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Explosion In Albert Square: Food Stall Staff Injured

Jonathan Schofield and the emergency during a quiz in the city centre

Published on October 10th 2011.

Explosion In Albert Square: Food Stall Staff Injured

AT around 8.45pm a food stall in Albert Square exploded in the Manchester Food and Drink Festival Hub.

Some of us went closer to the inferno, felt the heat of the flames, the impulse was to help but then we were chased off by security shouting: "Get back, there are gas canisters. They're going to blow."

Two men working in the concession were injured that I could see (later it turned out that three people were hurt), one with burns to his legs, another with injuries and burns to his head. Both men were standing and talking to the emergency services although both were clearly in shock.

The food stall was Chillikoko (click here). This describes itself on its own website as 'an award winning outside catering business specialising in Creole food. We use high quality, locally sourced meat and vegetables to give you a taste of the Seychelles'. The company is based in Cumbria.

The incident happened as Manchester Food and Drink Festival was holding an event - a quiz - at the nearby beer tent. The hosts were Phil Jones, the Food and Drink Festival Director, Pete Mitchell, well-known DJ and yours truly, Confidential's editor, Jonathan Schofield. There were about 80 people in the tent including Andrew Nutter of Nutter's restaurant in Rochdale. 

The very wet nature of the evening and the fact that it was a Monday ensured that few people were around aside from those at the quiz. 

Fire 023

Reports are coming in of three people injured. The fog of war and all that but I saw only two injuries.

The larger of the two injured men had had his trousers blown off, or torn by the force of the blast. 

The Manchester Food and Drink Festival people led by Siobhan Hanley and Phil Jones were doing their best to re-assure and comfort people who'd witnessed the events. Well done to the Festival team and the security and other staff who so quickly helped evacuate people. 

The fire service were there within, maybe, five or six minutes, although as time seems to move differently on these occasions as every second becomes energised, this may be inaccurate.

How strange these events though. 

How quickly rumour flares and becomes fact. In the forty seconds of leaving the tent it became fact that there was a woman, and then maybe a man, on fire in Chillikoko. Some of us went closer to the inferno, felt the fierce heat of the flames, the impulse was to help but then we were chased off by security shouting: "Get back, there are gas canisters. They're going to explode."

There were more flashes of flame into the night. Mini-detonations. I reached into my pocket and realised I'd left my mobile phone behind. As if it mattered, but that's the way the brain worked. It turned out there was thankfully nobody burning in Chillikoko. 

And then the fire service came and killed the flames.

And we were left standing around staring at each other in the pouring rain, as the ambulances advanced down Princess Street and the poor men who'd been injured were tended to - a woman in middle age, seemingly part of the Chillikoko team, was beside herself in anguish. 

And all this at half time during a harmless quiz about the city, its food and drink, its music and its history.

Absurdly the teams in the quiz had just completed the plasticine section where they had to fashion something associated with Manchester. 

The Festival Hub expects to be open at lunch time tomorrow.

Let's make sure the causes are examined but that future events in the Square go ahead as planned. And those injured recover quickly and get to run their small business profitably.

Fire 024

Fire 030

Fire 027 

Quiz before the emergencyQuiz before the emergency

Chillikoko stall on Friday before the fireChillikoko stall (on the left) on Friday before the fire

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29 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Jeannette JacksonOctober 10th 2011.

Excellent work Johnathan - Thanks for the images

Helen Ramsbottom shared this on Facebook on October 10th 2011.
James GillOctober 10th 2011.

You don't mess about Jonathan! Good work. Hope the guys from Chillikoko are ok.

tattygirlOctober 10th 2011.

hope no one is hurt.

AnonymousOctober 10th 2011.

Such a scary night - it could have been much worse.

AnonymousOctober 10th 2011.

There's a guy using his mobile phone mid quiz, it's blatant - how has that been missed from this news report?

CuriousOctober 10th 2011.

Out of interest, who set up the gas canister involved in the exlosion? The 'outside catering company' Chillikoko, or Festival organisers?

