Made in Manchester: The story of the city that shaped the modern world

Posted on: May 20th, 2024 by mlpEditor

Manchester was the ‘shock city’ of the Industrial Revolution. Has it lived up to its early promise and can it now be a model for urban living in the 21st century?

Brian Groom returns to the Lit & Phil to tell Manchester’s story from the earliest times, based on his new book Made in Manchester: A people’s history of the city that shaped the modern world.

Roman soldiers who came to build a castle in this rainy spot on the Empire’s edge probably little imagined that, centuries later, Manchester would be at the centre of an Industrial Revolution regarded by many as the most transformative period in human history. It was a turbulent time, leading to the Peterloo Massacre of 1819.

No one knew whether these upheavals would lead to prosperity or starvation, but the city became the centre of the global cotton industry and a pioneer in engineering. It was a hotbed for radical movements such as Chartism, yet also spawned the employer-led Anti-Corn Law League, which made free trade Britain’s economic orthodoxy.

Manchester Lit & Phil Trustee Charlotte Lanigan will interview Brian, and their discussion will cover the sweep of Manchester’s history. This will include pioneering figures such as scientist John Dalton (former Manchester Lit & Phil President), novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, the team who produced the world’s first stored-program computer, politician Ellen Wilkinson and singer Gracie Fields. It will tell the story of the city’s late 20th-century decline and recent rebirth, including the role of sport, music and architecture – and the controversy over its skyscrapers and property-driven economic model.

Join us to explore what Manchester’s past can tell us about the city’s – and the world’s – future. Brian has quickly established himself as the leading authority on the history of northern England, and so too Manchester. Born and raised in Stretford, there’s no one better than him to peel back the layers of this ancient but very, very modern city.


*Booking for this event will open soon*

Seeing Britain through the eyes of an insider/outlier: in conversation with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

Posted on: November 23rd, 2023 by mlpEditor

In this second collaboration with MACFEST, a now internationally recognised Festival, the Manchester Lit & Phil are delighted to host an online conversation with the multi-award-winning journalist and author Professor Yasmin Alibhai Brown FRSL.

Led by our former President, Ian Cameron, the conversation will weave its way through Yasmin’s incredible career – from exile in Uganda, to critically acclaimed scholar and commentator in the UK. Hers is a story worth listening to.

Yasmin will reflect on the many insightful, cutting-edge contributions she has made over the years on a wide range of political, social and cultural issues. And through these reflections, she will speak of the challenges she has had to face, in an often caustic social media environment, particularly as a woman of colour. Her commentary is often delivered with unwavering passion and conviction. And always underscored by a fearless intellectual rigour.

Journeying through a substantial catalogue of successful books and novels, including her latest book Ladies who Punch, Yasmin will illuminate the personal beliefs and values she holds dear: on Feminism, Culture, Art and Activism. And she will offer her personal and nuanced views on matters that continue to demand our attention – including diversity, equality, inclusion, freedom of expression, racism and populism.

In this hard-hitting discussion, Yasmin will be asked questions such as: what is the state of multiculturalism in Britain today? Does she see it as an unqualified success, or in dire need of re-evaluation? And something many of us have been reflecting on in recent years: what does it mean to be British today?


TO BOOK: Please visit MACFEST’s Eventbrite page

Nazir Afzal in conversation with Darryl Morris

Posted on: September 19th, 2023 by mlpEditor

Nazir Afzal was told that justice wasn’t for him. As a young man, facing racism and violence, his father had warned him off calling the police. “The police are just not interested in you… there is no justice.” he said. There is no justice.

Several decades later, with a fire lit in his stomach, justice became Nazir’s life. In his role as a Chief Prosecutor, he tackled some of the most violent and harrowing criminal cases and brought justice to parts of the community that it had previously failed to reach.

