By Freddie Bruhin-Price
On the 15th June 2016, Chetham’s Library, part of the Mancunian landscape since 1411, filled up with eagerly anticipating guests. The age and heritage of the complex provided a reminder of Manchester’s rich past, as attendees prepared themselves for an event entitled ‘Manchester is Here’, which was set to outline the exciting future in store for the city.
The aim of the evening was to celebrate the spirit, resilience and ingenuity of Greater Manchester as well as to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 1996 Manchester bomb. The night would go on to showcase Manchester talent and announce some of the events that Manchester Metropolitan University will offer as part of the 2016/17 ‘Humanities in Public’ Festival (HiP), which will – from next year – form part of the inaugural ‘D/Evolving Manchester’ Festival.
Humanity Hallows spoke to Dr Jenna Ashton, co-ordinator of the new D/Evolving Manchester project and Helen Darby, co-ordinator of the longstanding HiP Festival, which has just come to the end of its 3rd annual run.
Helen said, “I am very proud that the success of Humanities in Public has now been translated into a University-wide programme, with each Faculty bringing its own specialisms and expertise to the fore to create brilliant events. We will have something for everyone!”
Jen said, “The D/Evolving Manchester project is designed to bring together research from various different Faculties in the University, from academics who are all interested in the devolution agenda”
She added, “Devolution will include involving all communities from Greater Manchester in decision making. We will also have the chance to elect a mayor. Devolution is about taking ownership, working together across all ten Boroughs to improve life in the city-region for everybody in Greater Manchester.”
Master of Ceremonies for the ‘Manchester is Here’ evening was Dave Haslam, who welcomed guests to “a great celebration of the spirit and resilience of Manchester.” He then welcomed Manchester Met Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Science (HLSS) Dr Sharon Handley, who said, “Humanities in Public reflects the vision of the arts and humanities in the city. It is fitting that we are here in Chetham’s, the oldest library in Manchester, bequeathed by Henry Chetham, a generous cloth merchant who represents the true spirit and the strength of the Humanities in our great city of Manchester.
“Manchester has the largest Writing School in the country. We reach out to various communities in this multicultural city. We can work together to pull through some of the problems of our times. Tonight is the beginning of an exciting new phase of collaboration between the city and Manchester Metropolitan University.”
A film was then introduced called Ourmanchester Ourselves, made to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 1996 IRA bombing. A group of young people from Harpurhey performed a song from the film’s soundtrack backed by the Ordsall Acapella Singers, with lyrics like “on a day in town/a sudden noise/shook the ground” making a real impression on the audience.
Next, Manchester Met Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education Professor Helen Laville described her “sense of excitement from saying ‘I Live Here.’ I believe very passionately in Humanities in Public. The list of events we have in front of us is so wonderful.”
The audience watched intently as the first part of the six-part documentary series What Happened on the Day created a vivid picture of what it was like to be in Manchester in the hours preceding the blast. As one interviewee said, “We were talking about Euro 96 and what we were having for breakfast that day. Suddenly we were told to evacuate the Arndale. They said there’d been a bomb scare. The police were being very calm but incredibly assertive.”
The second part of the documentary, entitled Regeneration, included comments from one interviewee who said, “Money from donations, the government, subscriptions and the EU helped us to regenerate.”
The film also saw Granada news reporter Lucy Meacock give praise to the “incredible spirit” of the people of Manchester who managed to stay strong and bring the city back to its former glory following such a terrific scare. Lucy said, “Manchester wasn’t the same after the bomb… it was better. It was a better place to live. Despite everything that happened, our city thrived.”
MC Dave Haslam then took to the stage and introduced Manchester Met Professor of Poetry Michael Symmons Roberts. He praised the “fantastic film” and then read a poem about climate change including lines about a “Mancunian Taxi driver who foresees his death.” Michael also read a poem which focussed on creating a myth for the recently built Media City in Salford, which he felt deserved its own backstory, being, in his words, “the most connected place in Britain”.
The next speaker of the evening was HLSS Associate Dean for Research, Professor Berthold Schoene who said, “I take great honour in introducing D/Evolving Manchester, which will, as part of its mission, aim to address the gulf between academia and the public. It is both an expression of intent for Manchester, and an affirmation, if it were needed, that this University is both for and of the city.”
The evening was brought to a close by the Ordsall Acapella Singers who performed a medley of songs from West End musicals, The Beatles and Manchester favourites Elbow.
Go to www.ourmanchesterourselves.co. uk to watch the six-part film in full.
Humanities in Public returns in September 2016, follow them on Twitter @mmu_hssr to stay in touch over summer or go to www.mmu.ac.uk/hip for the full schedule this autumn.