To Manchester, with love.

This tribute was recorded for the PressPLAY OK podcast and has been reproduced here.

Before we start the show today, we here at pressplay ok would like to pay our respects to the victims of the horrific attack that occurred at the Ariana Grande concert just a few days ago. Our heart still aches for every life lost in an incident that can only be described as senseless and barbaric.

At the heart of this was a concert for pop music. As many have called it, a safe space. A positive force that draws people in wherever you might be. We spend so much time listening to our pop stars from afar, and a concert like this can often be the first time someone so inspiring or talented can actually seem like a tangible reality to us. We can be like them. we could be with them. Or maybe one day, we can be them.

This site started based on the love for that pop. From my own upbringing with Bollywood to my nan singing both Lata Mangeshkar and Boy George songs, it’s a movement that creates families within families. And while on this show and this site we deride and we celebrate our popstars in equal measure, it’s because they welcome us so openly into their world that we feel like we have the right to do that. Because, in essence, they’re another family of our own.

Music punctuates every aspect of our lives. A first kiss, the first dance at your wedding, the song played at your funeral and the songs at the untimely, unfair funerals of 22 pop lovers in the coming weeks. We define our life’s moments by the songs we sing.

Music was enjoyed by someone like Georgina Callander, like Martyn Hett, and every single person who tragically lost their lives during that despicable attack… all the way to 8yo Saffie Rose Roussos.

8 years old. The same age as my own nephew, born in the North like I was, with a Muslim background. He goes to the mosque on a Saturday, and he loves pop as much as I do – whether it’s Justin bieber, or my guest here today, or in fact Ariana Grande. He’s constantly asking me when he can go to his first concert to see his heroes live. That 8 year old could have been him. With unbearable sadness it ended up being Saffie. It should never, ever even have to be either one of them. Or anyone.

But terrorism, like racism and any sort of fear mongering – doesn’t see the individual. It doesn’t see a child, it doesn’t care for gender, it doesn’t offer a get-out clause for religion. It just seeks to further its own selfish ends, and create terror and mistrust and panic in places there ought to be none. That’s what terrorism is, and it sees no faith of its own.

Beyond our deepest condolences and sympathy to those whose lives have been taken away – and our endless gratitude to emergency services and special forces in the aftermath, even as funds are being taken away from them – we have some messages for other groups of people out there.

To those who are scared and those shaken in their faith – Muslim or non – fearing a backlash. Seek strength in your neighbour. The United Kingdom is woven from the borders of different countries; but its people are the fabric that keep it together.

To those in their rooms worried about going to concerts or enjoying music, or thinking people in the world hate you for who you are – pop has always been a safe haven for us outsiders. There is always a safe place for you here, in a song, in a fellow fan, and the silly love for this sound that has somehow allowed a little gay Muslim from Bradford to sit here and get to talk to his favourite pop stars for a living.

And finally to the terrorists and racists of the world, the ones who fill people’s real and online world with hate and not hope. Firstly – as I’ve been told on Twitter many times this week – people like me should do more to root out terrorism, we should apologise, and maybe we should go try live somewhere like Saudi Arabia and be openly gay and Muslim. If saying sorry helps drop you crusade of hatred, then of course we’re sorry. We’re sorry every time something like this happens. And if us moving somewhere and taking a bullet means that this world can be safer for children like Saffie then you can bet everything we’d move there tomorrow.

But here’s another message for you people: I laugh when you say multiculturalism doesn’t work. Because that’s what a pop concert like this is – it’s a microcosm of what can happen as a result of multiculturalism. everyone uniting for one common source of joy, brushing aside politics, gender, religion, sexuality and every other difference for a night of pure happiness and making memories.

And that… that is what scares them the most. The fact we might suddenly work out that we can and do live in harmony in different ways every single day, and that by doing so it threatens everything they’re trying to achieve.

And the minute we all realise that ourselves and extend that momentary peace to every single day of our everyday lives? The minute that happens? Well, to paraphrase the brilliant Ariana Grande herself: we’ll have one less problem without them.