The biennial Manchester Histories Festival is an event which attempts to connect the storied past of the city to the locals of Manchester. For the 2018 festival, the organisation has decided to focus on the themes of Protest, Democracy and Freedom of Speech in order to stimulate debate with the public about how the histories of the city have come to shape Mancunian society today.
What appealed most to me about Manchester Histories was the fact that I had the opportunity to disseminate the storied past of Manchester on a wide scale. Witnessing how the company has attempted to capture public attention with history through a number of different mediums, such as music, visual artistry and poetry highlights the diverse ways that they can translate Manchester’s past. It has been a fascinating change of pace from the traditional written work that I have been accustomed to. They have a real mandate to try and include the younger generation in their events as they are the future of the city, so they believe it is vital to perpetuate the past for them.
The nature of the work for the company meant that my time spent with Manchester Histories was essentially like a freelancer. Much of my labour has focussed on the social media element of the festival, specifically around how the public will engage with the events during their attendance. As a relative newcomer to Manchester, it has been great to learn more about the local history of the city that I currently call home. Researching interesting facts for the #OnThisDay feature on their Twitter page has allowed me to gain a good understanding of how the city has been shaped, and it has been great to share my discoveries with nearly 18,000 people online.
Despite the peripheral nature of the work, I have had the opportunity to get involved in some fantastic events. Just by spending time with their staff, you could tell that there was a real sense that they were helping to spread Manchester’s hidden histories. Undoubtedly, the most rewarding element of my placement has been engaging with the public audiences who have attended events arranged by Manchester Histories. After the Manchester Hill: Remembered event, the ‘emotional’, ‘moving’ and ‘poignant’ displays that commemorated the fallen soldiers of the First World War from the Manchester Pals battalion really made me realise that the gatherings were something special. Just witnessing over six hundred people stood in awe was recompense for the hard work and it hit home how important collective commemoration was to a community.
Unsurprisingly, the organisation has some exceptional patrons, and it is a testament to the importance of the organisation that Mancunian figures such as Lemn Sissay, Maxine Peake and Michael Wood actively represent them. It has been a pleasure to work with the company and act as an ambassador for the organisation.
Jake Gill is a Master’s student in the History Department at the University of Manchester.