Moving Memories From Moss Side And Hulme: Re-connecting West Indian, Sikh And Irish families With Their Visual Heritage Of Migration And Settlement.

Submitting Institution

Manchester Metropolitan University

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Moving Memories was a participatory research project which used BBC North West and other archive film footage to re-connect people of Caribbean, Sikh and Irish heritage in Moss Side and Hulme with the visual record of their settlement in Manchester from the 1950s to the 1980s. Local people enriched these visual histories with personal memories, interpreting, reflecting, linking across generations, and generating pride in their community's contribution to Manchester's broader historical narrative. The project is a model of exemplary practice for the applied use of archive material in BME contexts, demonstrating how shared story-telling challenges stereotypes of inner- city, multi-ethnic neighbourhoods and improves community cohesion.

Underpinning research

This case study reflects the Manchester Centre for Regional History's (MCRH) tradition of developing research which engages with local communities in Manchester and north-west England. The leading researcher on the Moving Memories project was Dr Heather Norris Nicholson, Research Fellow in the MCRH (2005-2011), now Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Visual and Oral History Research at the University of Huddersfield. The research questions underpinning Moving Memories reflect key aspects of Norris Nicholson's work, which has frequently brought together expertise in community, archival and amateur film research to explore how this knowledge might connect with the local, unofficial histories of everyday life. Much of Norris Nicholson's recent research has been developed through a productive relationship with MMU's North West Film Archive (NWFA), the second-oldest archive film collection in the UK and the largest public film archive outside London.

[] Research Outputs [1-4] derived from Norris Nicholson's research in the NWFA, conducted while she was working in the MCRH. Norris Nicholson's publications have a broad reach but have typically explored aspects of archive film in relation to memories, identity, family relations, social issues, digital access and the changing meanings of landscape, all of which are exemplified in various ways in Moving Memories [3]. Moving Memories built on Norris Nicholson's more recent research and that which she conducted in the 1990s on Aboriginal issues in Canada, which dealt specifically with issues of visual representation, cultural retention, community, heritage and identity. Her edited collection Screening Culture: Constructing Image and Identity (2003) [5], for example, examined the changing portrayal of Aboriginal people and Native Americans on screen. (Norris Nicholson was Vice President of the British Association of Canadian Studies [1993-2012]). These explorations of how indigenous and non-indigenous perspectives were represented on film helped shape her later research on the relationship between visual memories, identities and community-history making, which highlighted the ways in which visual and oral histories can enrich understanding of the past, especially when creatively applied through community engagement. While working with footage in the NWFA, Norris Nicholson became aware that the archive's visual record of local community life included valuable footage of local ethnic minority communities which, until Moving Memories, had never previously been used to tell the story of the region's migration histories. Moving Memories consequently combined Norris Nicholson's archive knowledge and research insights to produce the kind of creative outcome her research had frequently promoted, a film developed with the support and involvement of local people, which connected their own `unofficial testimony' with `official' archive film footage, from the BBC North West Regional News and Documentary Film Collection, 1966-1986:

References to the research

[1] Norris Nicholson, H., (2009) `Moving pictures, moving memories: framing the interpretative gaze'. In Kmec, S. and Thill, V. (eds) Private Eyes and the Public Gaze — The Manipulation and Valorisation of Amateur Images (published by Kliomedia), pp. 69-78. ISBN: 9783898901369

[2] Moving Memories: Moss Side and Hulme, Dir. Karen Gabay (2009) The film was commissioned by the NWFA and a copy is available to for the panel to view on request.

[3] Norris Nicholson, H. (2012), `Manchester's Moving Memories: Tales from Moss Side and Hulme: Archive film and community history-making', in Tourists and Nomads. Amateur Images of Migration. (Jonas-Verlag), pp. 137-146. ISBN: 9783898901369

[4] Norris Nicholson, H. (2012) Amateur Film: Meaning and Practice, 1927-1977 (Manchester University Press). ISBN: 9780719077739. Issues of BME under-representation and re-connecting communities with visual heritage occur specifically on pp. 12-13 and 247-9. Passing references to related issues e.g. ethnicity and migration, occur throughout the book. See pp xii-xiii of Preface and acknowledgements for references to specific colleagues and time spent with the MCRH, Department of History, Politics and Philosophy, MMU.