Claudia ForbesOctober 10th 2011.

Gosh!!! great coverage!

I hope all are ok and this does not deter any scheduled MFDF/similar events in Manchester.

Catherine HeatonOctober 11th 2011.

Sad story. The guys from Chillikoko were so happy and welcoming and brought a little bit of sunshine from the Seychelles. They made the atmo in the tent village. Am sorry for whoever was injured, hope they make a quick recovery.

AnonymousOctober 11th 2011.

I was there with my children for the kids' festival yesterday which was enjoyable even with the rain. A lot of young families in attendance, so glad there were no incidences. Thank goodness there weren't more injuries, and hopefully the injured will recover quickly.

Dawn HoldingOctober 11th 2011.

We were having a great night in the quiz, great atmosphere. It was really scary, well done to everyone for reacting in a calm manner in getting out and to the festival team for their professionalism, some of them clearly distraught and shocked by the scenes.
The guys from the Seychelles stall were so pleasant , I visited them earlier in the day and were genuinely happy to serve you, we all wish them a speedy recovery.
Here's hoping the rest of the festival events go according to plan.

BernieOctober 11th 2011.

Just hope the injured are going to be ok thats all that matters . Will still come along

C YuOctober 11th 2011.

Hope the seychelle guys will be ok. I bought a delicious coconut chicken from them on Friday. He said to me, 'Tell your friends. Share the love.'

News from the FutureOctober 11th 2011.

The incident happend at 8.45pm yet the article was published at 8.36pm...??? MANCON begins to take on an alternative and somewhat darker meaning...

Jonathan SchofieldOctober 11th 2011.

Wow. Well spotted. It seems we have a complicated timeline discrepancy with the UTC. Yep no idea myself. The tech team are on to it. Thanks

Dave MansbridgeOctober 11th 2011.

I want to say a big thank you to Phil, Siobhan and all the festival staff. The emergency plan was excellent. Everybody was taken away from the danger with no fuss or panic. Our prayers are with the guys from Chillikoko. We all wish you a speedy recovery. Also, I want to say we have the best emergency services in the world. Excellent.

AnonymousOctober 11th 2011.

Who won the quiz.....?

James GillOctober 11th 2011.

Hear hear Dave...

3 Responses: Reply To This...
SylviaOctober 12th 2011.

James is this you. this is your auntie in U.S.A.

SylviaOctober 12th 2011.

Hello Jams

James GillOctober 13th 2011.

Hi Syl, yes i'm on the 4th picture staring gormlessly at the camera next to the guy on his phone!

AnonymousOctober 11th 2011.

Quiz half completed and we did the addition for who was winning at half time. so we know that much. Unfortuantely the plasticine got destroyed by the cleaners before we could stop them.
We are thinking of resuming the quiz.
Thanks to all for turning up.
Our thoughts are with the 1 injured guy left in Wythenshawe hospital. 2 others now discharged.
Thanks to Jonathan for co-hosting with me and Mitchell ,and for his" highly charged "report of the unfortunate finale.
Thanks to the MFDF team, the stewards and of course the emergency services, who were all incredible.
BTW it was a shutting down stall that caught fire . No gas canister exploded. and despite the BBC websites continuous efforts to tell us there was, there was NO COOKING DEMO going on !!!!
Phil Jones MFDF Director
PS tried to get my name up here but wont let me even though i have registered before so not trying to be anon

It's the city, duffusOctober 11th 2011.

Was hoping ManCon would sack IT, but that apparently never happened...

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Isabella JacksonOctober 11th 2011.


It's the city, duffusOctober 11th 2011.

Log in? Sack? Not work? eh!

James GillOctober 11th 2011.

you should definitely resume it.. I know of a little casino venue that would be happy to host it if the festival tents have events planned in from now till the end.

knowallOctober 12th 2011.

What is the capital of Uzbekistan?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Simon BinnsOctober 12th 2011.

Surely everyone knows it's Tashkent?

*quickly hides Google*

James GillOctober 13th 2011.

Wrong... it's U

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