Falling down wormholes

Ester McGeeney

Today I went to Levenshulme and back to go to a session with the project that Ali Ronan has been running with the Levenshulme girls group. Our pilot reanimating data project where we work with a group of girls aged 12-18 to explore different ways of working with data from the WRAP archive and finding out what it means to ‘reanimate’ it in 2019. We want to see if the girls are interested in the archive and in the 1989 young women’s stories, to develop some reanimation techniques and in doing so see what we learn about sex, gender and social change. I travelled up for what would be their fifth session. So far they have looked at clips from 1980s Top of the Pops and discussed black women in music. They have read short extracts from the WRAP archive, usually performing the roles of interviewer and interviewee in pairs. The extracts have kicked off conversations about lying to your mum, being a Muslim in Britain, sex education, periods, taking risk sand gender roles. The group have also played games, got to know each other and discussed research ethics and confidentiality.

Former youth worker and historian Ali has been running the project, working with youth worker Toni who has now left to start another job and project lead Marianna. I don’t live in Manchester and for me to take part in what will be session 5 its an 11 hour round trip. A long day for a 1.5 hour session but well worth it. Because it ended up being much more than a 1.5 hour session. It was a meeting with Ali in the community café at Inspire, where the Levenshulme girls group meet to reflect on the work so far and plan the next stages. A chance to see the STUFF the group have been creating – long rolls of paper with body outlines on them, where the girls have had a go at naming and fleshing out the WRAP interviewees. They imagined one WRAP girl – until now called MIS09 – as Haleema. 15 years old, really smart, a small group of friends (but popular), loves sport, running and football, 6 siblings. Very strict and religious. She wears a headscarf but remains otherwise faceless. The other girl (we’ve been calling her AMB18) is Malaika. She takes pictures of nature, she doesn’t wear make up, she’s pretty, beautiful, she can sing, she’s artistic, a nice person, she’s popular, she cares about the world and she’s finished school. She wears her hair half up and has one big eye open.

My trip was also a chance to meet Paula Carley, a fantastic new addition to our project team who is working with us on several of the Manchester projects as part of her engagement role for Manchester libraries. Paula is a digital artist who brought along 6 ipads, a bag of sharpies, paper and microphones to the session. Just seeing this STUFF got me excited about the possibilities for reanimation. Paula also brought print outs of some of the images the group had made the previous week when she had come along to the session with her colleague Siobhan. Siobhan had worked with half the group who were interested in comic strips. They had experimented with using the app ‘Comic’, taking photos of themselves (and of Malaika) and adding captions.

My trip was also a chance to see Marianna Vareli, who leads the Levenshulme girls group, again. Marianna was just back from Greece and had missed a couple of sessions. Ali brought her up to speed and we planned for what would happen over the summer. Marianna explained that the numbers often drop off over summer as most of the girls come straight from school and when school finishes they have quite a distance to travel. We agreed to keep the project going if the girls are interested. It was volunteer youth worker Nadine who first introduced us to the project but she hasn’t been able to come for a few weeks. Whilst Marianna has been away youth worker Toni has kept things going but she has now left to go to a new job. Ali has been running the project but she’s also now off on holiday for 6 weeks so now the project is over to Marianna and Paula and me. A rotating team of youth worker, researcher, artist women.

Sitting in the community café we also had a chance meeting with Dez who heads up the Levenshulme Youth Project. Dez was interested in the project and what we were doing and asked us what would happen at the end of it. He’d like us to have a community event in the café at the end of the project, perhaps with screen showing any films the girls have made. He says he always looking for ways for the community to see what the youth project is doing. We reflected that we weren’t quite sure how the project would end as it depended on what the girls would like to do. The group have been working in a participatory mode. Allowing time for the girls to consider how they might want to take the project forward and what kinds of creative modes they might like to explore. Four weeks in and we are still not sure where the project is going or what the focus might be. There’s an interest in illustration and comics and themes have emerged around risk, respect, periods, mothers, boundaries and race. But we’ve yet to negotiate where the project might go or what the end product might be. Ali reflected that going into a project without your agenda (Right! We are doing a drama project) is much slower, more uncertain and unpredictable. We all reflected that youth work is slow. In this project each session is only 1.5 hours and by the time everyone has arrived, chatted, introduced themselves and played some games, there’s not much time left. Each week Ali has observed that there has been too much to say and too much to do. The previous week had been particularly hectic as film-maker Marie had arrived and consent forms and permissions needed to be negotiated and Paula and Siobhan from Manchester libraries had been there. There were lots of adults and time was needed to get to know each other and start to build relationships.

