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Exploring Culture in Manchester with the ROOTS Group

The ROOTS programme – created for people from sanctuary seeking backgrounds or those whose lives have been impacted by forced migration – was started by the Journeys Festival International team with the aim to share and learn new creative skills together and explore the cultural scenes in Leicester, Manchester and Portsmouth.

Last week, the Manchester ROOTS group was finally able to meet in person for the first time, visiting different cultural locations in the city and enjoying guided tours by members of staff, who gave them an insight about their work and the many opportunities available for creatives in their venues. Nuria Lopez, Festival Coordinator of Journeys Festival International, explained her initial idea for the day: “I wanted to visit a number of art spaces in Manchester with the ROOTS group, so they could see how big the cultural offer in the city actually is. Furthermore, introducing them to professionals working in these venues would show them how welcoming people in the Manchester art scene are and make their experience in these venues more accessible and interesting.”

The ROOTS members’ cultural exploration day of Manchester first brought them to HOME, a centre for international contemporary art, theatre and film that opened in 2015 and was funded by Manchester City Council and the Garfield Weston Foundation. HOME’s Talent Development Producer Alice Wilde welcomed the ROOTS group warmly and showed them around the building and exhibitions, talking about the venue and different possibilities they offer for creatives. After the visit, Alice recapped: “It was an absolute pleasure meeting the ROOTS group at HOME. It was so lovely to experience art together as a collective and to have the opportunity to discuss ideas and interpretations of artworks. This is something I have missed during lockdown and the ROOTS group really reminded me of the power of art as a tool to have meaningful conversations about a wide range of topics”.

Their next stop brought the group to The Portico Library, a 19th century subscription library offering free programmes of contemporary art exhibitions, events, workshops, talks and more for the public. After a tasty lunch, the group enjoyed a guided tour and talk by Assistant Curator Apapat Jai-in Glynn, who described the visit as follows: “The ROOTS group members were excited to contribute their creative skills during their visit, offering new ideas to Manchester's creative community with a fresh perspective. I enjoyed chatting with them and exploring their curiosities while they encountered our current exhibition Refloresta! I would be delighted to welcome them again or work with them in the future”.

Last but not least, the group visited artist-led community space Paradise Works. Based in an old mill in Salford offering studios for visual artists, Paradise Works usually also puts on a wide range of events and exhibitions in their gallery space. The ROOTS members had the chance to meet some of the artists there and have an inspiring chat with them about their artistic practice.

What a day to remember! Giving the ROOTS members the possibility to explore the cultural scene of Manchester, learning more about different venues, talking to creatives and discovering new places has been a valuable experience – and especially coming together for in person activity with communities and creatives after the time of lockdown. The ROOTS members really enjoyed this cultural activity, so here are just a few comments about the day:

“Meeting producers and curators of these venues made me realise that arts and culture in Manchester are more accessible than I expected”.

“Some art spaces in Manchester are working hard to bring art to everyone”.

“Such a nice space in Salford! It’s so different from what I’ve seen before. If you didn’t bring us here today, I would have never discovered this place!” (Referring to Paradise Works)

Special thanks to Alice Wilde from HOME, Apapat Jai-in Glynn and James Moss from The Portico Library as well as Jez Dolan from Paradise Works for their great contribution to this day of exploring Manchester’s cultural venues!

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