Exploring radical women and the city’s hip hop history, both will launch next summer

There’s more to the National Lottery than its lucky jackpot winners: the organisation has supported over 625,000 good causes since its launch in 1994, in everything from health to heritage. 

Thanks to lottery funding, Manchester will welcome two diverse archive projects next summer; one on its radical women’s history, the other on the city’s lesser-known ties to hip hop...

Rooms of Our Own: The Herstory of the Pankhurst Centre

Made possible with a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £87,617, this project will connect the Pankhurst Centre archive - currently a neglected resource of radical women’s history - with young people today, who’ll be taught skills such as archiving and the recording of oral histories.

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‘Rooms of Our Own: The Herstory of the Pankhurst Centre’ will enhance the centre’s archive, currently under-resourced, and improve community outreach

It’s also due to the National Lottery that the Pankhurst Centre - former home of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and now a museum of women’s activism - has ridden the COVID-19 storm, thanks to emergency proceeds towards short-term running costs. The venue has remained closed since March and now plans to open next summer, when (thanks to another funding source, AIM Biffa Award History Makers) it will ‘reimagine’ the visitor experience with a new exhibition called At Home with the Pankhurst Family. This will explore the story of the radical family that once lived at 62 Nelson Street and the legacy they forged.    

The centre’s curator Tessa Chynoweth said: “Thanks to AIM Biffa Award’s History Makers Programme and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Pankhurst Centre is about to embark upon two projects that will be truly transformative, marking the beginnings of our ambitious vision.

“It is our role to protect, share, learn from and inspire others with the story of the Pankhurst Centre, the legacy and people that it represents. The funding of these projects will give us the opportunity to do this.” 

You can add your support to the work of the Pankhurst Centre by making a donation or becoming a Friend. For more information visit pankhursttrust.org.

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‘At Home with the Pankhurst Family’ will focus on the lives of Emmeline and her family, in the place that was not only their home but a gathering place for many who wanted votes for women

Manchester Hip Hop Archives (MHHA)

Manchester has long been famous for its music, but is better known for its links with the post-punk scene than hip hop. That will soon change with Manchester Hip Hop Archives (MHHA), which is being launched thanks to a grant of £343,000 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to its creators Unity Radio. An MHHA exhibition is due to open next summer following the website launch in spring. 

Although hip hop culture is synonymous with cities across America, such as New York and Atlanta, the archives (now underway) will reveal that Manchester has its own collection of fascinating stories to be shared. 

These include memories from MHHA chair Robert McFarlane aka Prince Kool, who was the UK’s first rap champion in 1987 and won the DMC UK Rap completion at the Hippodrome in London. His role as a founding member of the ‘Rock The House Crew,’ and first ‘Manchester Rap Competitions’ at West Didsbury’s Fielden Park Young People’s Centre in 1989 and 1990, played a significant role in the city’s hip hop scene in its early days and will also feed into the archives. 

2020 12 23 Hip Hop Archives Original Graffiti Photographs From 1988 89 Credit Mhha
Original graffiti photographs from 1988-89 MHHA

Despite the prevalence of hip hop culture in art, clothing and music, and the ever-growing popularity of related genres like grime, the MHHA project team have found that many young people are unaware of where it all began and the role Manchester has played in its development. 

Writer, broadcaster, activist, and former Hacienda DJ Dave Haslam said: “Manchester is a city full of stories, and with a popular culture that’s the envy of the world. I am lucky enough to have been around in the early days in the 1980s, and it’ll be a pleasure to help celebrate that scene, and all the subsequent eras - the fashions, the clubs, the studios, the record stores, all of it - and to rediscover the foundations which underpin the thriving music scene in Manchester’s right now. 

“People know Manchester’s headline music history, but I love that now, thanks to Manchester Hip Hop Archives, we have a chance to celebrate an under-documented and under-appreciated part of that story, and the communities and the context. And we can share all that with the world and with the young. All our ideas and experiences will be re-energised by the younger kids; our past is fuel for their future.”

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Dave Haslam - “Manchester is a city full of stories, and with a popular culture that’s the envy of the world”

Manchester denizen and winner of the Urban Music Awards Best DJ 2020 accolade, DJ G-A-Z, added: “Manchester played a significant role in the migration of hip hop into the UK in the early years, and this story has yet to be told. At a time that Manchester's rap sound has become the hottest in the UK, there has never been better time to celebrate our regional culture and history, and the Manchester Hip Hop Archive is set to do this!”

The project focuses on the pre-Internet era of the movement, digitising stories that may otherwise be lost - like those stored on cassette and video tapes - so that younger generations can discover the impact hip hop has had on the politics and culture of the city. 

David Renwick, director of England North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, commented: “Music is at the heart of Manchester’s heritage, and it is a city renowned for being at the forefront of many musical movements. The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened many of the music venues across the city, and it’s incredibly important that we support projects like this to make sure we keep this community history alive.”

2020 12 23 Manchester Hip Hop Archives Credit Mhha
Some of the archive collaborators MHHA

As part of the project, the team will be running events and courses in schools. Training opportunities will also be available to equip young people with skills such as recording oral histories, digital archiving and social media to empower them to continue the story.  

In order to complete the archives, the team are also calling on the people of Manchester to contribute their stories; whether it be an iconic hip hop performance, creating a graffiti mural with a socio-political message or setting up a pirate radio station.   

For further information and to submit your story, visit the project on Facebook or Instagram.

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