A poem written in 64 languages spoken in Manchester – from Albanian to Zulu – celebrating the cultural diversity of the city’s communities has been launched at a special event at Central Library.
Made in Manchester was conceived by the town hall’s executive member for skills, culture and leisure Councillor Luthfur Rahman and started by local poet Zahid Hussain, with lines added in their own heritage languages by schoolchildren and others from across the city.
The aim is to celebrate the many different languages spoken in Manchester and to recognise the strong sense of belonging, identity and shared community spirit found throughout the city.
The poem is now on display, alongside a version translated into English, in Central Library where it will be exhibited for a year on two adjacent screens. They scroll in tandem through the poem, with one screen scrolling through the original version and the second screen through the English translation.
After that the poem will be given pride of place in Manchester Metropolitan University’s brand new Poetry Library due to open in 2020.
It is, however, a work in progress. Altogether, some 200 languages are spoken in the city. The intention is to add lines featuring them all as time goes by.
A short film featuring an abridged version of the poem read in their own languages by some of the young contributors was also premiered at the launch.
An amazing artwork sculpture installation with a Made in Manchester theme has also been created as part of the exhibition, featuring pictures drawn by school pupils of each other.
At the launch, attended by the Lord Mayor of Manchester Abid Chohan and Gorton MP Afzal Khan, Manchester libraries chief Neil MacInnes said it has been a complex project which resulted in “an amazing demonstration of varied communities bringing a rich mix of cultures and languages” to a city where 40 per cent of children in primary schools speak a language other than English in their homes.
Councillor Rahman said that when he first talked about the project he couldn’t have imagined how well it would turn out.
“I feel truly pleased that I am living in a city where people love each other with a sense of community spirit and helping each other,” he said.
Zahid Hussein, who created the original poem, told the schoolchildren in the audience: “This is a living poem and it will carry on.
“No matter where you came from, Manchester is all about belonging to this city and being a Manc.”