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28 October 2014
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Moving words

Manchester has always been a migrant city so it’s little surprise that the influx has brought a multitude of great writing. Moving Manchester is Lancaster University’s project to catalogue that literature and bring new writers to the mainstream.

Moving Manchester

Moving Manchester has several proposed outcomes:

  • A free, online annotated bibliography of published work by the writing constituencies
  • A full length academic study about the written narratives
  • An edited anthology of new writing
  • A series of workshops, seminars and conferences
  • Two doctoral studentships in creative writing
Professor Lynne Pearce
Professor Lynne Pearce

Project leader Professor Lynne Pearce told us why migration has been so important to Mancunian writing and where a new reader should start with their own journey into our migrant literature.

What is the aim of Moving Manchester?

"Our long-term objective is to represent more accurately the full range of writing that has emanated from Manchester since 1960; we want to ensure greater visibility and critical attention for all those who have been excluded on account their perceived ‘minority’ and/or ‘provincial’ status.

Shamshad Khan
Shamshad Khan

"For example, while the names of writers like Joe Pemberton, Qasira Shahaz, Pete Kalu or Shamshad Khan may be well-known on the Manchester literary circuit, their work has not been given the attention it deserves elsewhere in the UK."

Why have you chosen 1960 as the starting point?

"1960 was chosen primarily because it signals the beginning of what is widely regarded as the ‘contemporary period’ in literary history.

Pete Kalu
Pete Kalu

"In terms of Manchester’s own literary history, it marks the moment when the focus shifted from those who left the city and wrote about it mostly as an exile, such as David Storey and Richard Hoggart, to those who either chose to stay, like Shelagh Delaney and John Cooper Clarke, or those whose families had migrated to the city from across the world.

"Manchester has always been a ‘migrant city’, but during the latter part of the twentieth-century, this influx, together with the revolt of the white working-class, began to find distinctive new artistic expressions."

How important have different cultures been to the progression of Mancunian writing?

"This influx, together with the revolt of the white working-class, began to find distinctive new artistic expressions."
Professor Pearce on why Manc writing has been so important since 1960

"Manchester has long been considered the UK’s second largest centre for live literature and the city’s black and Asian communities have been especially active in it. We’ve found that Manchester’s writing has impacted upon the literary mainstream, with novelists like Val McDermid actively transforming detective fiction by featuring characters and plots that ‘break the mold’ in terms of race and gender. 

"But it’s not just influencing writing within the city; it’s intervening in national dialogues. The writing has added unique perspectives on social injustice, home and belonging. For example, some novels potentially play a role in helping to detail regionally-inflected cultural histories in Britain, such as Howard Jacobsen’s Kalooki Nights, which testifies Jewish presences in Manchester going back decades and even centuries.

SuAndi
SuAndi

"Other writers, such as Muli Amaye, are concerned with lesser-known axes of migration; Amaye’s Nigerian father was one of many Africans sent to Manchester by Communist trade unionists, while still others bear witness to social injustice and racial inequality, particularly during the Thatcher years."

Has there been one particular migration that has impacted more than others?

"Our research so far has revealed that although Manchester has, for the most part, replicated national patterns of migration, this is not mapped onto Manchester’s writing scene in any straightforward sense. During the post-1960s period, it would appear that Caribbean, Irish and Pakistani writers have achieved the greatest visibility, but we’re working hard to ensure that other groups and individuals are not overlooked."

Which works would you suggest as a first reading list?

Lemn Sissay
Lemn Sissay

"If novels are your preferred genre, you could begin with Joe Pemberton’s classic Forever and Ever Amen, which is narrated by a nine-year old boy growing up in 1960s Moss Side, whose parents migrated to the city from St. Kitts. For contrasting perspectives on Moss Side, try the novels of Pete Kalu or Karline Smith.

"We’d also strongly recommend Manchester-based antidotes to Monica Ali’s Brick Lane, such as Zahid Hussain’s The Curry Mile. Another perspective that may be of interest are those texts whose action moves between Manchester and the author’s ‘homeland’, such as Qaisra Sharaz’s The Holy Woman, which is set in Pakistan and provides rare insights into Muslim women’s wearing of the veil.

"If you enjoy poetry, the obvious place to start is with Lemn Sissay’s collection Rebel Without Applause before moving on to Mike Garry’s new collection, Mancunian Meander.

"Manchester seems to specialise in themed, mixed-genre anthologies, which combine poems and short stories. The new Hair anthology from Shorelines press has some well-written short stories as well as some fascinating insights into the cultural significance of hair. Comma press also has some fine collections of short stories. Try The City Life Book of Manchester Short Stories, edited by Ra Page, or Decapolis: A Decalogue of city stories."

last updated: 21/11/06
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