Multi-cultural Manchester Celebration

On Tuesday at Manchester Metropolitan University local schools were involved in celebrating Manchester’s cultural diversity. A variety of performances and workshops took place aimed at engaging with the students creatively through music, poetry, crafts and drama!

Mandy Coe lead the Poetry By Heart readings and passionately explained the importance of fostering children’s poetry to keep new generations of readers and authors interested in this art form. One of her goals is reminding adults that poetry is also for children and expressed,
“Children’s poetry deserves quality literature. Writing for young readers has influenced my work more than anything I have done for adults.”

Poetry By Heart is a national competition for teenagers aged 14-18 who recite poems by heart with the aim of getting young people to understand and enjoy poetry in a way that doesn’t take place in the class room. Several confident young readers performed poems from Let in the Stars. They shared a range of poems from love to science that they felt a personal connection to. Let in the Stars is an anthology of international children’s poetry inspired by Mandy’s passion and devised by Manchester Children’s Book Festival and Carol Ann Duffy.

Dame Carol Ann Duffy also treated the audience to readings from different periods of her work. She opened with Elvis! Shakespeare! Picasso! Virginia Woolf! and had an energetic audience participating by shouting out the artist’s names. She laughed,
“There are many highlights to being a poet on of them is watching people scream ‘Virginia Woolf’ at me.”
This was followed by her poem Quickdraw which illustrated the tensions of modern relationships through mobile technology; something an audience of teenagers would likely identify with.  She also  read, with rebellious delight, the examination board banned Educating for Leisure which expresses a need for control.
John Sampson provided musical entertainment with a collection of strange and wonderful wind instruments from around the world. He accompanied his performances with historical facts for example: Did you know Henry VIII was a composer? But what was most impressive was watching as he donned a curly grey wig and performed a Mozart composition on a recorder. It was a surprising and captivating step up from primary school concerts of Three Blind Mice.
Imtiaz Dharker, a poet who also helped select the work in Let in the Stars, read pieces of her own work drawing attention to the power of literature and the cultural significance of language. Opening with the poem Over the Moon, which states this is where all happy people have gone, she establishes her playfulness with linguistics. Imtiaz later describes on of her poems to use Indian-English as language reinvented reflecting the merging of cultures. Her poem Minority linked together the themes of migration, culture and literature which states,
“Everyone has the right to infiltrate a piece of paper.”
Many workshops took place during the day educating students on human rights and the benefits of diversity through designing posters, writing poems and speeches, and crafts. The students engaged personally with the exercises sharing their passions representing the sharing of traditions and ideas that takes place in Manchester between people of different cultures.
Our friends at the People’s History Museum were also here presenting historical dramatic monologues based on real lives! These displays of living history presented female characters that sharing their experiences of migration and merging cultures. When asked how they would react in these situations the absorbed pupils responded eagerly thinking of how they would feel in someone else’s shoes.
There are plenty of ways you can get involved with the Let in the Stars project! The Manchester Children’s Book Festival is hosting a FREE poetry weekend! We’ll be taking over city centre venues for two full days of readings and activities – Manchester Central Library on the Saturday and Waterstones Manchester Deansgate on the Sunday. Drop in to see children’s poetry stars performing their work and join in arts and crafts. There’ll also be open floor slots, so you can come along and read a poem, too.

– GS

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