In what promises to be a wide-ranging conversation, Nazir Afzal will speak to Times Radio’s Darryl Morris about his life and career on the frontline of the British legal system. From tackling Rochdale’s sex ring, to risking everything with pioneering cases against perpetrators of honour killings and modern slavery. Nazir will tell the stories that helped shape modern Britain, as witnessed firsthand from the prosecutor’s office.

Now Chancellor of the University of Manchester, Nazir is regularly called on by the BBC, ITV and Sky News for his take on politics and popular culture and will share his view on the current state of the justice system, where it finds itself today, and if there are still people for whom ‘there is no justice.’

China: A view from the Bridge

Posted on: July 26th, 2023 by mlpEditor

How does contemporary China perceive the United Kingdom? What is the nature of the special relationship between these two historic ex-imperial powers of East and West? How has Britain’s recent departure from the EU affected this relationship?

More generally, we may ask what are China’s perceptions and common misperceptions of the UK affecting trade and diplomacy? And what is the legacy from Britain’s 19th and 20th century engagements with China and Hong Kong?

Who better to address such questions than the two special guests at this ‘in conversation’ event: Cindy Yu and Mark Logan MP. Both Cindy and Mark are Masters graduates in contemporary Chinese studies from Oxford University and fluent mandarin speakers. Cindy Yu is Assistant Editor at The Spectator and presenter of the Chinese Whispers podcast. Mark Logan is currently the Conservative MP for Bolton North East and vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on China. They can be said to ‘bridge the culture divide’ between China and the UK.

Manchester’s connections with China are of course not only historic, but extend to recent twinnings, notably between the cities of Manchester and Wuhan. There are strong ties between Manchester’s universities and research centres throughout China. And Manchester’s high schools and several Confucius Institutes in the NW region play an important part in promoting mandarin and Chinese language studies, in part acknowledging the growing Chinese diaspora in the NW region.

Join us for what promises to be an enlightening discussion on the nature of our relationship with China today.

Manchester, the slave trade & the Manchester Lit & Phil

Posted on: July 17th, 2023 by mlpEditor

In May 2023, the Manchester Lit & Phil welcomed the Report by researchers from the University of Central Lancashire’s Institute for Black Atlantic Research: The Manchester Lit & Phil and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, 1780-1865.

The research was commissioned by the Society following the worldwide debates in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. The Lit & Phil wanted the researchers to explore what links – be they direct or indirect – its early members may have had with the slave trade.

As part of the Society’s follow-up to the Report’s publication, this event welcomes a distinguished, specially invited Panel to reflect on the key findings and to discuss its many-faceted implications for the present day – both for the Lit & Phil, and for the wider understanding of how best to address the legacy of the slave trade. That legacy continues to impact Manchester’s culture, economy and social fabric.

Panellists include the Report’s research team leader Alan Price and other experts in the field and will be chaired by Professor Erinma Bell MBE. The ‘Question Time’ format should hopefully allow for debate as well as questions. Event registrants will be invited to submit questions for the panel, by email, in advance of the event. Time will allow only a small selection of questions to be put to the panel, although where possible supplementary questions & comments will be invited from the floor.


An extract from the report’s Abstract:

…The research, which was carried out by scholars at the University of Central Lancashire, found that a significant number of early Lit & Phil members profited to varying degrees from links to the slave-based economies of the Black Atlantic. These members contributed to the transatlantic slave trade by stimulating demand for slave-produced cotton as enormous wealth flowed into Manchester through the scaled-up industrial capacity of its mills. They range from engineers James Watt, Richard Roberts, Sir William Fairbairn and Joseph Whitworth; to mill owners Peter Drinkwater, Robert Owen, James McConnel, John Kennedy, George and Adam Murray, and Samuel Greg; to slave-produced goods traders John Birley and Sir George Philips. Some were more directly involved in financing slavery and owning slaves, such as Benjamin Heywood, who invested in slave voyages, and George Hibbert, a plantation owner and anti-abolition campaigner.

