University of Salford, ‘Twenty years on: Manchester and the IRA bomb’

University of Salford, ‘Twenty years on: Manchester and the IRA bomb’

We asked Dr Caroline Magennis, Lecturer in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature at the University of Salford, to reflect on the success of her Being Human activity ‘Twenty years on: Manchester and the IRA bomb’. The event took place in Manchester on Thursday 17 November, and was produced in partnership with the Irish World Heritage Centre.

Please tell us a bit about your event. What subject areas did you cover and what did you want to achieve?

Our event wanted to explore a variety of perspectives on the Manchester Bomb of 1998. We wanted to explore the political significance of the event but also the cultural representation of these events, following from ANU’s landmark production On Corporation Street. We also wanted to explore these issues in a space that would allow us to connect directly with the communities involved and interested in this cultural legacy. We achieved this by collaborating with the Irish World Heritage Centre in Cheetham Hill.

Our panel spoke briefly, and informally, which allowed a range of perspectives to be articulated. Joanne Massey, a sociologist from Manchester Metropolitan University, spoke about the way in which the bomb influenced urban planning and the commercialisation of space in the city centre. Shaun McDaid, a historian from Huddersfield University, offered a narrative of how the events fit into the tactics of Irish Republican Paramilitaries. George Legg, from King’s College London, compared the aims of our project with his work on the Docklands bombing and gave some poignant commentary on the victims of violence. My personal highlight was Louise Lowe, from ANU, whose work I have admired for many years for her risk-taking and vision. She spoke about her collaborative process with Home, and the making of On Corporation Street.

What worked particularly well in the planning, design and delivery of your event(s)?

Our speakers offered such a diverse range of experiences, and spoke so well, that the discussion afterwards was a lively mix of voices. The storify from the evening shows some of that engagement, and the distances people travelled to be with us on the evening.

Our interactions with the Irish World Heritage Centre were uniformly positive: they helped us plan and promote the event and ensured everything ran like clockwork on the night.

What were the main outcomes for you and /or your organisation

As an early career researcher, this was an excellent introduction to bidding for funding and project management within a safe arena where we were supported, by Being Human and the University of Salford, through every stage of the project. I now have a clear sense of how to make our work attractive to external partners, and will continue to work with the Irish World Heritage Centre in future bids. The Being Human bid will be the beginning of some interesting Irish Studies academic links in Greater Manchester.

What top tips would you give to anyone contemplating or running a similar event or events in the future?

  1. Nurture your community links, they will make the event a real success, help you reach your audience and help you step outside the academic bubble
  2. Speak in person to your finance office, who are well versed with dealing with projects and will help you run them if it’s your first time
  3. Budget for refreshments: at ours there was great chat over a hot drink and biscuits
  4. Use social media to promote your event: the Being Human team amplified our message so well
  5. Try to arrange your timetable so you get a lie in the next day!