germany. This time the government knew that things would be different, that ordinary people in this country could be in great danger. There was now the capability to bomb towns and cities from the air and launch deadly gas attacks.

As early as 1935, planning had begun for Air Raid Precautions (ARP). Gas masks would be needed in their millions and air raid shelters designed and developed. ARP wardens, Fire and Ambulance Service workers and Special Police would be needed to protect the civilian population. Everyone would be required to contribute in some way. Men that were fit and able would be called to join the Armed Forces and women to take voluntary or paid jobs, many joining the workforce for the first time. These jobs would vary, from work in munitions factories and farming, to engineering and intelligence.

Then, on the 3 September 1939 Britain declared war on Germany.

The Manchester Blitz

The public expected air raids as soon as the war began, but they did not come. By August 1940 the Stockport Express was reporting that when the air raid sirens sounded people “seemed to take the matter as a joke”. All this changed in September 1940 when the blitz hit London with terrifying force.

Then on 22 December 1940 the sirens sounded in Manchester. Almost 300 German aircraft attacked the city for 12 hours, dropping high explosive bombs and thousands of incendiary devices.

The next evening saw a raid lasting six hours, 363 people were killed and over 1000 people injured. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed and 30,000 houses damaged leaving over 5000 people homeless.

In Stockport ten high-explosive bombs fell on Heaton Norris, Heaviley and Heaton Mersey. Thousands of incendiary bombs were dropped on the town but were quickly extinguished. The town was praised for its actions as without such promptness dealing with the incendiaries the attack could have been much worse. Even so, the Blitz had left four dead, 20 injured and hundreds of homes damaged in Stockport.

What do I do if a raid catches me in the street?

Follow the sign to Stockport’s nearest public shelter.

  • Keep a cool head.
  • Do not panic.
  • Keep your gas mask with you at all times.
  • Enter the shelters in an orderly fashion.
  • Familiarise yourself with the Emergency Evacuation Procedures.
  • Bunks and seating spaces cannot be reserved.
  • Try to make do with the space available without fuss.
  • Do not bring pets.
  • No litter.
  • Leave when the All Clear sounds.
  • Take all your belongings.

It was an interesting visit and very atmospheric. It was hard to imagine up to 6,500 people sheltering in the tunnels.

More photos can be seen here.

Census Maps

Census maps is an interactive tool to explore the 2021 Census. You can find out what people’s lives were like across England and Wales in March 2021.

One of the answers recorded by the person completing the census concerned sexual orientation. In Manchester the figures were:

Straight or Heterosexual 84.61%

Gay or Lesbian                                    3.34%        )

Bisexual                                             2.69%        )

Pansexual                                            0.42%        )         6.68%

Asexual                                             0.09%      )

Queer                                             0.10%   )

All Other sexual orientations                0.04%       )

Not answered                                    8.71%

Total                                                      100%

There was also a question on gender identity. In Manchester the figures were:

Gender identity the same as sex registered at birth                  91.66%

Gender identity different from sex registered at birth                 1.02%

Not answered                                                                        7.32%

Total                                                                                          100%        

The item on sexuality was introduced for the first time for equity monitoring.

In the UK as a whole, just over 3% of the population of English and Welsh citizens have declared themselves not to be heterosexual, a similar proportion to that estimated by the Office for National Statistics, which suggests a doubling in number since 2014. That is because increased social acceptance has allowed LGBT+ people to realise their authentic selves.

This is almost certainly an underestimation of the actual national diversity of sexual orientation. Non-responders are more likely to be LGBT+. It is reasonable to assume that those who are themselves part of the LGBT+ community are the most likely to show resistance to, and mistrust in, disclosing their sexuality to the government.

This is particularly true for older respondents, who are more likely to have a lived history of the criminalisation of homosexual behaviour and government-tolerated or created discriminatory policies.

The fluidity of sexuality is observable in the results: there are nearly as many bisexual and pansexual people as there are gay or lesbian. This justifies the complaints of campaigners about a phenomenon called “bi-erasure”: where bisexual people are often left out of conversations. Bi people face prejudice not just from straight citizens, but from gay and lesbian people, too: bi men are often treated as gay but in denial; bi women face widespread sexual objectification; and all are portrayed as sexually rapacious or tourists who don’t belong anywhere.