Outside of the sessions it has also taken time to sift through the data to find extracts that might be suitable. The archive is not yet in any order. Not all of the transcripts have been anonymised and there are certainly no codes or tags to help navigate easily to extracts or interviews that would ‘work’ for this particular group.  Most of the Levy girls are younger than the WRAP girls (sometimes by about 10 years) and it appears that sex, sexuality and relationships are not hot topics that are easily discussed within the group. We were told from the outset that the girls are young and that many of them are from strict religious families. A warning perhaps? And one that was somewhat confirmed In the first session when Ali showed a clip from Top of the Pops as a safe and easy starter to the project and one girl remarked that she isn’t normally allowed to watch that kind of thing at home. A risky move when we thought we were playing it safe.

Starting our creative work in Manchester with the Levy girls has been productive. Forcing us to think about what it is possible to do and whether the work is possible at all. It has challenged me to think again about what it means for material to be ‘appropriate’ in education contexts. I keep checking that in my selection of extracts from the group I am not censoring material unnecessarily, falling into the age old sex education trap of giving young people too little and too late, perhaps shaped also in this case by (my own?) racist ideas about what young religious and migrant girls do and don’t need in relation to sexuality and relationships.  Not that it has been hard to find extracts. Each interview is full of material about women’s lives, families, career choices, friendships, social lives, bodies and health. There’s material about politics and discrimination, migration, poverty and social mobility. It’s within this context that the interviewees talk about (and as a reader you come to understand) their sexual experiences, relationships, desires and decisions.

For session five we had decided to focus on risk. This was a theme that had emerged from earlier discussions, with one young woman reflecting that she doesn’t take risks but would like to die her hair purple. Ali and I decide that we will re-ask one of the questions that the interviewer asks to lots of the interview participants: Are you someone who likes to take risks? In the WRAP archive the responses are beautifully varied. One young woman says she sometimes doesn’t pay the right bus fare, another says she once smoked dope, another has booked a holiday she can’t afford and another stole some tampons from a club toilet. Our plan is to explore this data and reanimate it, using Paula, the iPad and the comic app.

Unusually most of the girls don’t turn up, perhaps because it’s the end of term. So we only have the two older girls who act as peer educators within the group. We all introduce ourselves and then Ali opens up a conversation about confidentiality. E and A say that this isn’t something that they talk about much at school, only when the teacher wants to take you outside of the room to have a talk. It comes up a bit in E’s health and social care course and in A’s psychology course and in her photography course where they are told that they need to get people to sign model release forms. Although as Paula reflects, as a photographer you don’t actually need consent to take photos of people in public places.

We work in pairs, two peer educators, two youth workers, a researcher and an artist. Paula gives each pair a mike and we record ourselves being asked: are you someone who likes to take risks?  Paula and I reflect on how this has changed over time with both of us feeling like we used to be a lot more able to take risks than we do now. We all reflect as a group that this is a hard question to answer. Much like many of the WRAP girls we struggle to come up with something to say. Next A and E perform a couple of extracts, audio recording so that we will have material that the group can use to play around with in making animated material. The first extract is about the girl who says the only risk she takes is going on a holiday that she hasn’t paid for. This doesn’t seem that risky initially, although it leads to A telling us about the time she went to Lonodn on her own on the coach. This was scarey (and something E. definitely feels that she would never do) and A. didn’t feel brave enough to leave her friends house much in the three days she was there. When it came to getting the coach home she couldn’t find the coach stop and found herself wondering up and down the Hammersmith Road looking for the coach and then crying as she realised she’d missed her coach and had no idea what to do. All the adults imagine that young people get taught lots of about ‘risky behaviours’ at school but A and E don’t seem to have. There’s not much on drugs and when we read the extract about the girl who smoked dope once, A and E reflect that this doesn’t seem that risky anymore. Lots of people do it and the police don’t care. Next we read about the girl whose risk is sometimes not paying the right bus fare and once taking tampons from a club toilet. Not paying the right bus fare isn’t possible anymore the girls say although you can back pass your bus pass, slipping it through the line of people so that more than one person can use the same pass. And stealing tampons is fair enough. They should be free anyway. We all agree.

