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Week 53 Festival at The Lowry: Looking to Manchester’s Past to Address the Power Imbalances of

Slavery. Freedom. Imprisonment. Abolition. Incarceration. Liberation.

The imbalance of power in contemporary society has fostered the creation of hierarchical structures that separate people based on specific classifications including gender, ethnicity, class, religion, and nationality. These imbalances translate into intense and unjust prejudices against groups of people who tend to suffer under systems of discrimination and intolerance.

Levels of homelessness have gone through the roof, political divisions are driving wedges between social classes, and refugees are often shunned after fleeing their homes for safety. Some of the major societal issues of our time have become so common that they are almost overlooked. Despite this, the people of Greater Manchester have shown time and time again that they will band together during tough times to form a formidable collective voice to offer help and support to those in need.

As a part of ‘The Twenty’, Blue Shoes Productions have received funding from The Lowry to create a short documentary film about Greater Manchester’s identity as a region which has found power through collective action, and we will specifically explore the selfless act of humanity made by the cotton workers of Manchester who supported the abolition of slavery in the USA despite the personal costs associated with their decision.

The Twenty offers the chance to turn creative ideas into reality. This year’s Week 53 Festival is based on the theme of power.

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that all slaves held in bondage in the United States of America were free men. In his struggle to pass the Emancipation Proclamation, he wrote to a small band of cotton workers living in Manchester who refused to trade slave-picked cotton to thank them for their support of the Union. The cotton workers were willing to give up their livelihood to help in the fight to free the slaves in America, despite the increasing hardships they were facing themselves.

A statue of Lincoln has stood in Manchester for over 100 years to celebrate the friendship forged between this city and the USA. Manchester City Council is currently building a peace garden on that site as a reminder of the selflessness that is needed to facilitate change in the world today. Through our film, we hope to show that power can be harnessed by people if they band together to help others, and that hierarchies can be redrawn if people fight to have their voices heard.

Abraham Lincoln Statue, Manchester. (Photograph by Mike Peel)

The issues faced by society today are not dissimilar to those of the past, and as citizens of Manchester, we can look back at the history of our city to remind ourselves of the importance of banding together to put the needs of others before oneself to disintegrate hierarchical structures and disrupt unjust power balances.

Keep your eyes peeled for updates about our project that will form part of Week 53 Festival at The Lowry in April!

UPDATE: We are disappointed to announce that Week53 Festival has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, so we have had to put our project on hold. We will post updates about our film when we have more information about how we can go forward.

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