It’s been a running joke for years that Piccadilly Gardens is the worst spot in the city.
The graffiti-scrawled, litter-strewn square is a magnet for petty crime; an outdoor social club for the city’s undesirables.
As though wrapped in invisible yellow warning tape, Piccadilly Gardens deters people - with many opting to walk around it rather than chance an encounter with one of its many characters by the ugly curved wall.
Even Manchester City Council have endured some torrid experiences here - with their redevelopment attempts repeatedly falling flat over the past decade.
It's a cursed space, and one that Mancs have mocked for many years. Whenever it comes up in conversation, we laugh, shake our heads, and say something about it being “a shithole”.
But on Friday, in this very spot, a fifteen-year-old boy was stabbed and taken to hospital.
Two days later, a man was slashed in the face, and three others were injured in a shocking knife spree.
Something became very clear this past weekend. This isn't funny anymore.
Piccadilly Gardens is not just comically rough around the edges - it’s actively dangerous.
Another video from tonight’s apparent stabbing at Manchester Piccadilly gardens pic.twitter.com/p61H4Kd4JS— Tae (@tae_lancaster) January 12, 2020
This video from someone close by shows a large police presence close to #PiccadillyGardens in #Manchester following reports of a stabbing.— Hits Manchester News (@hitsmcrnews) January 12, 2020
It’s understood two people have been injured and a man has been detained. pic.twitter.com/Rkk3NL3v1f
Two stabbings in 3 days in Piccadilly Gardens. I love Manchester but something big needs to change.— ilona burton (@ilonacatherine) January 12, 2020
Time and again, Mancunians have shown displays of passion that reflect love and pride for their hometown. But Piccadilly Gardens, the unfriendliest green space in Britain, has quickly become a source of civic embarrassment.
It's also the gateway to the city centre - meaning the bad eggs of Manchester are the current welcome party for out-of-towners.
We’ve actually reached a point where those blissful images of flower beds in the square - captured in the 1960s - feel like they’re from a different place, never mind a different era.
There’s widespread agreement that action is required to salvage Piccadilly Gardens and restore some decorum to a once-beloved area. But exactly what should be done is less clear.
A higher police or security presence in the area would surely contribute to reduced crime figures and make citizens feel safer, but there are concerns over the sustainability of this solution in the long-term. Some argue that troublemakers will simply move to other areas, whilst others are worried about potential tax hikes that may arise to combat crime successfully.
In the meantime, however, police are working to understand how the recent attacks came about.
A 30-year-old man was tasered and arrested at the scene on Sunday, and there have also been crisis meetings taking place this week.
According to Pat Karney, Councillor for Harpurhey/Collyhurst and Secretary for Manchester Labour Group, the incident outside Morrisons on Friday related to a “domestic relationship fight”, whilst Sunday’s stabbing was a result of a feud between “rough sleepers".
His Twitter account also revealed a meeting between councillors and Greater Manchester Police held on Monday.
Piccadilly https://t.co/qR3TLcN0Ep meeting with GMP.— Pat Karney (@patkarney) January 13, 2020
-@JonConnorLyons and myself thanked the police for getting the situation under control speedily.These were isolated cases that involved six people.The council and GMP agreed a number of actions to safeguard the public. pic.twitter.com/14fiwIEBsA
It’s unsettling to have such an unpredictable, high-risk area right at the heart of our city centre. We’re at a critical level - and now steps are needed.
As much as we love our city, there’s no denying that Piccadilly Gardens has been a boil on the face of Manchester for many years, and continued neglect and carelessness has left it infected.
Until we find a remedy, it’ll only get worse.