We run out of time and there was none left for doing and making. Its hard to find the balance between unpicking and discussing and creating and doing. Ali observed that the previous week they had split into two groups, one led by Ali and one by Siobhan. Youth worker Ali focussed on process, discussion, meanings and group relationships. Artist Siobhan focussed on product – creating the comic strips and using the comic app. We agree we need a combination of both and that perhaps its time to orientate this group towards making a product.

We are learning that the work is slow, that we need to talk as we do or the doing will never happen and that youth work is unpredictable. We are also learning that the WRAP extracts will take us in unforeseen (and forseen) directions. Or as Rachel Thomson has suggested –  that the WRAP extracts are wormholes – tunnels through space-time that you dive in to at one end and never quite know where in space-time you will journey to. Jumping into one story from 1980s Manchester about NUR19’s ‘risky’ decision to go on a holiday she can’t afford takes us straight to London in 2019 and A’s story of getting lost and panicky in London. Then we are off to 1980s Paris as Paula tells us her partners story about getting separated from her friend on the metro and roaming around the city to try and find her in a pre-mobile, pre-digital era.

We plan for future weeks to try out creating a comic strip or using the book creator app to create a book that animates the WRAP girls stories. The girls are interested in stories of migration, of fitting in and not fitting in when you move to a new place. More wormholes to fall down and see where we end up.

Rematriating and reanimating

Ester McGeeney and Ali Ronan


In March we held two workshops in Manchester. The first was an academic workshop: Rematriating the WRAP: Connecting academic and community archives. Centring around the key concept of ‘rematriation’ we explored what it means to bring an archive back to the place it was created and abstracted from. We were a mix of mainly historians and social scientists drawing on our different traditions to explore the following themes of revisit and return, archiving and digitzing, reanimating and accessing.

Rematriation: We were in Manchester – one of the two cities from which the WRAP material was extracted. We are working there over the next year to return the data – to give it back to the communities from which it came and see if anyone wants it. An ambivalent gift. The term rematriation helps us to make complex the process of ‘repatriating’ archives materials – taking objects out of museums and returning them to the communities they came from. Drawing on post-colonial indigenous movements we can understand this process as more than the gifting of materials but a process of (re)building relationships with and within communities.

We are already deep in the process of doing this – working with youth and community groups, to reanimate the data and work out what we can ethically show and do with the original material. Some of these are the 2019 versions of the 1989 communities that the WRAP team worked with but we are finding that the landscape of youth groups and sexual health outreach work has dramatically changed in the past thirty years, as Rachel reflects on in her post Digging where I stand. (re)building relationships has been slow, exciting and painful.

Digitizing and sharing: Jenna Ashton reminded us that it is important to think about why you are digitizing an archive beyond the desire to ‘save’. She called our attention to the desire to digitize and get everything ‘out there’ without thinking about Who, why and what is it for? Jenna also cautioned against the allure of shiny tech and VR, reminding us to pay attention to sensor experience and the digital. Julie Mcleod also reminded us of the need to think about ‘ordinary people’ as well as ‘teccy people’ when considering how best to ethically and effectively show our digital archives to others.

Our work in Manchester helps us to work out who might use the archive or to whom the archive might matter. We will be working with university students, school pupils, youth workers, teachers, community workers, community members and activists – exploring what is interesting and useful, what resonates.

Anonymity: to harm or protect? Andrew Flinn and Niamh Moore’s discussion unveiled the different ways in which anonymity is viewed within oral history interviews and social science traditions. Within the oral history tradition people it is presumed that people will be named. This is an important way of giving people voice and connecting people with places and historical events. To remove someone’s name in this context is to do harm.

Within the social science tradition it is presumed that participants will be anonymised. And this is usually to protect them from harm.

We are currently anonymising the WRAP material and facing challenges in working out what is ethically ok. We are removing participants names and the names of the boyfriends, ex-boyfriends and friends. But we are leaving many of the details about place. It often feels uncomfortable as we try and work out how much of the detail about place should we remove to protect participants anonymity without erasing the rich details about Manchester city life and its communities thirty years ago? Talk about Hulme, Moss side, Moston and Salford tells us much about how socio-economics, community and place shaped sexual cultures and responses to HIV and AIDS in 1989. One young woman tells us that she feels less at risk from HIV from having unprotected sex with men than she does from working with children at a school in Moss side. A community she images as risky due to drug use and prostitution. Although she also (along with other young women in the archive) wonder how their own sexual behaviour differs from that of prostitutes. They are sure it does. But they aren’t always sure how.

