Making Manchester



“What’s this thing you’re going seeing tonight then?”

“It’s called Making Manchester”

Clare’s eyes widen. “Ooh that sounds really interesting, what is it?”

“It’s sort of like… I dunno what to call it really, it’s like a collaboration between a load of schoolkids, and musicians, and a sound artist and a physical theatre group. And it’s all based on real-life stories about migration.”

“Blimey that sounds like a lot”

“Yeah it does”

“It’s not what I was expecting from the name either”

“What were you expecting from Making Manchester?”

“Oh MAKING? God I thought you said NAKED Manchester”



No,tonight I’m going to see M A K I N G Manchester, but right now I’m stood by a buffet at a work drinks thing listening to a friend of mine who works with kids as she tells somebody:

“…and these three proper lads in my group (they’re dead bolshy but actually dead nice, they just like acting up) turned round to me in class and said ‘Miss, what do you think about immigration?’ So I just looked at them and was like… Well I don’t know, I wouldn’t like to say something about a person if I hadn’t met them! I’d want to talk to the person who was migrating before I decided what I thought of them. And they just looked at me like… So confused, that I would be talking about immigration in terms of actual people who are individuals rather than how it normally gets talked about, as a thing that’s in the news headlines.”



Making Manchester

I’m at the audience in the Niamos Centre in Hulme, waiting for the show to start, and there’s no trace of nudity yet. In the shadows to the left of the stage, fully clothed, are Kabantu, the five-piece band who will be the musical accompaniment for tonight’s performance. At the back of the audience are a group of young people from Dean Trust Ardwick Secondary School in Manchester. It’s these young people that have been the source of the material for tonight’s show, or rather, these young people and their families–what we hear first, as a group of actors walk on and paint the word ‘HOME’ on a banner at the back of the stage, are recordings of the young people telling their family histories, collected over six weeks of oral history, interview and writing workshops led by Olympias Music Foundation and researchers from Our Migration History. And all the stories are about migration to Manchester. The voiceovers we hear at the beginning of the show are rich descriptions of the home countries of the young people’s parents–95% of the pupils involved (I am reliably informed by the programme) are BAME, and the family histories being told are beautiful accounts of the places their parents were born. We hear stories from Somalia, Assam, Ethiopia, Syria–I don’t want to spoil it too much for you, but the rest of the show is interpretations of the stories of how all these families and more came to Manchester, told through music, movement and specially commissioned poetry by Shamshad Khan, and performed by Kabantu, musicians from the Vonnegut Collective, and a team of actors and dancers. Later in the performance, the young people themselves get involved, singing, dancing, and sharing what they’ve made together. Watching the choir of pupils of all different backgrounds chant ‘celebration, migration, be proud of who you are’–and clearly putting their whole hearts into it–is a joy to watch, as it plainly is to perform.

Last night's performance of Making Manchester was INCREDIBLE. We had such a great time at Niamos with Kabantu and the Vonnegut Collective – by the looks of things, so did everyone else!If you missed out yesterday, don't worry. We're doing it all again tonight! Tickets £5 on the door. See you 7:30pm. Post-show Q&A at 8:30pm and afterparty from 9pm.

Posted by Olympias Music Foundation on Thursday, 27 June 2019



On the way home I’m thinking about one of Manchester’s most famous performers, Morrissey, who is in the news again this week saying more awful stuff as he does every few months, this time “Everyone ultimately prefers their own race – does this make everyone racist?”, and thinking as I do every time he says something like this about how struck I was as a mopey, impressionable indie teenager (please forgive me for being a terrible earnest music dweeb here for a moment) by The Smiths lyric “it’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate, it takes guts to be gentle and kind”, and wondering how he got to where he is now (a thought I am totally unoriginal in having, according to Twitter). And I’m also thinking about how Morrissey’s parents both migrated to England from Ireland, and how he’s a child of migration just as the young people I’ve seen on stage are, and wondering whether he’s ever experienced anything as joyfully celebratory of the brilliant things people from all different backgrounds have brought to Manchester in its long history.

Making Manchester is a brilliant, engaging piece of music and theatre, drawing on the authentic stories of the people that have brought themselves and their culture to Manchester and shared it with us. The level of performance and artistry from the creative team, as directed by the ideas, stories and artistic input of the young people, builds an engaging and moving picture of migration, as told through real, individual, human stories rather than a flat, shouty newspaper headline. This show couldn’t have existed without the group of young people contributing their stories but also dancing, singing, rapping, and absolutely throwing themselves into the performance in a real celebration of what makes up Manchester.

Making Manchester is all happening again at the RNCM on October 30th if you want to join in.