A group of people sat at tables in a room with a projector screen, for the 'A just GM' event.

An update on our project, A Just Greater Manchester

At The Meteor, we’ve always been interested in how our work can help to promote social, environmental and economic justice. 

So much so that, at the end of last year, we decided to embark on a journey of exploration around this very topic, with our project ‘A Just Greater Manchester’.

We wanted to reconnect with our curiosity around justice, reach out to others who share that curiosity, and provide spaces to come together around this topic.

So far this work has taken us across the city-region to speak with groups and individuals both online and offline – in cafes, libraries, parks, shopping centres and out on the street – to find out if justice is a subject on people’s minds, what their idea of a ‘just Greater Manchester’ looks like, and how we might get there together.

A Just Greater Manchester began late last year with an online meeting in which a group of people from across the boroughs of Greater Manchester helped us develop a set of questions, based on what they wanted to ask of their fellow citizens about justice and injustice where they live.

These questions were shared via an online survey and taken into physical spaces across all ten GM boroughs, gathering the views of over 60 people in the process.

What’s a word, phrase or image that comes to mind when you think of a ‘just Greater Manchester’?

The January weather necessitated a search for indoor spaces where people gathered, leading to the discovery of a few gems along the way – community cafes such as Ashton’s Eclectic Avenue, the Boathouse in Oldham’s Alexandra park, Cafe Create in Bolton, Uplift @ the SQ in Stretford Mall offered comfortable environments for chatting and much needed brews, while cultural institutions like the Rochdale Pioneers Museum and Sale Waterside arts centre provided thought-provoking conversational backdrops, and the people we found running and using services like the Olive Branch in Edgeley, Withington Community Kitchen at St Paul’s Parish Hall, and the Innit for Young People studio located in Salford’s Quayside shopping centre, were all more than happy to talk justice while simultaneously living and breathing their contribution to the cause. 

Where did we go?

Google Map showing locations of where we went and who we spoke to.

Inspired and a bit overwhelmed with data, we began to share what we were hearing through a public event held at the wonderful Mosaic community venue in Manchester city centre (we also tried our first attempt at running a hybrid event here, with limited success, and much learning for next time!).

Amid fairy lights and mugs of soup, we set up an ‘exhibition’ of quotes gathered from our conversations so far, inviting guests to reflect on what resonated with them, surprised them, and made them feel proud or not so proud.

To connect this thinking with our hearts, we also enlisted the help of Greater Manchester’s creatives, who responded to our call for contributions on the theme of justice and injustice.

Graphic used in the 'A just GM' campaign, consisting of "creatives call out" in white text in a pink jagged speech bubble on a yellow background

On the night, we were treated to a thought-provoking reading of ‘All Feedback is Good’ from Ayisatu Emore, as well as rousing performance poetry from Eddie Toomer-McAlpine and Dez Wilson.

Work from local artists was shared in the room, including sketches of Manchester life from Len Grant, satirical cartoons on the media from Polyp, videos of Manchester from Tommy Timelapse, ‘Directions’ poem and video from Emma Roy-Williams, ‘Confession of City’ from Will Dean and ’Some Manc Notes’ poetry book from A.K. McAllister.

We also displayed collective art projects, including Citizen32 radical arts magazine, a project called ’What is the Role of the Artist at the End of Time?’, curated by Rae Story, and Manchester Amnesty’s Press Freedom and Julian Assange Group freedom of expression banner project.

What’s emerging

The rich discussions held at this event have planted many seeds of both thinking and action. Themes generating the most conversation on the night included the importance of spaces to gather and connect (“We’ve got the park. As long as we’ve got this, we’re alright”),  the challenge of the chasm between where we are now and where we’d like to be (“The most vulnerable in society need to be considered a priority”), and the power of community to meet those challenges (“…community is a verb, not a noun”).

There was also much discussion about Greater Manchester’s place in all of this, from its proud radical roots to a question of whether we have the ability to buck the trend of national and global injustice and pave a way for new ways of doing things. 

What’s next?

We’re now in the process of synthesising the data we’ve gathered for a more detailed report, following up with people who have reached out to us since our event, and pursuing stories that have been uncovered so far for publication in The Meteor.

There are many directions this work could take, with lots to be done. The passion and enthusiasm we have felt from people on this project so far is energising us to take this forward together – and we’d love you to join us!

If you’d like to contribute to this project as it develops, there are a number of ways to do so. One way is to join our open newsrooms which take place in Manchester city centre and online on the last Wednesday of every month, where we discuss and work on stories together. Everyone is welcome to these sessions whatever your experience or background. Email editor@themeteor.org to find out more about our open newsrooms and different ways to get involved, for A Just Greater Manchester.

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The Meteor is a media co-operative on a mission to democratise the media in Manchester. To find out more – click here

All images: Alice Toomer-McAlpine, Naomi Davies

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  • Alice Toomer-McAlpine

    Co-founder and Co-editor of The Meteor, Alice is a community worker and journalist from Manchester who works across a range of roles including youth work, community organising, video production and creative documentation of non-profit projects. Alice is interested in how the stories we create and share shape the world we live in, and how communities can take ownership of their stories and build trust with local independent media to build collective power.

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