Emotional communities. Historian Claire Langhammer has been working with Rachel and reading some of the WRAP interviews. She observed that there is a ‘raw’ emotional quality to the data. She encouraged us to think about historically situated ‘emotional communities’ and ‘affective ecologies’ to help us work with the data and understand the heterogeneous nature of social change in Manchester as uneven.

Claire observed that there is little talk of love in the WRAP interviews but rather an overwhelming sense of anger and disappointment. She shared a moment from the archive in which a young women expresses frustration about the amount of emotional labour she has to do in her relationships. She wonders, in conversation with the interviewer, whether the relationship might not be worth doing. Claire invites us to see this in the context of wider shifts in the 1980s in gender and sexual relationships in which women were starting to see themselves as having greater choice in their relationships, compared to their mothers, and a desire for greater equality, but were not always seeing these choices and desires translating into safe, contented and equitable relationships.

That’s not my Manchester! Rachel Thomson presented an account of 1980s Manchester as captured in the Manchester based magazine City Life. There is a public concern about sexual violence. Manchester is a trendy city and there is a feeling of change – City council privatisation. The arrival of ecstacy. Entrepreneurship. International travel. We see scallies and yuppies and education, gender and class trouble. This Manchester – an increasingly privatised, global and globalised Manchester – was not familiar to many of the participants in the room who had lived in the city in the 1980s. They reminded us of the many other archives – in particular queer archives – that tell different stories about the city and its communities. We were reminded by Liz Stanley of Borges and the powerful deception of the archive in making you think that it is give you ‘the’ story.

Feminist webs. The WRAP project developed out of a web of feminist academics and community activists. It was not a purely intellectual project but as a response to work that the WRAP team and others were doing in community groups where they met women who were angry about the way that women were meant to be solving the problems – by getting men to wear condoms.

The feminist web is an important metaphor for this project we revisit a project that took place as part of a feminist web whilst also using modern day webs and connections to make our project happen. As participants reflected, these are webs with messy boundaries where academics and communities are in conversation, not without tension.


Day two was a workshop for youth workers in which we had a go at reanimating the WRAP data through poetry and craft.

Images from our craft workshop are available here. Below is a summary of the poetry workshop, led by Ali Ronan and some examples of the poems created with/from the archive.

We started with brief introductions to relax the group. The group takes the lead from the workshop ‘leader’ so I was brief and informal in my own introduction and because the day was intense and with lots of questions/memories to discuss – I decided to work more quickly than I usually would. I used ‘flow writing’ to start.

Flow writing:The task was to just write for 2 minutes without stopping about a young woman. It could be you or someone imagined. This exercise was just to get the workshop going and to get people relaxed. I made it clear that there was no sharing of material at this stage. This was important so that people were not feeling vulnerable or exposed.:

Clusters:The next task was Clusters, which is an exercise using a word to link with other words that are evoked. For example: :

Sex –Fun-Funny-Awkward-Secret -Bodies

So the next task was to ask people to start a cluster of words with Sex in the centre. We worked quickly to avoid overthinking the task.

Lists and patterns:I then asked people to create a list/patterning poem by starting with the phrase Sex is …. I kept it simple in this workshop but you can make it more complicated by adding different ideas such as Sex is .. Sex is not… This time I made it clear that we might share some of these lines/lists if people wanted to.

After 5 minutes I asked people to read out one line each, I started and then we went round the table so that a poem was created line by line – some lines were repeated and or echoed which made people laugh in wonder.

Working with WRAP

Then I distributed two short WRAP extracts and asked people to read them and circle ideas and works that sparked a response in them. We then used the same patterning / list making technique with these words to start to write a poem.   I used short ones – just one side of A4

