Bestselling author and award winning journalist Richard Benson gets into the idea that people make places and the effect disruption has on attraction.

The Importance of Being Maker
Author, journalist and critic Richard Benson’s approach to the nature of attraction sees him explore our response to place in the light of specific contexts, be that the ritualised future-facing utopianism of a pit village community, the home-making adaptability of the displaced, or the way with which we re-invest, rally around and love our places in the light of events that are as unexpected as they are tragic. We are all, he says, the makers of our attractions, and especially so when the trajectories of our lives as individuals and groups are altered by events beyond our control.

Love Manchester
Benson covers much ground in his analysis of our capacity for making good through attraction. Most powerful, however, is the light he shines of the people of Manchester’s response to the suicide bombing of Manchester Arena. Hearing on social media and through the news the stories of how help was provided instantly not just by the authorities but also by the people themselves, and listening to the statements of solidarity expressed by Manchunians known and unknown, we are instantly struck by the fact that despite its size, the heterogeneity of its population, Manchester possesses a spirit born of a singular identity, one rooted in time and place.

This notion of itself as a community is most powerfully felt, intimates Benson, at the vigil honouring the victims of the attack, and particularly during the reading by Tony ‘Longfella’ Walsh of his poem This is the Place. Stood on a platform surrounded by representatives of every part of the city, Walsh narrates his poem perhaps in a way it has never been spoken before, the crowd before him both evidence of and voice for everything he has to say on a place that – lest we forget – is a beautiful place. Rather than comment himself, Benson allows us to re-experience the poem’s telling, and as we do, so we feel the coming together of a community through words that remind, evoke, and love, words which Walsh would describe as belonging not to him but to the city itself, words born of the power of the people.

People Make Places
Richard Benson is especially interested in the way people come together, and how that coming together (re)creates the place we love. The idea of community is necessarily a public one, and it is in our public spaces that we continually bring the idea to life. In this sense, it is right and proper, intimates Benson, that a vigil serves not just as a means of honouring the victims of the attack, but also as a platform for reminding ourselves through the act of gathering what it means to live in Manchester, to live well, to live among people, our neighbours, with families, to share a space we call home. It is the gathering of the people – the crowd, the community – that give Walsh’s poem life, and it is that same gathering that helps bring Manchester to life.


Who:                     Richard Benson
What:                    FreeDinner: On Attraction
When:                   25 May 2017
Where:                  Shoreditch, London