2017 saw the eighth Manchester Day take place. Less than a month after the Arena bomb, this year’s event – with magic as a theme, celebrating the magic of Manchester in many diverse ways – took on an additional significance in terms of defiance and unity… all delivered with a trademark Mancunian swagger and spirited sense of innovation and wonder.
Commissioned by Manchester City Council, created by the people of Manchester and produced by Walk the Plank, this display of collective identities in the City (on the streets as well as in squares) engaged with 2000 participants from 70 different groups/organisations and entertained and delighted an audience of over 60,000.
Strong leadership and direction from the local authority cuts across all aspects of the initiative, from Councillors being part of discussions around the theme, to the identification, recruitment and engagement of groups to the event management on the day itself.
With a strong track record of business sponsorship, ensuring maximum impact of local authority resources, the event also provides leverage for the Elevate artist development programme which secures Grants for the Arts funding to support regional artists to create world class art in the public realm via an extensive range of mentoring and masterclasses.
In terms of the impact for the communities involved, it is an event that celebrates all communities – and the strength we find in joining together – rather than one community: a true representation of 21st Century Manchester and the values it holds true. The structure of the project means that groups can take part for the first time this year (e.g. the Pakistani Cultural Committee) as well as return from previous years (such as Manchester Chinese Centre). The only boundaries are those which we have overcome (pushed, pulled, carrier or cycled – it’s a completely green parade) and the parameters are only restricted by the imaginations of those involved.
Working in partnership with a team of artists, makers and crew from Walk the Plank, groups from across the city and Greater Manchester region can reflect on what makes them unique whilst drawing on the universal elements of colour, belief, costume, music, dance and occasion.
There is no place in this northern city for hatred or anger … just love and sunshine (it has never rained on this parade). You don’t always realise you need something until it’s there, and when adversity and austerity continue to chip away at a sense of civic entitlement, providing a free invitation for everyone to come together is clear evidence of the demand (and aspiration).
The Council’s commitment to Manchester Day – making sure that it will take place for the next three years (including its 10th anniversary) – is applauded and eagerly anticipated with equal measure. And in its own individual way, the event has created a community all of its very own that comes together once a year to create, learn, participate and spectate as a unified whole that is greater than the diverse sum of its parts.