QU:  Do you talk to your dad about this [a sexual experience with someone who refused to wear a condom, which led to Michelle refusing to have sex with him]?
AN:  Yeah, and my mum.
QU:  That’s great. Have you always been able to?
AN:  Yeah, I mean I had a one night stand when I was only 14, and I’ve not told my mum and dad, not for the fact that they would have done anything or said anything, but the fact that I was so ashamed. It’s part of something that I’d rather forget, it’s personal to me. And I think it would have disappointed them both if I’d’ve told them, and if I told them now they’d..(unclear). But that was something that was for me, that I wanted to block away, my little skeleton that goes in my little cupboard. I mean everybody’s got them. But from then on we talked about this, that. They came home and I told my dad. And he said – What would have happened if he had actually have gone through with it, if he’d have worn it [a condom]? I said – Well, I’d have been regretting an act then, not a near act. I said – It’d’ve happened and I would be regretting it, I would have found out the hard way that that wasn’t what I wanted. 
QU:  It might have been fun?
AN:  Yeah, it might have been fun, but that’s..
QU:  Would you feel guilty, or alright about casual sex for the fun of it?
AN:  No, I don’t think, I felt fine, I felt lovely up until the time when he said – I won’t wear one of them’. But I mean that’s all I wanted at the time. And if it had gone through that I would have been quite prepared to continue. But that was all I wanted. But time passed, and I realised that it’s not what I need from a man. I mean if I’m going to do it I’m going to do it properly. You know, have a bit more up top behind it, as well as down below. I mean he was really, we didn’t even talk, and I fancied the arse of this lad, and that was all.

Michelle, (EDD135) Aged 20. The WRAP archive.

Wonderful poems emerged. And we shared what we had written, to laughter and astonishment.

Thank you to everyone.

Digging where I stand

Rachel Thomson

The term digging where you stand was introduced in 1978 by Swedish oral history activist Sven Lindqvis who called upon factory workers to investigate their own workplaces as a form of self-organisation. I know this because Andrew Flinn provided a compelling overview of community history making and archiving at the Sussex Humanities Lab. Andrew has used the slogan ‘Dig where you stand’ to describe and organise community heritage work – inviting people to research their own communities, and localities. Sometimes this means literally digging where they stand.

Last time I was in Manchester I went to the Whitworth Art Gallery to see an exhibition about the Reno night club, demolished in 1990 and dug up in 2016. Lead by community activist and playright Linda Brogan and funded by the HLF, archaeologists at Salford University literally dug at the site of the Reno, with community members joining in to reveal treasures including the original dance floor, old library cards and a thirty year old bag of weed! The Reno had been a haven for a generation of young people who identified as ‘half-caste’, the children of white Mancunian mothers and African or west Indian fathers. On the back of the excavation an oral history and community memory project has been undertaken that documents how groups of friends installed themselves within the club, had their own spaces of standing, watching and dancing – how the Reno was part of a network of community spaces in Liverpool, Nottingham and Cardiff . The Whitworth Art Gallery has given a large space over to the project and includes vitrines displaying objects, screens for listening to A/V recordings of interviews, collections of memorabilia, an in-memorium wall marking the faces of the many players in the story who are now dead, long before their time. The project and the website that accompanies has the feeling of a community endeavour. Interviews are full of laughter, reminiscence, shyness and pride. Taking over the museum is a political intervention as is the task of maintaining control over the character and methods of the project.

I found out about the Reno revival on one of my trips to Manchester for The Reanimating Data Project. I lived in Manchester between 1985-90, for a time just over the road from the Reno. Between 1988-90 I was research assistant on a project documenting young women’s sexual cultures. My job was to interview young women in Manchester and I found them in lots of different ways: through youth clubs, through colleges, through workplaces, trade unions and universities. The reanimating data project takes me back to Manchester thirty years later to find out about whether there are still traces of these places and people and whether there is meaning or purpose in bringing this body of research back to the place in which it was generated so long ago. It would be so much easier if I could dig where I stand, but I stand two hundred miles away in the south coast of England, not far from where I started before I left for Manchester in the autumn of 1985. So I have instead to try and work out how to dig where I stood.

In 1988 when the WRAP project went about recruiting young women into the project it was able to collaborate with a vibrant network of youth clubs across the city, where feminist youth workers were intervening in creative ways. Our project talked to young women at Ardwick and Moston Youth Clubs – encouraged by youth workers such as Nora Davies and Cath Lambert to capture young women’s views and experiences of what was often a tough life for young women but which produced wit, insight and ambition. The YWait project was a jewel in the crown of Manchester youth work, a peer education project promoting sexual health for and by young women. With the help of Pam Muttram we made contact with a young mothers group in Higher Blakeley who were self-organising and speaking at schools just as teenage pregnancy was beginning to be articulated as a problem in a new way.

An article in Manchester based magazine City Life in 1988 called ‘Pregnant Thoughts’ by Penny Anderson reports how ‘high teenage pregnancy rates have shocked local welfare workers …according to new Government figures Greater Manchester has more teenage mothers than any other English county’. The piece comments that there is ‘no real stigma to illegitimacy any more’ with early and unmarried pregnancy operating as an intergenerational phenomena ‘if Mum gets caught the daughter is likely to get caught out as well’.

