Hillsborough memorial held at Anfield

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The Kop sings 'You'll Never Walk Alone' during the  2015 Hillsborough memorial service at Anfield. Pic by Connor Dunn © JMU Journalism

The Kop sings ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ during the 2015 Hillsborough memorial service at Anfield. Pic by Connor Dunn © JMU Journalism

The Kop was filled with a mix of both blue and red at Anfield today as the city paid tribute to the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster.

More than 5,000 fans gathered at the stadium for the annual memorial service to mark the 26th anniversary of the tragedy.

Everton captain Phil Jagielka joined Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard to release 96 balloons, as supporters sang out in full voice ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. Gerrard’s cousin Jon Paul Gilhooley, 10, was the youngest Hillsborough victim on 15th April 1989, when Liverpool faced Nottingham Forest in Sheffield in the FA Cup semi-final.

Also attending the service were rival managers Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez, alongside politicians including Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram and Alison McGovern, plus past and present players of both of the city’s clubs.

At 3:06pm, the stadium joined together in a minute’s silence, which marked the moment the game was halted 26 years ago.

Former Liverpool striker John Aldridge and ex-Evertonian Graham Stuart, who will run in this weekend’s ‘Run For The 96 5K’ at Stanley Park, both gave bible readings at the service.

The 2015 Hillsborough memorial service at Anfield. Pic by Connor Dunn © JMU Journalism

The 2015 Hillsborough memorial service at Anfield. Pic by Connor Dunn © JMU Journalism

‘The Royle Family’ actress Sue Johnston read the lyrics to The Beatles’ ‘In My Life,’ and embraced the Chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, Margaret Aspinall, afterwards.

Before she could speak, Mrs Aspinall was greeted with a rapturous applause whilst the Kop broke out into song singing ‘Justice for the 96.’

Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son James died at Hillsborough, said:  “How do I follow that? I would like to thank everyone who has helped make today possible. We have struggled to get to where we are today – your support is amazing.

“We owe a great debt to our friends – a lot came home [from Hillsborough] feeling guilty – why I’ll never know. We owe a lot to them. Without them coming home and giving their accounts, we would not be where we are today,” she added.

She concluded saying: “We’ve got a long journey still ahead of us; we’ve had a hell of a year.”

The new inquests, which started in Birchwood Park, Warrington, last year are currently ongoing and are expected to last into 2016.

Balloons released in memory of the 96 at the 2015 Hillsborough memorial service at Anfield. Pic by Connor Dunn © JMU Journalism

Balloons released in memory of the 96 at the 2015 Hillsborough memorial service at Anfield. Pic by Connor Dunn © JMU Journalism

Today’s memorial ceremony also included songs from the Love and Joy Gospel Choir and singer Lee Roy James, whose poignant lyric “we never had a chance to say goodbye to you” resonated round the stadium.

The names of the 96 victims were read from the Book of Remembrance by clergy Reverend David Smith of Oakfield Methodist Church, Reverend Kelvin Bolton of Christ Church and Holy Trinity, and Father Stephen Maloney of All Saints Church in Anfield.

In front of the famous Spion Kop, the art sculpture Band of Life, created by Julian J Taylor to mark the 25th anniversary of the disaster, was displayed and lit up as the names were read, with a light to represent each of the 96.

Across Liverpool, the bells tolled 96 times whilst the flags on the civic buildings flew at half-mast, the Mersey Ferry sounded its horn and barriers at the Mersey tunnels were lowered.

Additional  reporting by Adam Jones, Matthew Judge & Connor Dunn

About Angharad Millington, JMU Journalism