Bringing Manchester’s History Back to Life: ‘Our Manchester Ourselves’ 15th June 1996 is a day Manchester should always remember. The events of this day became vital to the city’s regeneration and growth in the years to follow. Why? Because of a bombing on Corporation street which caused widespread damage.

When Clare Molyneux, from Open the Door Theatre, and Richard March, cheif executive of The Factory Youth Zone, told the young people coming through their doors about this vital piece of Manchester’s history they found that “only one of the young people in our group knew that a bomb had ever gone off”. Twenty years ago, it would seem impossible that Manchester could forget such a vital part of its history. However, in schools now, there is little mention of the Manchester IRA bombing and how it made Manchester into the city it is today.

The young people from the Factory Youth Zone have created a documentary, funded by the Heritage Lottery, called Our Manchester Ourselves to educate others about the bombing. The documentary covers the history of the bombing and why it happened. Clare said: “This project is the fulfilment of the vision of the Factory Youth Zone’s young people, to educate their peers about the IRA bombing of the Arndale Centre in 1996 and how that event changed not only the landscape but also the heritage and history of Manchester and its people”.

The young people had the opportunity to travel to Ireland to carry out interviews. They visited Stormont, the Northern Ireland Parliament, where they interviewed Pat Sheehan, a Sinn Fein politician who formerly took part in hunger strikes. They also met with the Northern Ireland Youth Forum’s United for Change group who work to end the historic segregation and move towards a positive future for the area. Clare explained, “young people don’t want war”. Fizz, who has been a key contributor to the project, described that many had said “what happened was in our parents’ generation, we want peace”.

The documentary also explores what happened in Manchester on the day, through interviews with people who were in the city centre and some of the 212 people who were injured by the bomb. Interviews explore the aftermath of the bomb, particularly the regeneration in the city centre. Shannon who has been a vital part of the project, said “I didn’t know anything about it before. Learning about it in the places that it happened, from the people who lived it, made it real”.

Although the bomb destroyed much of the city centre, it did act as a catalyst for Manchester’s regeneration, as many parts of the city centre were rebuilt, repaired and redesigned. The documentary features interviews with Sir Howard Bernstein, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council, and Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, who talk about Manchester’s architectural regeneration since the bombing. The film, according to JC shows how people worked to “bring Manchester back to life” after a period of fear, danger and despair.

We now find ourselves on the verge of Greater Manchester Devolution – the next step in the city region’s contemporary evolution. Harpurhey, the ward where The Factory Youth Zone is located, ranks second worst in England for the effect of long-term deprivation on children. In the words of Richard March, Harpurhey suffers from “a token trickle-down effect”, which results in unemployment being almost double the national rate and 56.2% of children living in poverty. Although, the Northern Powerhouse agenda will result in greater investment in the North of England, and Manchester in particular, we risk expenditure being focused in the city centre and directed away from the poorer wards who need it most.

Our Manchester Ourselves chronicles Manchester’s history in a way that is personal to its residents. The film brings to life a surprisingly ignored and untaught part of Manchester’s history by giving viewers a lived and felt version of history. This knowledge will be vital to Manchester’s evolution in the future.

From September 2016 to June 2017 Manchester Metropolitan University invites you to take part in a wide-ranging festival of discussion, exploration and debate on the theme of ‘D/Evolving Manchester’. D/Evolving Manchester Festival is designed to inspire and engage everyone in Greater Manchester, and beyond, with the challenges and opportunities that devolution offers to the region. Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the ‘Manchester bomb’, we are holding an academic symposium and public-engagement launch on June 15th to celebrate Manchester’s phenomenal redevelopment over the past twenty years.

We will launch this programme on June 15th with a full day and evening of discussion and celebration, including a screening of Our Manchester Ourselves. 

Tickets for the evening celebration are free and available here.

Tickets for the day-time symposium are free and available here.

The Factory Youth Zone will be screening Our Manchester, Ourselves for the first time at HOME on 4th June. You can find out more information about the project at The Factory Youth Zone website. The film will go live on the documentary website on Saturday at 1.15pm.

This was also published on Manchester Metropolitan University’s website.


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