Fast forward thirty years and Ardwick youth cub has been demolished, targets to address teenage pregnancy have been met (partly by the widespread use of long lasting contraceptive implants) and the last strand of support for teenage pregnancy city wide disappeared two year earlier when pregnant school girl units were disbanded and FNP was not replaced. ‘Once we hit the target non-one was bothered’ explains Maggie Flint, who has worked with young women include the 1980s, a time she remembers fondly as a golden era, where ‘everything was possible’. Tracking around the new and shiny academies and youth hubs that have replaced the post-industrial landscape we notice that teenage sexuality and public health are no longer on the agenda. At the Academy we hear lots about early intervention, about tracking progress and intervening to address obstacles to progress. The intervention is more likely to be time-limited speech therapy for a parent in order to facilitate educational progress in a child than a service built around notions of equality or collective empowerment. The whole area was ‘swept clean’ for the Commonwealth Games explains Maggie. Local slums and local services where rationalised into strategic plans for the whole city – a multi-agency approach lead by a common assessment framework. The end of bottom up services. Activists become contract managers, freelance trainers, retire. How do we dig in this landscape? Where do we stand?

At the 2016 Tory Party conference Theresa May declared ‘if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere.’ She counterposed elitist cosmopolitan drifters with ‘the people down the road, the people they employ, the people they pass in the street’. This phrase has come to my mind several times during this project as our team searches for traction with communities in present day Manchester – finding ways of connecting an extraordinary set of interviews generated in the city thirty years ago with the city today. An obvious problem is that the team is not based in Manchester, we come as visitors, attempting to drum up interest in a past that is complicated. I find a similar ambivalence to the past in the archive where I read a Jim Reeve review from 1989 of and exhibition of Shirley Baker photographs that suggests that in the 1980s this past was too close – Reeve comments on how in these images ‘the 60s can be seen creeping up on a timeless people, tower blocks looming up over back-to-backs, bee-hives and mini-skirts against a background of outside toilets. If you close one eye you could imagine a scene from the 30s. Its alarming to think that the fairly momentous 20 years covered by the pictures still saw flabby arms folded around wrap-around pinnies, men with trilbies and spectacles covered with Elastoplast, which is why anyone over 30 should steel themselves before perusing these pictures. They are a grainy reminder that you are becoming part of history…. The book left me with a dull feeling. That is not to say that it is a dull book’.

I am very aware that I left Manchester in 1990 and the city I return to now is a different place. Skyscrapers are sprouting up in the centre of the city, rumoured to be funded by Chinese capital. Trams connect neighbourhoods in new ways and the University expresses a new-found confidence and ownership of the civic space. We convene a reunion of the old sociology department where the study was born, attempting to retrace the lines of town and gown that characterised the city in the late 1980s. We discover fellow travellers who also passed through Manchester University during this era and appreciate their nostalgic connections to the project. Yet for those still living in Manchester, still working in the department, it is an unconnected history – perhaps producing dull feelings. Our various gambits to capture interest are productive but not always successful as our agendas slide away from each other. Drama students in 2019 appear more interested in the stories of working class girls that revisiting the dubious sexual cultures of middle class drama training culture of the 1980s. Our hottest connection is with the Proud Trust, still meeting in the Sydney Street building that is a living connection with the Manchester of the past, celebrating the city’s history of activism around section 28, of radical feminism and activism in the area of young women’s sexual health.  Workers and clients see themselves in a local feminist activist tradition that includes our study. As an organisation the proud Trust move easily across the lines of academia/ local government, the voluntary sector and corporate fund raising. They have not been swept away or built over, in fact they are key players in building the new Manchester as they begin a major building project of their own.

I like the idea of digging where I stand. If I had stayed in Manchester I would be able to align the geographical, biographical and historical – but working peripatetically in this way alerts me to Manchester’s place in a history of cosmopolitanism, of exporting and drawing in talent, of reinventing itself and of looking forward rather than backwards. The metaphor of digging where you stand is powerful and compelling. I want to be able to do this and to claim the dubious authority of a living local. Instead I seem to be burrowing, making channels below and along the ground, sometimes my personal worm holes trap me alone in an auto-biographical past, but increasingly these become connected spaces where I bump into others following their own leads.