Manchester Histories Festival goes online - and it wants your input

Manchester Histories is taking its festival online after the coronavirus outbreak caused the cancellation of June's event, by launching its first ever DigiFest. The festival will work with individuals and community groups to present their stories, ideas and creative content to a global audience from a newly-developed pop-up TV studio.

The festival, which will take place on Friday 4 and Saturday 5 September, is a collaboration between The University of Manchester and its Disabled Staff Network, the family of the late Lord Morris of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Manchester Students’ Union, TUC (Manchester), Manchester City Council and the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People. It is funded by Manchester City Council, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Wellcome Trust and Historic England.

At the heart of DigiFest 2020 is a celebration and recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (1970), a landmark piece of legislation that was pioneered by Lord Alf Morris (1928 – 2012).

Alf Morris was a social reformer who was born and lived in Manchester, where he served as MP for Wythenshawe for 33 years. To reflect and explore the anniversary of what is known as Alf’s Act, DigiFest will be inspired by the themes of Celebrate – Learn – Challenge. Individuals and groups are invited to take part by both inspiring the content, or by getting involved in a project to create the content.

Karen Shannon, Chief Executive of Manchester Histories, says, “Alf’s Act was such a milestone moment, an incredibly powerful piece of legislation led by one of Manchester’s groundbreaking figures. Marking this, and working with individuals and communities to explore where we are 50 years later is very important to Manchester Histories, which is why our team and partners have worked hard to draw up new plans of how we might achieve this in the very different circumstances presented by Covid-19. We also want to document these times, so part of the programme will include a discussion around Covid-19 and the impact this has had on disabled people’s lives.”

DigiFest 2020 will feature two days of films, discussions, speeches, digital art, music, song and more. There are opportunities to get involved in the creation of this in the following ways:

  • Send in your ideas of what you’d like to see featured as part of the live broadcast element of the programme, which will include discussions and debates.
  • Contribute any pre-recorded digital content – film, music, documentary, performance – that promotes your organisation or group that fits in with the themes of the festival.
  • Record your thoughts of this important moment in history by sending in a short recording (video or audio - including British Sign Language) taken on a mobile phone that addresses the following question: What impact has Covid-19 had on you and the lives of disabled people?

You can download the full details and links of where to send information to on the Manchester Histories website: www.manchesterhistories.co.uk. The deadline for all submissions is Monday 6 July.

Gill Morris, daughter of Lord Alf Morris, says “The Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act changed millions of lives not just in this country, but worldwide. My father’s vision to ‘add life to years’ was ground-breaking. Born in Ancoats as one of a family of 10 he saw first-hand how disability was hidden away and ignored. I’m so proud of Alf, my Dad; a truly great man – always a Mancunian. Against the odds, he led the way and changed the law. It is time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Alf's Act, which is a very proud moment for me and all my family, but also for Manchester. The festival will build on the legacy and celebrate equality and fairness for disabled people – but also acknowledge that a boy from the slums did good!” 

The University of Manchester is proud to be working under the leadership of disabled people, and in collaboration with the Morris family and Manchester Histories, to celebrate and learn from the legacy of ‘Alf’s Act’. Difficult questions remain about equality of disabled people in today’s society, and this festival will also shed light on those alongside seeing in action the freedoms and rights that this ground-breaking legislation has engendered.
Professor Alys Young, Lead for Disability Equalities at The University of Manchester

Manchester Histories is a charity that seeks to work with people, organisations and partners to reveal, share and celebrate Greater Manchester’s diverse histories and heritage. The festivals it organises are annual, with this being the 6th to take place.

To find out more about Manchester Histories, its work and projects visit www.ManchesterHistories.co.uk

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