In the past, daily and weekly markets were routinely held in towns and villages up and down the country. Fast forward to 2019 and it’s a different picture. While communities across the North have seen a recent resurgence in local markets, supermarkets and the internet have largely replaced the shared experience of market shopping, those places where people came together to buy from artisans, tradesmen and farmers and to catch up with friends and family.
Now a new multimedia exhibition hopes to preserve the heritage of Manchester’s neighbourhood markets and encourage local people to celebrate their social history. “We are community and socially focused,” says Phil Lukes, group culture lead at One Manchester, the housing and community services provider. “We believe in helping our residents to manage their money, find work, start up businesses, and stay healthy and connected to the culture and heritage of the city and its neighbourhoods.”
One Manchester, which owns and manages more than 12,000 homes in central, south and east Manchester, has secured £69,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to help locals curate an exhibition inspired by the social, trade and civic heritage of Gorton, Moss Side and Longsight markets. Marketplace is currently on display at Central Library.
“The exhibition involved many of our customers, and their stories of markets as social and cultural hubs will form new archive material that will be accessible by anyone at the library,” explains Lukes. “It also comprises filmed poems developed by customers, oral histories recounted by market users and traders and photographs exploring markets as cultural and social spaces.”
Back in September 2018, One Manchester invited people to take part in a training and engagement programme. The group’s partners in this project are Manchester Markets, Manchester Central and local libraries as well as the North West Film Archive, Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre, Science and Industry Museum, and the Museum of Transport, Greater Manchester.
Lukes says: “We connected with over 200 residents and engaged more than 80 of them in activities such as archiving, oral history, creative writing, photography and social media workshops delivered by the various partners on this project, and the market community themselves. The market traders of Gorton and Longsight have given their time generously and we hope that they will feel well represented and proud to be recorded as part of this history for future generations to discover.
“Taking part in the project helped them understand and appreciate their local history and work with a team of professionals to develop an exhibition which demonstrates how the markets and market traders have helped to shape their communities. What you will see and hear has been made or discovered by those who took part.”
The development of Marketplace meant that One Manchester was able to approach the National Heritage Lottery Fund which not only provided the funding but also helped to hone ideas with one-to-one support and workshops. But how did Marketplace originate? “Over time we developed a group of active One Manchester cultural ambassadors. Early on in their development, we consulted with them about what kinds of culture and heritage projects we should develop and there was a strong interest in local and social history.
“Most of our neighbourhoods have or had a local market and some initial research showed us that very little had been documented about them. After some wider consultation in local community venues, we knew that there was enough interest for us to develop our project idea. With the support of partners such as the City Council, Archives + and North West Film archive, we have been able to deliver what we envisioned.”
Sharing stories, oral histories and images is a way to connect people and communities. What can we learn from their preservation?
“Finding out about the heritage of places helps people develop and strengthen their connections to where they live and the recording and sharing of oral histories and images is vital to ensure that people can do this. Many markets in Manchester have now closed, and online shopping is having a massive impact on their place in our local areas and our high streets, so it’s now more important than ever to document and preserve this vibrant part of Manchester’s history.”
He adds: “One of our aims of the project was that local heritage would be better explained and understood, and although there is much more to find out, our sharing of what we’ve found with Manchester’s archive organisations mean there’s a clearer picture of the heritage of the markets and an understanding of the positive impact they’ve had on the places and people who live, work and shop in them.
“There will be a box for comments, so visitors can tell us what they think of it or share their own market stories and memories. In fact, although we have created and discovered a wealth of new archive material about the markets, our project is relatively short and there is so much more to discover. If readers have any memorabilia that they want to share to add to the story we would welcome, it and share it with our archive partners.”
So, what’s coming up in 2019?
“One Manchester will continue to develop new projects and partnerships which help improve opportunities for residents in our places and support them to become economically and socially connected,” says Lukes. “We have plans for each of our key areas, looking at how we can create thriving communities for our residents, and we’re keen to ensure that culture plays a big role in these plans.”
The exhibition runs until April 27, 2019 in the Lower Ground Floor Exhibition Space at Manchester Central Library.