Mapping the impact of immigration in Greater Manchester

Submitting Institution

University of Manchester

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Demography, Human Geography

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Summary of the impact

The research has developed new approaches to the digital mapping of immigrant populations. It has been used to:

  • promote public awareness of the history of immigrants in Manchester through two large public exhibitions, events and two websites;
  • make new research on migration history available to high school and college students through a teaching pack, schools visits and online resources;
  • develop online resources as a means of digitally archiving key events and sites in the cultural lives of Manchester's immigrant populations;
  • inform policy development for Oldham Council through a series of briefing papers on the history of ethnic settlement in Oldham.

Underpinning research

The impact is based on research that took place at Manchester between 2005 and 2013. The key researchers were Dr Laurence Brown (lecturer, 2005-date), Dr Tomas Balkelis (Post-doctoral Fellow, 2007-9), Dr Kofi Owusu (GIS Research Officer 2007-9) and Mr Niall Cunningham (CRESC Research Associate, 2011-13).

Central to this research was collaboration between individual immigrants, community organisations, museums and academic researchers in recovering the cultural sites and experiences of immigrants that are no longer marked on the physical landscape. The flexibility of digitial mapping allowed research and dissemination to feed off each other, as the initial findings were presented in different public forums enabling further interviews, research and feedback.

Research moved through three phases:
2006-2010: Reconstructing the interactions between global routes of migration to Britain and using GIS to connect census data, oral history and archival research to visualise ethnic settlement within Greater Manchester. [3.1, 3.2, 3.3]
2011: Focusing on the 1981 riots in Moss Side, and using spatial analysis to locate these events within the broader social, economic and demographic changes of the Caribbean community. [3.1] 2011-13: Developing new approaches to the visualisation of ethnic settlement through connecting census demographic data, geographies of the built environment and archival research. This research explores the extent to which areas of high population turnover in places such as Oldham and Moss Side form distinct "gateway" districts for immigrants, and how these areas relate to other forms of residential mobility by ethnic group. [3.1]

Whereas the dominant approach to mapping immigrant groups has been to use census data based on residence and ethnic identity to portray them as homogenised and segregated, this research provides a new vision of migrants' lived experiences. Drawing on oral history Brown constructed `cartographies of everyday life' that reveal the dynamics of diversity within migrant groups and their continuing mobility within the city. GIS analysis reveals how the internal structures, networks and tensions of diasporic communities have been expressed spatially and historically and how these internal relationships differ between diasporas defined by race and religion [3.1]. Research also focused on showing the extent to which migrant cultures were shaped by their socio-economic environments and material experiences. Key findings of the research include:

1) Areas previously stigmatized as immobile ghettos in Moss Side and Oldham were in fact marked by considerable population change with the arrival of new immigrants and considerable movement within census boundaries which was identified using areal interpolation. [3.1]

2) The dynamics of social networks and community activism within areas such as Moss Side have been powerfully shaped by migrant life courses.

References to the research

(AOR-Available on request)

The underpinning research project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council with a grant of £351,000 for `Mapping Migrant Cultures in Manchester 1880-2000' (2008-2011) secured in open competition in the Diasporas, Migrations and Identities Programme with Dr Brown as PI.

Key Outputs*

3.1 Laurence Brown, "Mapping Ethnic Segregation and Diversity in a Digital Age", Ethnicity and Race in a Changing World, 4:1, 2013, pp. 51-57. (AOR)


3.2 Laurence Brown "Afro-Caribbean Migrants in France and the United Kingdom" in Paths of Integration: Migrants in Western Europe (1880-2004), ed. Leo Lucassen, David Feldman & Jochen Oltmer (Amsterdam University Press, 2006) , pp. 177-197. (AOR)


3.3 Laurence Brown, "Contexts of Migration and Diasporic Identities" in Introduction to the Pan-Caribbean, ed. Tracey Skelton (Hodder & Stoughton, 2004), pp. 118-135. (AOR)

*Research, outreach and impact ran together as parallel processes during this project, as public events such as exhibitions and workshops were used to generate more research materials which were then drawn on in preparing publications.

Details of the impact


There has been considerable research on immigrant experiences in Greater Manchester both by local councils and by migrant groups themselves. Brown's project introduced a new way of understanding and analysing this material by using GIS visualisations to connect existing archives with original research and oral interviews. Brown's research has a dual focus: on the impact of immigration on Manchester, and on how migrants were transformed by social change within the city. The pathways to impact and the reach and significance of the impact are described below in relation to each of the three main strands of the project: the 2009 and 2012 Manchester Histories Festivals, the 2011 Caribbean Carnival, and briefings for Oldham Council in 2012.

The social consequences of immigration: Manchester Histories Festivals 2009 and 2012.

Pathways to impact
The project provided one of six thematic displays at the 2009 Festival, in the Manchester Town Hall. The display featured maps made by the project analysing immigrant settlement since industrialisation as well as archival images. A project website "Migrant Manchester" [5.8] carrying material from the exhibition was launched in September 2009. During the second Festival in February 2012 Brown delivered a public lecture to high school students on 'Migration and the Transformation of Manchester' [5.4]. He also delivered related lectures on migrant settlement in Britain at Aquinas Sixth Form College in Stockport and Loreto College in Manchester during 2012 and 2013.

Community participation in the research for the exhibition, webpage and school activities was developed through a series of public events, including:

  • a 2007 workshop on local history held at the Windrush Centre in Moss Side in collaboration with the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre and the Greater Manchester County Record Office;
  • an information stall at the 2007 Manchester Caribbean Carnival;
  • a collective discussion featuring leading Caribbean scholar Erna Brodber on Caribbean identity and history on Peace-FM, a community radio station based in Moss Side that was established by CARISMA (Community Alliance for Renewal, Inner South Manchester Area) in 2009.

