On 17 January 2024, at precisely the time of 18:24, the Oxford Road campus and all adjacent University of Manchester buildings were lit up in purple! Manchester City Council Leader Bev Craig and the University’s Vice-Chancellor Dame Nancy Rothwell pressed a big gold button, and the spectacular light display appeared.
As the University General Assembly Manchester Lit & Phil representative, I was very privileged to attend the formal ceremony, with many prominent guests such as the University Chancellor Nazir Afzal, the Lord Mayor of Manchester Councillor Yasmine Dar, RNCM Principal Professor Linda Merrick, and many more. A specially commissioned bicentenary poem had been written by University alumna Rebecca Hurst and she read parts of it to us. There were also large numbers of the public watching the event, and we were shown live pictures from Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai and Shanghai, where the University has Global Hubs.
Walking back down Oxford Road I saw so many people about, with a huge queue waiting to enter Manchester Museum – people of all ages too (the lure of free chai lattes provided by a local restaurant might have had something to do with that!). The purple lights were everywhere, creating a very impressive and special atmosphere. A line from the Hurst’s poem Mast Year – ‘I’m meant to be here’ – beamed in huge neon letters as part of a wonderful installation across Booth Street East, where it will remain until the end of February.
On Oxford Road, the Museum’s much-loved spider crab was ready to party – and dressed up for the occasion – following a glamorous disco makeover. The ‘disco crab’ proved a huge favourite with the crowds, many of whom posed for selfies and danced with their new decapod friend! It was a very happy evening!
During the bicentenary year there will be many events to mark the importance of the history and future of the University. You will find these listed on the University of Manchester’s bicentenary website. Do go along to be part of the celebrations.