In detailing how these individuals and their families and networks were connected to the transatlantic slave trade, this report addresses a longstanding gap in the information available on Lit & Phil members’ positions with respect to slavery during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Its publication is evidence of the Lit & Phil’s willingness to enter into further dialogue about increasing diversity and inclusion within its own membership and engage more actively with contemporary demands for acknowledgement of their historical links to transatlantic slavery within a community that is still marked by racial prejudice and inequality.

Kindness & Integrity – Leadership in a troubled world

Posted on: May 23rd, 2023 by mlpEditor

It is said people get the leaders they deserve. If this is true, can we all change so that leaders realise that leading with kindness, integrity, compassion and mutual respect is the way forward for maintaining a stable and peaceful world order?

In a special collaboration with MACFEST, the Muslim Arts and Culture Festival, the Manchester Lit & Phil are delighted and honoured to be hosting an ‘in conversation’ event with the eminent scholar, diplomat, author, poet, playwright, and polymath, Professor Akbar Ahmed.

Following a distinguished career in academia and public service, Akbar has devoted himself to the healing of the many harmful divisions between peoples and communities of different religions throughout the world, as these continue to pose serious threats to world peace.

Led by our current President, Ian Cameron, the conversation will be both an examination and a celebration of Professor Ahmed’s highly commendable multi-faceted life’s work.

In a world currently dominated by populist leaders and outright dictators, are Professor Ahmed’s noble efforts in driving towards such a change likely to succeed?

The panel will also be joined by special guest Professor Karin Vogt – an author and academic-teacher trainer at Heidelberg University, Germany. Professor Vogt is very interested in promoting diversity and intercultural understanding and we’re pleased to have the opportunity to hear her contribution to the discussion.

Feminist activism in Greater Manchester: past, present and future

Posted on: April 4th, 2023 by mlpMemberAdmin

How has the Mancunian feminist movement evolved since its inception? Greater Manchester boasts a rich history of engagement in the battle for Women’s rights. What does its future look like?

Professor Helen Pankhurst and Joanna Williams will trace the history of this movement from the 1860’s to today.

Early campaigners achieved much: girls’ and women’s education, the property rights of married women, opportunities for work and voting rights. But there is still a lot to be done to realise true equality for women. Many of the issues addressed in the early years by Lydia Becker in her speeches and writings persist to this day.

Helen and Joanna will consider the legacy and impact of the movement in the domains of the personal and the political. They will highlight the organisations and individuals that advance the work of the early suffragettes in the present day. How is the GM4Women2028, convened by Helen Pankhurst – for example – using data, dialogue and activism to carry the torch for feminism?

Join us as we explore and celebrate the strong lineage of Manchester’s brave women. Those whose tenacity and perseverance paved the way for an increasingly equal society.

Free speech: its past, present and future

Posted on: January 5th, 2023 by mlpEditor

How can we better understand and conceptualise both the benefits and challenges of free speech?

It has been said that ‘free speech is the bulwark of liberty; without it, no free and democratic society has ever been established or thrived’. But how can we protect it whilst addressing legitimate concerns surrounding misinformation and hate speech?

In this online ‘in conversation’ event, Danish lawyer and human-rights advocate, Jacob Mchangama, will explore the past, present and future of free speech with Paul Cartledge, Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge University.

Drawing on Professor Cartledge’s expertise in ancient history and democracy, the conversation will begin with a discussion of where and how the very idea of free speech originated.

Jacob and Paul will explore the ancient concepts of “Isegoria” (equality of all in freedom of speech) and “Parrhesia” (speaking candidly). And the difference, indeed conflict, between “egalitarian” free speech in Athens vs “elitist” free speech in the Roman Republic. Using illustrative examples – including the trial of Socrates and the Peterloo Massacre – they will explain how this conflict between egalitarian and elitist free speech has been a major fault line through ancient, medieval, and modern history.

What lessons can the difficulties of invoking the ideal of free speech in the ancient world tell us about the difficulties of operationalizing this ideal in today’s digital world? And how can we create a resilient global culture of free speech that benefits everyone?

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