By Dan J. Broadley
Last week saw Manchester Central Library host a very special premiere screening of a film produced Manchester Metropolitan University. ‘Forever Young’ is an ambitious documentary project which was put together by MMU’s Humanities in Public team for the national Being Human Festival. Set against the backdrop of north west England, the film combined archive footage with the reminiscences of eight people who were teenagers during decades ranging from the 1940s to the present day.
Ahead of the screening we spoke to Humanity Hallows own Editor-in-Chief, Neil Harrison, who worked as a researcher on the documentary and also interviewed the eight participants. Neil told us,
“I think we were extremely lucky in that we chose participants who were all honest, generous and genuinely interesting people. They were all fantastic. If I had to choose one, I would say I particularly liked hearing about the sixties from Geoff Bright but they all had really interesting perspectives on their given decades.
“There were a lot of common themes from each decade and common experiences of being young but they were obviously all taking place in the very different contexts of each era, which was really interesting. The interplay between the experience of youth and the time in which it occurs is a fascinating thing to explore and I hope we’ve managed to capture that in the film itself.”
The event was opened by Helen Malarky, who is the Humanities in Public Festival Coordinator. Helen took the opportunity to thank to everyone involved in making the documentary before the lights were dimmed and the film began.
The film is intriguing in the sense that it causes the viewer to realize that we only ever see things from our own perspectives, our own “porthole onto the world,” as Helen Malarky described it, is all we have. So, not only is it interesting to be allowed to see through the eyes of others but also, in a different time.
Each of the participants took us through their home towns, parents, families, school years and wild and troubled teenage years. All shared similar experiences, so it was nice to see people of all ages come together to talk about them.
The film took us from what is was like for Joan Howard to grow up in the 1940s and to work in munitions factories during wartime, through the fifties and sixties and vast social change and new senses of freedom, the punk wave of the seventies and eighties, before coming on to the rave scene of the nineties and modern 2010s era.
If there was one consistent theme, it was definitely music. The hippies, rock n roll, punk, techno… The list goes on. If there’s another thing for sure, it’s that both music and the internet changed everything.
After the film, all the participants from the film took part in a panel discussion hosted by DJ, author and all-round Manchester icon Dave Haslam. Dave led a discussion which ranged from the importance of music, changing attitudes on sexuality, family traditions, the changing role of a dominant male in households and political history.
One particularly interesting moment arose from the mention of the Cuban Missile crisis. “People didn’t know if they would be waking up the next morning,” said Geoff representing the 1960s.
During the political discussion, Alan McCabe representing the 1950s said if he could go back and give his younger self advice, it would be “don’t believe any politicians.”
Near the end, the audience were brought in to ask their questions, which brought up further discussion of the topics above but also how there is much more help now available to teenagers than there used to be – it used to be much more ‘on your own’.
The event was a massive success, which was a clear reflection of the hard work and dedication of everyone behind the scenes at Humanities in Public, Being Human and the Manchester Centre for Youth Studies.
For more information on the Contesting Youth strand of the Humanities in Public Festival, please visit www.hssr.mmu.ac.uk/hip/201415-events/contesting-youth/
Dan is an English and Creative Writing student at Manchester Metropolitan University. His interests include music, festivals, bass guitar, writing poetry, having ideas for novels and meditation. Follow him on Twitter @DanJBroadley. Dan’s personal blog is odd dan.wordpress.com