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The Northern Quarter of Manchester is known for it's creative energy and bright young things with grand ideas. This is not a recent development, but one that can trace its roots back hundreds of years.
Find out more about this area on a historic walking tour of the Northern Quarter, exploring the heritage and seeds of Communism with Jonathan Scofield.
For two hours we’ll submerge ourselves in the 1840s of Manchester and Great Britain, the ‘hungry forties’ when society teetered on the edge of revolution. This was the time when Manchester was ‘the shock city of the age’ in Asa Briggs memorable words.
And into this, in 1842, after Chartist ‘Plug Riots’ had been put down with violence, walked a young German of just 22 years-of-age.
Friedrich Engels would be the father of communism with Karl Marx but already he was passionately politicised. And with a young man’s desire, in his words, ‘to seize life with both hands’ he threw himself into Manchester life, both the professional business life of a cotton mill owner and that of the chronicler of the industrial tumult around him. No filthy courtyard where the lowest of society waited for an early death would be too much for him.
But while Engels is our focus in the 1840s we have a cast of characters parading through Manchester that would fire the interest of any city in any age: Charles Dickens, Benjamin Disraeli, Elizabeth Gaskell, John Dalton, John Bright, Richard Cobden, Ernest Jones and so many others.
Manchester at this time was more than people and bricks and mortar too. The city was giving birth to a credo that still has potency more than 160 years later. The triumph of the Manchester based Anti-Corn Law League would in the 1840s become the Free Trade Movement: the Manchester School. This was the foundation of the globalised world of 2012.
All roads led to Manchester in the 1840s as it became the exemplar of the newly industrialised world. This tour focussing on Engels brings these themes together in pubs, cellars and the offices of MadLab, in a blast of 1840s high life and low life.
There will be pigs involved. And maybe an opera singer. Projections of 1840s’ newspapers maybe. Costumes definitely, and a closing quiz with prizes. You might even win a cotton mill. You will be entertained, confused, appalled and amused.
Be prepared to be entertained! Might want to bring an umbrella too!
The tour will finish at MadLab, where the celebrations will continue on with the End of Year party. Please feel free to stay on and enjoy the merriment.
Engels' Night is the first in a series of MadLab events about the history of the Northern Quarter, called The Ghosts of St Pauls. Stay tuned for further details. There will be discombobulations.
This project is supported by an 'All Our Stories' grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
All Our Stories, a brand new small grant programme, launched earlier this year in support of BBC Two’s The Great British Story – has been designed as an opportunity for everyone to get involved in their heritage. With HLF funding and support, community groups will carry out activities that help people explore, share and celebrate their local heritage.