By Neil Harrison
The memories of Manchester residents yesterday lit up a small corner of the University of British Columbia (UBC)’s huge Vancouver campus in Canada. Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU)’s Professor Melanie Tebbutt, Helen Malarky and myself joined a group of postgraduate students and academics as we screened the MMU-commissioned film ‘Forever Young’.
The film, which features the recollections of eight North West of England residents’ teenage years and spans eight decades of youth, sparked a lively conversation between the UBC students, staff and ourselves as visitors. Introducing the event, Associate Professor in Curriculum and Pedagogy at UBC, Lisa Loutzenheiser, said,
“As Youth and Education and Film and Ethnography students, we thought it was perfect to bring you all together for this film and it will be nice that we can hopefully have a cross-pollinating conversation later on. We have three great people here from Manchester Metropolitan University and, as this project is all about public engagement, we hope that you will engage with them and their film. I’m sure you’ll have some great questions, I know I have some.”
Ahead of the screening Professor Tebbutt provided a brief contextualisation of some of the themes and settings of ‘Forever Young’. She began,
“I can’t tell you how good it is to be in Vancouver, it’s really exciting. We’ve been made to feel extremely welcome both by the people of Vancouver and by UBC. I have to also say that the weather has helped, as, coming from Manchester we are used to the rain!
“The film itself was never meant to be representative of what it was like to be young in a particular decade, be it the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or whatever. Rather, it is an impressionistic piece which is designed to prompt questions from the viewer and to make them think about their own experience of being young. We very much hope that this will inspire other, similar projects in other places in the future.”
Following the film, the conversation continued for well over an hour as students and staff discussed both the style and content of ‘Forever Young’, as Professor Tebbutt, Helen Malarky and I took part in a panel discussion. We discussed the archiving and preservation of the oral histories collected during the project, the importance of public engagement in academia and, of course, what it means to be young. There was also much interest as Professor Tebbutt went on to discuss a project she is currently working on – something which is closely connected with her own research and with ‘Forever Young’ – a community research scheme called ‘Passions of Youth‘.
On a personal level, having been involved in the film from the outset and having now seen it numerous times, it was fascinating to watch it from an entirely different perspective and to gauge the reaction of an international audience.
It was a proud afternoon for everyone involved in the project, not least the film’s interviewees who were immediately warmed to and described to me by one audience member as “really open and honest. Just very cool people.” It was also a very proud day for MMU as we helped Manchester to make a lasting impression on this fantastic, far-flung city and university.
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We have lots more to do whilst here in Vancouver so keep checking back on Humanity Hallows for more news, updates and photos.
Neil Harrison is Editor-in-Chief at Humanity Hallows. He s in his final year studying History at MMU. Neil is currently enjoying vanilla lattes a little too much. Follow him on Twitter @looseriver