Reach and significance
The 2009 exhibition at the Town Hall was visited by over 4,000 people and the webpage registered almost 300 page views in a month. Two-thirds of 41 feedback forms described the 2012 lecture as the highlight of that year's Histories Festival. Positive comments from the school students stated that the lecture helped with gaining "more knowledge of Manchester", "learning more about migration" and "finding what and when different culture[s] came to Manchester" [5.7].

The 1981 Riots: the Caribbean Carnival and Project `81

Pathways to impact
In 2011, the Caribbean Carnival of Manchester received HLF funding to deliver Project `81, a community history project exploring the impact of the 1981 riots on Manchester's Caribbean Community. Brown acted as advisor to the project, providing research advice and support based on his research on Caribbean migration and the experiences of migrants and their children in late twentieth-century Manchester [5.3]. A Project `81 exhibition was held in Moss Side in August 2011 and the exhibition then toured various sites in the city, going to the Windrush Centre in Moss Side/Hulme, the University of Manchester, the Greater Manchester Police Museum and the Zion Centre in Hulme. Archival research by Brown provided key extracts of historical evidence that were used in the exhibition, and Brown developed this material into a teaching pack that he used in workshops at two South Manchester high schools. Brown also created a website about the history of the Moss Side riots in Manchester. [5.5]

While conducting research on the 1981 riots, Brown co-organised an open meeting between academics from Manchester and Harvard with religious leaders and community workers from Moss Side in June 2011. This was staged as part of the Institute for Social Change's summer workshop on "Hard times: The Social and Political Consequences of Global Recession" and drew on the relationship established with CARISMA (see MHF above). Brown also presented his research on the 1981 Moss Side riots to the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire in an event at the Museum of Liverpool in April 2012.

Reach and significance
The Project '81 media tent at the 2011 Manchester Caribbean Carnival attracted 2,509 people over 2 days and the associated website received 920 views in 2011. The Project '81 impact mapping exercise demonstrated that a high number of visitors to the Media tent were encouraged to learn something new about the 1981 riots: 86% agreed/strongly agreed that Project `81 gave them an opportunity to reflect on the riots; 88% of visitors agreed/strongly agreed that they gained new knowledge or understanding about the riots. The majority of survey respondents (91%) agreed that Project `81 would leave a valuable legacy in conserving local heritage. The Project was noticeably successful in drawing in `hard to reach' groups: specifically younger, male visitors from minority ethnic backgrounds [5.2].

The Project '81 workshops at secondary schools in which Dr Brown was a key presenter drew positive comments from the schoolchildren who took part (many of whom were from British minority ethnic backgrounds), for example: `We knew that riots happened but we didn't know anything about them. We didn't know how Moss Side had got to how it is today' (Pupil at Manchester Academy) and `We learnt about the riots and what happened and the different reasons why people started the riots' (Pupil at Chorlton Academy) [5.2]. Teachers corroborated this impact. For example, the Curriculum Area Assistant for Humanities at Manchester Academy writes: `Dr Brown taught year 8 students how to create maps to show population density of different immigrant groups in Manchester which directly progressed their learning in this topic. He also held a workshop with the students which allowed them to gain a deeper understanding of the causes of immigration and the effects immigration can have on Manchester.' More generally she states, `I can confirm that project-based learning at Key Stage 3 was directly affected by the outcomes of Dr Brown's work'. [5.6].

Ethnic Geographies: Briefings with Oldham Council

Pathways to impact
In April 2012, Brown and Cunningham co-hosted a workshop at the University of Manchester on "GIS and the Spatial Dynamics of Ethnic Segregation" which resulted in an invitation to collaborate with the Research and Intelligence section of the Oldham Council in developing new visualisations of the changing ethnic geographies of Oldham. This resulted in two discussion papers for Oldham Council focused on (1) mapping Oldham's changing ethnic geographies and (2) analysing the relationship between the built environment, housing tenure and internal migration flows in Oldham. The briefings used areal interpolation through GIS to analyse South Asian internal migration and population growth in the central wards of Oldham.

Reach and significance
Brown's research provided the Council with vital information on which to base its policies. The Corporate Research and Intelligence Manager at Oldham Council states that Dr Brown's briefing provided `understanding of population movement within Oldham and confirms local anecdotal evidence that recent immigrant groups are likely to live in areas with high population churn. On the evidence presented it is apparent this work is valuable and will be useful in helping Oldham develop future models of population growth and change.' More generally, speaking on behalf of the Council, she confirms that: `Dr Brown's research into the spatial dynamics within Oldham's South Asian heritage (and other minority) populations, against changing economic circumstances locally and beyond, was seen as a valuable contribution to our understanding of the drivers behind Oldham's population shifts over four decades. Oldham Council's Population Spatial Dynamics Project Group has worked closely with Dr Brown to ensure the research is useful in informing and influencing public policy.' [5.1].

Sources to corroborate the impact

All claims referenced in text.

5.1 Letter from the Research and Intelligence Manager, Oldham Council

5.2 Project '81 evaluation report, compiled by Jim Ralley of Big Art People, 2011

5.3 Letter from the Chair of the Caribbean Carnival of Manchester



5.6 Letters from schoolteachers, e.g. from Manchester Academy.

5.7 Evidence from Manchester Histories Festival 2009 evaluation