[5] Norris Nicholson H. (2003) (ed.) Screening Culture: Constructing Image and Identity (Lexington Books). ISBN: 9780739105214

Norris Nicholson has pioneered the applied use of amateur archive film. Her scholarship has been recognised in a Visiting Fellowship at the University of Calgary, honorary positions at Birkbeck College and the School of African and Oriental Studies, and a position as Visiting Scholar at the Courtauld Institute. She edited the British Journal of Canadian Studies (2009-12). She is on the editorial boards of the Oral History Society Journal, the Manchester Region History Review, and the Journal of Amateur Cinema Studies. She is an advisory member for the AHRC Children in Amateur Media in Scotland project, 2010-14. Media appearances and consultancy include BBC Nation on Film (2001, 2006-7) and the BBC series, Reel Histories in Britain (2011)

Details of the impact

Moving Memories was inspired by Norris Nicholson's search for finding ways to reconnect archival visual histories with wider audiences and the NWFA's expertise in public engagement. This team- based initiative involved Nicholson, NWFA Director, Marion Hewitt, and Karen Gabay, an independent film-maker from Troubadour Cultural Heritage Foundation (TCHF), a production company committed to strengthening cross-cultural relations through heritage-related work in schools and communities. Nicholson, Hewitt and Gabay co-wrote the funding brief for a public engagement project linking MMU and residents in Moss Side and Hulme through the use of archive film footage. It was financed by MMU, which pioneered support of two-way collaboration to reach out to local communities [A]. MMU was one of the founding members of the Manchester Beacon Network [] and Moving Memories won financial support as a result of online public voting [B].

The project generated considerable public interest and involved fourteen community organizations. Nicholson contextualised relevant NWFA archive material and took part in interviewing, memorabilia events and workshops, co-run with Gabay. Gabay devised the shooting scripts and edits. Hewitt, as project budget holder and manager, facilitated technical and legal access to the filmic material and transfer of film-stock for community and individual screening. The 30-minute film which resulted used historic BBC footage from the NWFA and oral testimony from local people of Caribbean, Sikh and Irish heritage to create a unique visual history of personal experiences of migration and settlement in Manchester since the 1950s. Stakeholders were involved as collaborators and beneficiaries throughout the project. Research and impact were speculative and evolutionary, as contacts, events and outreach activities, publicised via word of mouth and online media networks, escalated. Informal, loosely structured interviews, based on open-ended consultation with local people contributed to a snowballing effect of community enquiries, ensuring trust and interest in the project before Gabay commenced her camerawork.

About 100 local residents volunteered knowledge, responses and experiences, including high-school pupils, teachers, teaching assistants and people from different faith communities. Approximately 95% were from BME backgrounds. The personal was set within wider migration narratives using images screened on portable equipment at community events like Jamaica Day, the Jamaican national celebration, in shops, faith centres, Urbis (exhibition/museum venue), and Trinity High School, a local secondary school. Archival outreach introduced hundreds of residents to material in the NWFA of which they were unaware, connecting them with a heritage that generated pride in their contribution to the broader post-war narrative of Manchester's history. The project encouraged personal and social confidence by helping local people shape their own stories about migration and living in Manchester. Memories inspired by archive film footage forged relationships between different age groups. For older residents, the project revived both positive and painful memories of how the district had changed with redevelopment, re-housing and road building schemes. For younger ones, who developed skills as interviewers and listeners, it raised awareness of the pleasures and problems an older generation had experienced, settling in a different culture.

Feedback from both participants and audience members underlines the powerful impact that the research had on increasing civic pride and intergenerational understanding. As one contributor says, "I was nervous about taking part but you and your team made me feel relaxed. I think I earned a little bit of fame for it too as I was stopped in the Trafford Centre by a shop assistant who saw me on TV" (Moss Side resident and contributor). As the Cultural Services and Events Manager at Manchester Library testifies, "Films like this when they are shot with such obvious respect have a powerful effect on local people". Another resident says "The film is a valid and positive snapshot of the unity and sense of belonging...this film is important because it challenges negative stereotypes" (Full details of audience and participant feedback available on file [C])