Little wonder, then, that research suggests bi people have worse mental health, specifically higher levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms, than gays or lesbians. While bisexuals are attracted to at least two genders, pansexuals are attracted to people regardless of gender. One contribution of this census must be a more thorough recognition of bi and pan people in our society.

The census maps released by the ONS reveal an anecdotal truth known to LGBT+ people but until now unseen in data: that many people leave rural communities and small towns in favour of major cities. London, Manchester and Brighton have, unsurprisingly, particularly high numbers.

The explanation is twofold: urban areas tend to be more accepting and have enclaves of LGBT+ culture; and it is easier for members of a small minority to find prospective partners if you congregate in the same areas. The truth is, large swaths of the country remain insufficiently welcoming for LGBT+ people, and our community will continue to up sticks in favour of urban areas until that changes.

But the most notable results relate to gender identity. Around half a per cent – or 262,000 citizens – declare themselves trans. Within this, a large number do not specify their identity, but of those who did declare there is an almost exactly equal split between trans women and trans men, as well as a significant number who are non-binary (people who do not identify as either male or female) or who have other gender identities.

The trans community is a tiny minority of the population of England and Wales – just 0.5% of the 45.7 million people who answered the question about gender identity on the census. Yet the trans community has faced a disproportionate and obsessive amount of negative attention from the media and political elites. From the data about how few trans people there are, we can assume that most people do not know someone who is trans – certainly not well – and their impressions could easily be formed by these negative stories about them in the media.

The recent history of LGBT+ is defined by a period of growing acceptance bookended by two moral panics. In the 2000s, anti-gay laws were rescinded while public attitudes dramatically transformed for the better. But in the 1980s and 1990s, gays and bisexuals were widely portrayed as sexual predators, brainwashers of children, deviants, weird fetishists, defined by mental illness, all while holding a “normal” majority to ransom. In the 2010s and 2020s, the exact same tunes have been sung about trans people.

Actions have consequences: hate crimes against trans people surged by 56% in the space of a year in 2020. The anti-trans moral panic is ricocheting across the LGBT+ rainbow: the community’s main civil rights organisation, Stonewall, is under fierce attack; LGBT+ public figures face relentless bullying on social media; and officially recorded homophobic hate crimes are increasing too. After the government refused to ban trans conversion practices, relations between LGBT+ communities and the government are worse than at any time since the 1980s.

The LGBT+ world is not without its own internal issues. It remains dominated by white, middle-class, cis gay men. There is much segregation between the different identities – although there is more mixing than there used to be – as well as scarring by major problems of racism.

Yet looking at this census, there are valuable lessons. The first is that the gay and bi community – through much struggle and sacrifice – emerged from the darkest shadows of oppression, and now we must stand with the trans community in the face of growing adversity. The opponents of the LGBT+ movement are stronger than they’ve been for a generation: they depend on our divisions to succeed. The second is that we need allies: a small minority cannot win total acceptance alone. So far we’ve come; so far to go.

Greater Manchester Pride Events Taking Place

Please note following dates for your diary:

Bury PrideSaturday 29 April
Pride in TraffordWednesday 17 – Saturday 20 May
Pride on the RangeSaturday 27 May
Salford Pink PicnicSaturday 17 June
Rochdale in RainbowsSaturday 24 June (provisional date)
SparkleFriday 8 – Sunday 10 July
Tameside PrideSaturday 15 July
Oldham PrideFriday 21 – Sunday 23 July
Pride in BoltonFriday 28 – Sunday 30 July
Stockport PrideSunday 30 July
Levenshulme PrideFriday 11 – Sunday 13 August
Wigan PrideSaturday 12 August
Prestwich PrideSaturday 12 – Monday 14 August
Manchester PrideFriday 25 – Monday 28 August
Didsbury PrideSaturday 2 September
Chorlton PrideDate To Be Confirmed
Pride in WythenshaweDate To Be Confirmed

One thought on “Stockport Air Raid Shelters … Census Maps … Greater Manchester Pride Events

  1. Great article on the census and what it suggests. I couldn’t agree more about the anti trans epidemic, and how united is better than divided when even together we are such a small number. Thank you.


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