Flowers queue
Image caption The queue to lay flowers at St Ann’s Square stretched to about 260ft (80m) in length

On the first weekend since the Manchester attack, many people are carrying flowers and balloons around the city centre and heading in just one direction.

The queue at St Ann’s Square to lay tributes to those killed and injured in the attack stretches back about 260ft (80m) from the church to the Royal Exchange Theatre, as people wait patiently to quietly reflect on what had happened in a place so familiar and “close to home”.

Elsewhere in the city centre though, it is like any other Saturday, with bustling shoppers on Market Street, children playing in Piccadilly Gardens’ fountains and people gathering to listen to street performers.

It is a city in flux and one which is now, as with the rest of the nation, back in the grip of general election campaigning, following the three-day pause in the wake of the terror attack.

But is Manchester ready to move on and talk politics?

Image caption Kelly and Donna said people are “not ready” to think about politics

Kelly, 38, from Manchester and Donna, 37, from Rochdale came to St Ann’s Square to pay their respects after the attack, which was “beyond belief”.

For Kelly, it is “too soon” to restart campaigning.

“I think it’s become all about this. I think it’s become all about religion and I think they should hold off a bit longer frankly.

“It’s become too personal.”

Donna agrees that people are not “ready”.

“People are still reeling from all this. It’s the last thing on anybody’s mind.

“People have died. People are angry about it, they’re making the wrong choices because they’re angry.

“I don’t think people are going to have the time to sit and think ‘what is right for them in their votes’ with a clear head.

“People are in shock, still.”

Image caption Anik and Swapna said life must continue but politicians should not take advantage of what has happened

Swapna and Anik Kali, 28, live round the corner from the Manchester Arena and believe life must go on, even if that means political campaigning.

However, Anik warns that “politicians should not take advantage by commenting on anything… that’s the only thing we can think about, whether it’s early or not – it should not be a political issue”.

Swapna adds that what happened “should not stop us doing anything”.

“After everything that happened, everything was so sad, but [we] are definitely still here and enjoying and… holding up.”

Image caption Hundreds of flowers, cards and balloons have been left in tribute at St Ann’s Square
Image caption Emma came to the city to offer people hugs and show support

Emma, 27, from Runcorn says the city centre “is exactly the same as it always is”.

“We can’t be afraid [and] we can’t let it stop us.

“[The election] is coming up so close now and it’s such an important one this year.

“There are so many young people who have registered to vote now. It’s really important to carry on.”

Image caption James and Danielle said Manchester should be left to mourn before “thinking about politics”

James and Danielle Yates arrived in Manchester from the West Midlands alongside more than 100 other bikers to “pay tribute” to the victims of the attack.

James, 35, said it felt “very soon” to start campaigning again.

“There are other things to be doing than thinking about politics at the minute.

“I don’t think it’ll change anything in the election campaign, [but] let people get over it a bit first.

Image caption People have written in chalk on the pavement to express their sorrow and show support
Image caption Chris and Chris said the election campaign had to begin again because it is “really important”

But 33-year-old Chris, who lives in Salford Quays, disagrees, saying that “it needed to start again, because they are running out of time”.

“I think they’ve done well and not used it, but I think it is the right thing to do, because this is a really important election.

“I think security, police, a lot more stuff about online snooping will be coming up.”

He adds that seeing Manchester “nice and busy was reassuring”.

“There is a really nice atmosphere. Like ‘no, it doesn’t get to us, we’re still living’.

“Life still goes on [and] I think the city is moving on. It is defiance.

“All my friends have started going out again. We were out last night and having a good time and not feeling guilty about that.”

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