The Black Screen Heritage Conference, in partnership with the Imperial War Museum (IWM), showed Moving Memories as a work in progress, London, July 2009 [D: 92 participants]. The film then premiered at Afewe (The Grants Arms) pub in Hulme in October 2009 to great acclaim from local people, politicians and academics. [E: 100 people attended.] Screenings were held during Black History Month (October 2009), at the Powerhouse Library, Hulme, Styal Prison, Manchester Central Library, the Zion Arts Centre [] and elsewhere in Moss Side. It was shown at academic venues, such as the Texting Obama: Politics/Poetics/Popular Culture conference (MMU 2010) [ research-programme-arp/texting-obama/]. It featured on ITV's Granada Reports on 23 October 2009. It was broadcast on prime-time television, on BBC's Inside Out, on 25th January 2010 [F] and was discussed on BBC Radio Manchester, 25/8/2010. Other screening venues included: Band on the Wall, Manchester, 5/7/2010 (93 people); Buxton Film Festival, Derbyshire, 16/7/2010 (40 people); Gorton Monastery, Manchester, 1/8/2010: 70 people [E]. 6 more showings, in July/August 2010, included Mossacre Housing, Manchester (90 people). In 2011 it was screened at Zion Centre, Manchester, 26/3/2011 (80 people) and at Powerhouse Library, 27/10/2011 (18 people). It was shown in the Media Tent at the Moss Side Carnival in 2011, 30 years after the riots of 1981 (2,500 people) [G], and at the Manchester Histories Festival, Manchester Town Hall in 2012 [H]. It is a case study on the website of the National Co-Ordinating Centre for Public Engagement [I]. It won a "Learning on Screen" award from the British Universities Film and Video Council [J] and was shortlisted for a Times Higher Education award, under the `Most outstanding Contribution to Local Community' category [K]. Impact generation as an on-going process was integral to the project's design, an important model of how public engagement should value the knowledge and experiences of community partners. The research process helped shape a methodological model of national and international significance, illustrating how archive and documentary film, by triggering memories, can prompt inter-generational dialogue and historical understanding of how the micro-personalities of places change over time. The film's effectiveness in stimulating public engagement was recognized in a successful £60,000 application, by Hewitt of the NWFA, to the Museum, Libraries and Archives Learning Transformation Fund, which funded two further community-based initiatives linking visual heritage (archive film) to people's memories about places and people: Ice Cream: Manchester's Little Italy, shown at the Buxton Fringe Festival, and Belle Vue: The Gardens that John Built: [L] The grant also funded training with community groups in Burnley, to develop cross-cultural and inter-generational response to archive film, delivered by the Workers' Film Association: . This resulted in three short films. From Pakistan to Pendle: Muslim women interviewed family members about moving to Lancashire from Pakistan; Allotments: a film about their allotments, by a group with mental health problems; Man of Colne: about Wallace Hartley, band leader on the Titanic, by a local history group. Each community group received copies of their films, and a public showing took place at the ACE Centre, Burnley, May 2010, as part of the Learning Revolutions Festival:

Nicholson has recently initiated another research project, building on approaches developed by Moving Memories, in response to the AHRC call `Digital Transformations in Community Research Co-Production' (submitted June 2013). DigiREACH: Digital Repurposing of Archives for Community Histories aims to explore community histories and heritage by `repurposing' archival materials. It is a collaboration between the University of Huddersfield, the film archive in the Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge [] and community partners in West Yorkshire, including people of British South Asian heritage, people with learning disabilities, British Romani and Travellers.

Sources to corroborate the impact

[A] Listening to Communities', details of MMU's Public Engagement Scheme:

[B] Details of MMU Public Engagement winners, including Moving Memories

[C] Full audience feedback, including testimony from the Cultural Services and Events Information Manager at Manchester Library available corroborating impacts on civic pride and intergenerational understanding

[D] Black Screen Heritage Conference. First event in the UK to bring together film archive professionals from across the country to discuss the issues involved in creating accessible collections relating to Black British heritage:

[E] North West Film Archive audience figures available on request

[F] Supporting story and film extracts are available from BBC Manchester's web site.

[G] Manchester Carnival — Project '81, an HLF project which looks over the 30 years since the Moss Side riots:

[H] Website of Manchester Histories Festival, which highlights the Festival's extensive reach of its community engagement:

[I] Case study of Moving Memories on the website on the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement:

[J] A list of nominations for the British Universities Film and Video Council. Moving Memories won under the General Education, Non Broadcast award category:

[K] Moving Memories: nomination for a Times Higher Education award:

[L] NWFA web site, Past News. Details of events connected with Moving Memories: