Danny Smith

The co-creator of Gig of my Life – along with Jon Bounds and Caroline Beavon – on his fanzine response to the Manchester Arena attacks

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The news cycle is so fast nowadays we rarely get a “where were you when you heard the news?” like our boomer parents had. But on the night of 22 May this year, I was working in a children’s care home. It was my job to stay awake all night and be on hand to comfort and protect the children in the home, offering support for those that did not find sleep easily. I was sitting on the upstairs landing outside their bedroom doors constantly refreshing the social media feeds on my phone looking for more information as over the next few hours a picture emerged of a terror attack on the Manchester Arena, targeting the fans of Ariana Grande as they left the venue.

It goes without saying that all acts of terrorism are abhorrent, but one that chose the largely young fans at a pop concert was unfathomable. As I said in a text early next morning: “They’re just kids, for fuck’s sake.” Not only that, but for may of the audience it was their first concert. Who can’t relate to that feeling of walking away from a concert or gig, ears ringing, knowing that it’s changed your life? And now in a cruel parody of that, with cowardly explosives and vague ideology, young people will remember what should have been the best night of their life so far with tears and horror.

Maybe it was the fact I was yards away from some incredibly vulnerable young people not far off the age of some of the victims. Or that I was on my own with nothing but time to reflect and stew in my own thoughts, and that working nights is a tough gig that leaves you emotionally delicate at times. But I felt so sad, so raw, so helpless. I was moved by the city of Manchester’s response, taking people in and taxi drivers driving through the night to help.

I couldn’t help, not in the short term. But that morning I started to focus on the feelings I had had at gigs: feeling and emotions that I not only wanted to share, but wanted to make sure people weren’t scared to experience for themselves. I knew that other writers and music fans would feel the same way, and I just started asking them if they felt they could write something for a zine. The idea was that we’d put it together and sell a few copies. The money might help, but the feelings were all-important.

Not least because gigs are holy ground, they’re sacred spaces made from sweat on love. Circles danced in the sand where evil lives outside. We needed to redress the balance, celebrate the art that has given us so much over the years.

To be honest it took us longer than we expected to gather all the material for the zine, but when they started coming in, we knew we would have something quite special: stories of proposals, mad quests, sticky floors and coincidences. Stories that make life worth living. The nuggets that we hold on to, and no matter how often we tell the story they can almost never capture the magic of being there. The design was a challenge because we wanted to do the stories justice, but also pay tribute to the dynamic punk aesthetic of zine culture we admired.

In the editor’s introduction we wrote: “Live music is important. Live music not only reminds us that we’re human, it reminds us we’re all human together. Part of the same writhing, jumping, sweating mess of humanity, witness to the fact when we come together magic happens. This zine is about that feeling and not letting any of the bastards ruin it.”

The lion’s share (three quarters) of the proceeds will be going to the National Foundation for Youth Music, a charity designed to change young people’s lives with music. The rest will go to the Red Cross One Love Manchester fund.

It’s available to buy now as both PDF and as a handmade hard copy, from

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