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Taxi drivers who helped after Manchester bomb to strut their stuff on catwalk

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    Media captionSam Arshad of taxi company Street Cars recalls the night of the attack

    Taxi drivers who helped on the night of the Manchester Arena attack will join dozens of other ordinary Mancunians later in a mass performance to create a live “self-portrait” of the city.

    Bakers, barristers and baristas will join the cabbies on a 100m (328ft) catwalk in Piccadilly Gardens.

    The parade comes from an idea by artist Jeremy Deller and is the Manchester International Festival’s opening event.

    Many taxi drivers gave stranded people free lifts after last month’s bombing.

    They will be among 150 ordinary people who will walk down the runway, with hundreds more expected to watch.

    Image copyright AFP
    Image caption Manchester taxi drivers turned off their meters to help people affected by the attack

    Sam Arshad, co-owner of taxi company Street Cars, is among those taking part.

    He was driving past the arena on the night of the attack, and returned to the office to manage the calls as the situation unfolded.

    “People were calling up with panicked voices,” he said, “a lot of worried parents trying to get their children home safe.

    “That’s when we realised the severity of it all.

    “At that point, I reached out to the drivers and said, ‘We need to do our bit and to help these people in their time of need.'”

    Image copyright Katherine Jewkes
    Image caption The catwalk has been built in Piccadilly Gardens

    Mr Arshad predicted Thursday’s catwalk show would be “a bundle of joy” – and joked that he had been watching Beyonce videos to get inspiration for some moves.

    “It just shows that we’re the faces of Manchester, aren’t we?” he said.

    “We’re the first people who are going to be out there strutting our stuff, showing what kind of people we are and as a society how we can come together at a time like this to show the kindness and happiness that Manchester produces.”

    They will be joined on the catwalk by dancers, drag queens, football fans, a chef, a Syrian refugee, dog walkers and some famous faces – whose identities haven’t been revealed.

    “Rather than putting a bunch of models on it, we’re putting the people of Manchester, and it’s going to be a very beautiful celebration of the city,” festival director John McGrath said.

    “Each person who goes onto the runway in a way is an image and a portrait of Manchester – the people who make up the city, the people who make the city special, people you might know, people you might walk past on the street.”

    808 State musician Graham Massey will join forces with local buskers to create a live soundtrack.

    Image caption New Order will play five gigs in an art installation

    The event, titled What Is The City But The People?, will kick off the sixth Manchester International Festival – the first with Mr McGrath as artistic director.

    It begins at 18:30 BST on Thursday and will be streamed on the BBC’s Manchester International Festival live page.

    The catwalk show will be followed by the first of five concerts by Mancunian band New Order, playing in an installation created by artist Liam Gillick in a former Granada TV studio.

    They will be joined by a 12-strong synthesiser ensemble from the Royal Northern College of Music.

    The festival will continue until 16 July, with more music, art, drama and dance.

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