‘What is the city but the people?’

This was the opening line of the “City Speaks” movie that I went to see as part of the Manchester Histories Festival. It is Manchester’s civic film from 1947 and describes the rich history of Manchester both industrially and socially.

Manchester was described as being the ‘cradle of industry’ and at the peak of the Industrial Revolution, 1 million people were working in the factories. Manchester’s motto was appropriately, “Anything that anybody wants, we can make it for you!”

The city of Manchester was first developed by the Ancient Romans who named it ‘Mancunion’ and by 1536, it had grown into the largest city in Lancashire. Although the Industrial Revolution changed the city drastically, it brought with it negativity. In the Victorian times, Manchester was described as being a ‘cesspit of human misery’, because children as young as five years old were put to work.

However, in 1838 the Royal Charter was passed, what started out as being a local reform, became National legislation and transformed the social lives of Mancunions. The film ended on  high, reminding us that it wasn’t all hard work in Manchester, showing clips of men enjoying live football matches and children playing at the funfair; not that much has changed!

If you didn’t get a chance to attend the film screening, then I would strongly recommend that you contact the ‘North Western Films Archive’ and get a hold of this film. It is extremely interesting to see what has moulded the city we live and study in, and what events have enabled it to grow into what it is today!