When the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures invited me to blog about the Manchester Histories Festival, my hopes weren’t exactly high. I certainly didn’t expect that when I rocked up to the Town Hall yesterday afternoon I would be joining a bustling crowd, all eager to get inside and have a nosey.
The thing about living in a city as large and diverse as Manchester is that you carve out your own little version of it; a bubble tainted only by the experiences you open yourself up to. And so, it’s easier than you think to forget just how varied and vibrant that city is. Manchester is comprised of millions of these personal bubbles, each adding to the overall picture of the city’s heritage. What the Festival showed me was the enthusiasm felt by so many living in Manchester about so many different things. The old Belle Vue Zoo – now long since closed – commissioned acting group The Larks to bring forgotten stories to life, whilst in the room next door, a man collected visitors’ views on where the new Peterloo memorial should go. Rambling clubs welcomed new members, and civic societies opened the doors of the suburbs’ hidden gems. From people who grew up here to students who have moved here, all were enthused by the rich history they witnessed. The most striking aspect of all of this was the combination of past and future; the way that some aimed to educate on days gone by, whilst others sought to establish new links with our past, encouraging visitors to study the history that is evidently still so relevant today.
When the festival started in 2009, it set out to “celebrate and provide learning and education about the City region’s histories and heritage.” Five years down the line, I’d say that has been achieved. The Manchester Histories Festival ensures that Manchester’s colourful past will not be forgotten, and if just one other person felt as I did yesterday – that their eyes had been open to something so unjustly overlooked – then the festival has proven a success. Making history accessible to scholars and families alike, this is one part of our heritage which should not be allowed to fall by the wayside.
The Manchester Histories festival runs annually, this year from 21st-30th March. For more information, please visit http://www.manchesterhistoriesfestival.org.uk