Survivors of the Manchester Arena bombings share how they were forced to rebuild their lives on a new podcast on BBC Radio Manchester.

Manchester Arena Bomb – Stories of Hope is a four-part series presented by Radio 1 host Katie Thistleton and will be released on BBC Sounds starting May 18, ahead of the fourth anniversary of the arena bombing.

Twenty-two people were killed when a bomb exploded in the foyer of the arena shortly after an Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017. Hundreds more were injured and mentally affected by the events.

The audience will hear from those affected who speak with honesty and courage about the strength it takes to survive, find moments of optimism, and build a new life for themselves as they recover.

From unlikely friendships to a mother and her daughters returning emotionally to the arena, the series is filled with powerful moments that show the connection that exists between a group of strangers brought together by tragedy.

The audience hears about Usman Ahmed in the first episode, who was on his last shift as a steward when the bomb went off. Determined to tell his life-saving story, he speaks of the enduring effects on his sanity and the importance of his beliefs.

A new friendship emerges when Martin Hibbert, who sustained 22 splinter wounds that paralyzed him from the waist down, promises to help Usman – creating the belief that there is indeed a way through his feelings and a new future.

Martin has set up a unit for survivors since the attack and is climbing Kilimanjaro later that year in hopes of raising £ 1 million for the Spinal Injuries Association.

In episode two – after BBC Radio Manchester gained exclusive access to the arena – Annette McNeil and her daughters Erin and Caitlin return to read letters they have written to themselves describing their mental and emotional journey.

They then watch a special performance by 17-year-old Alexis Wade, whose singing lessons are paid for by Liv’s Trust – a fund set up by the family of 15-year-old Olivia Campbell Hardy, who was killed in the attack.

The third episode revolves around Millie Tomlinson, who suffered splinter wounds and has ongoing mental health problems. Four years later, she is at university and determined to get the most out of her life.

She meets Louise Murray – Martyn Hett’s sister who was killed in the explosion – who also reveals how she was consumed by grief, but has now moved on and found a new direction for her life by starting a business.

In episode four, Jenny Howarth is visited by a special guest at her family-run Wonkey Donkey Sanctuary in Yorkshire – Rob Grew, who remembers helping Jenny’s two aunts the night of the bombing after they were seriously injured.

Kate Squire, Editor of BBC Radio Manchester, says, “This series is about bringing people together by having life-changing conversations that are powerful, honest and raw.

“Four years later, we tell the amazing stories of recovery, hope and the remarkable determination of those who were there that night trying not only to survive but to move on – to change their own lives and the world for the better. ”

Katie Thistleton, presenter on Radio 1, says, “This podcast is one of the best things I’ve ever done, but also one of the hardest. It was difficult to hear about the victims’ experiences, but it was also incredibly inspiring to see the strength and resilience of these wonderful people.

“There are some amazing stories between these four episodes and some powerful moments. These stories and the messages they bring have changed my outlook on life and will stay with me. “

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