Lancaster University

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First online catalogue of writers from Manchester's migrant communities

10/24/2006 10:59:12

Tram station at St Peter's Square, Manchester, (looking west) 2 by Michael Gutteridge
Tram station at St Peter's Square, Manchester, (looking west) 2 by Michael Gutteridge

The first ever electronic catalogue of writers from Manchester’s migrant communities is being launched next month as part of a £356,000 project at Lancaster University.

One of the largest projects to be funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, “Moving Manchester” aims to celebrate writers from 1960 to the present who have taken immigration as their theme.

From the first black Caribbean migrant dock workers and the Punjabi Curry mile restaurateurs, to Jewish migrants from Poland and Irish settlers fleeing the troubles and unemployment, the project aims to recognise their contribution to the city’s cultural and political life.

Led by the Departments of English and Creative Writing and European Languages and Cultures, the three-and-a-half year project includes an online catalogue with an annotated bibliography of up to 1,000 published works. There are also plans to include online recordings of performance poets from the city on the project website.

There will be an academic study of the written work listed on the e-catalogue, an edited anthology of new writing, and a series of workshops and conferences for academics, arts workers and members of the public.

Moving Manchester is also funding two doctoral studentships in creative writing, to novelists Tariq Mehmood and Rajeev Balasubramanyam, and creating a website to showcase the city’s writing talent.

Dr Corinne Fowler from the Department of English and Creative Writing, which is co-ordinating the project, said:“This will be the first ever comprehensive annotated bibliography of writers from Greater Manchester over the last four decades and we’re hoping it will be a resource for all users not just academics.

“It will also raise the national and international profile of Manchester because there’s a huge variety of writing out there, as rich and diverse as any in London, but I feel that writing from the north gets overlooked because of stereotypes about the provinces.

“What we’re trying to do is to level the playing field a little. Writing from Manchester has been marginalised and seen as depressing and downtrodden. Although the music scene in the city has shaken off that image, the same hasn’t happened to literature.

“The writers we’re looking at can’t be pigeonholed as gritty and northern because they write about anything – their work doesn’t even have to be set in Manchester.

“We’re also trying to promote writers from the city who are published by smaller imprints without a national distribution network. We can help by putting them on the reading list in the department so they are read more widely.”