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Why I wish Ariana Grande had chosen to stay after Manchester attack to give her fans hope

By Janet Street-Porter

Successful pop stars have an intense relationship with their fans, one that brings responsibilities along with the huge financial rewards. Reading interviews that the charismatic Harry Styles has been giving to promote his latest album, it's striking how mature the 23-year-old seems for his years and the effect the constant scrutiny of fans and media has had on his personality.

He seems conscious that everything he says, or does, will be forensically dissected.

The vibrant American singer Ariana Grande is the same age as Harry and, like the former One Direction star, her core audience is made up of young girls.

After the atrocity following her concert in Manchester, the singer issued a statement saying she was devastated and then flew straight back to the US, cancelling two concerts at the O2 in London.

Predictable, but a bit cowardly? Ariana's management claimed that time was needed to "assess the situation and pay proper respects to those lost", but I noticed that her period of mourning will be coming to an end pretty quickly as the tour resumes on June 5 in Switzerland.

As a result of intense publicity following the attack and repeated radio plays, her single One Last Time has soared up the charts and has re-entered the top 40. Ariana has promised to donate the money to a fund set up for victims' families.

Grande brought so much joy into her fans' lives and now thousands of girls who hold tickets for her shows in London won't be able to see her. The Queen (in her nineties) could manage to get on a train and pay her respects to the victims in person, but a pampered pop star less than a quarter of her age could not.

Should a singer be a role model? Harry Styles seems to weigh the impact of every word he says, mindful of their effect. It might be unpopular to say this, but Ariana Grande does have a responsibility to show courage and lead from the front. The majority of those who were affected by the bomb in Manchester were young women and their mums and relatives - girls of a certain age and background.

Mums and daughters, sisters and aunties. Girls on a night out, girls who bought expensive tickets and merchandise to celebrate their favourite singer.

The city in which these women and children were attacked is home to thousands of girls like them - I will never forget the atmosphere at the last Take That concert I went to there in a football stadium - 100% bliss on a massive scale, girls as far as the eye could see.

On Tuesday morning, the female head teacher of a school in a Muslim area in the city revealed that she'd told her pupils not to respond if they were the target of abuse because they were wearing headscarves. I doubt that there were many headscarf-wearers at the Ariana concert and to target young women because of their religion is revolting.

But telling girls to keep quiet and to be docile, is completely the wrong reaction - just as wrong as Ariana returning home and sending her condolences long distance.

I would have loved to see the young women of Manchester from all communities take to the streets in a show of defiance, showing the spirit and guts that I know they have. The only way to fight bigotry and suspicion is to be brave enough to walk together. Already, Ukip and others are exploiting the situation to breed more suspicion and fear.

Social media will have vastly increased the impact the Manchester bombing is having on young people all over the country. There have already been media references to the (undeniably true) fact that large parts of the city (as in many other places in the UK) are predominately populated by conservative Muslims. The girls in those communities have been conspicuously silent, predictably fearing reprisals.

This concert celebrated being a girl - it's up to the next generation of young women to show terrorists that they are not frightened, that they, not repression, are the way forward.

Belfast Telegraph


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