The Manchester Together Archive

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Belle Vue were engaged as a research partner on a large-scale, multi-partnered project concerning the public response to the Manchester Arena attack in May 2017. The subsequent creation of The Manchester Together Archive has now collected and processed over 10,000 objects left as tributes by members of the public in spontaneous memorials around Manchester following the attack.

We were contacted initially by the University of Manchester as the memorials were removed from sites around the city. Lead researcher, Dr. Kostas Arvanitis, felt that our filmmaking would best document a fast-moving decision making process and complex professional response among a large group of organisations and individuals. Later, as it became clear that the objects were to be collected as an archive, the focus shifted to the creation of the archive.

Filmmaking has been used as a research methodology to record the professional processes and practices undertaken by local government, its cultural organisations, and other partners as they responded to an unprecedented event in the city’s history. Additionally, our films documented and examined moments in the “biography” of the collection’s objects and sought to understand how different people engaged with them practically, emotionally and sensorially. Footage includes: interviews with stakeholders throughout the process; observational footage at key stages (conservation, archiving, decision making, individual responses to objects.

The films and the digital platform we created – mcrtogetherarchive.org –  have been used to raise awareness with stakeholders, internally, and to provoke conversation about “best practice” in difficult circumstances among academic and professional audiences, national and internationally.

For the future, it is intended for the films to form part of a toolkit for cultural organisations faced with similar problems in the future; and for filmmaking to continue to be used as a methodology embedded in the University of Manchester’s research project.

The films were also used in a successful press campaign to raise public awareness about the Manchester Together Archive and its Heritage Lottery Fund support (awarded in June 2018). The filmed content was used on BBC News, ITN and The Guardian, amongst others.

Belle Vue have been a key partner in developing the research strategy of the Manchester Together Archive. Film-making was used as a research method to document and examine practices of archiving and the documentation of spontaneous memorials, as well as to tell related stories of public participation, community resilience and collective memory in an engaging and imaginative way. Belle Vue are a pleasure to work with and provide a much appreciated balance of transformative leadership and creative responsiveness in multi-partner collaborative work.
– Dr. Kostas Arvanitis, University of Manchester

Scope of professional services: observational filmmaking, interviews, editing, widening participation, social media, graphic design, website design and build, research.

Who: Manchester Art Gallery, Archives +, Manchester City Council, the University of Manchester, and the Institute for Cultural Practice