Our first morning in Manchester we went on a tour with Ed Gilnert to learn about the city's industrial past. Manchester is famous for being the first modern industrial city, and till his day, the people of Manchester (Mancunians) take pride in the city's history. The city was considered an unimportant municipality until the start of the Industrial Revolution, to which Manchester became the central power-house of the cloth industry. Cotton was a very important material and is now considered a symbol for the city, as the cloth industry thrust Manchester into modernity, though some may say, at a price. Warehouses, cotton mills and factories fill Manchester's urban landscape, many adapted for modern use, while others stand as a derelict reminder of the past.
Here is a video explaining Manchester's transition from an Industrial City to a Modern one with footage from our tour with Ed Gilnert:
The Industrial Revolution had high amounts of human migration, because suddenly all the work to be done was in cities, and people would move to where the work was. Ed asked the group why we thought Manchester became the industrial phenomenon it did. The physical geography of Manchester is the first part of the answer, as it is at the centre of all North West England's villages, all of which had been participating in the cloth industry in some way or another. North Western England also has the best weather for cotton, because it can best manipulated best when it is damp. Also, Manchester had one of the first railways that allowed for the transport of people and goods. The railway was stretched to Liverpool, a port time that would import the raw cotton goods from far away, tropical climates. But, what do we think of when we think of the Industrial Revolution? All the pollution that was produced! North Western England lies on top of a huge reservoir of coal. Coal mining became the most important extraction industry for Manchester, when they moved away from steam powered machinery, to coal powered machinery. The pollution created by the coal made Manchester's industrial city a living nightmare, and has been documented by famous authors like Charles Dickens and, of course, Freidrich Engles.
Today, Little Ireland is the heart of a trendy, art community, paying tribute to both the area’s dire past, as well as looking towards a hopeful future. It’s apparent that the city is keen to reinvent itself away from what Engels would have seen in his day, as it is best known as a world leading producer of football and music. The two football (soccer) teams, Manchester City (Ed’s preference) and Manchester United compete for the affection of Mancunians, and they certainly love them back. A few of us had the chance to visit the Football Museum while we were there. For those of us who don’t really care for footy, the live music scene did not disappoint! Famously, we learned that bands like Joy Division, New Order, and Oasis originated in Manchester, so the ‘80s dance parties were especially fun to take part in!
After the tour with Ed and a quick lunch break, we headed over to the Kindling Trust HQ to talk with Chris Walsh about the urban agriculture initiative. Kindling Trust is a social enterprise project based out of Manchester, which tackles the issue of food poverty and the social problems that lead to it by running several urban farms and community garden projects, such as Farmstart. Kindling Trust aims to create a new kind of supply chain by eliminating the distributor, where most of the profits accumulate in the current food system. Kindling trust accomplishes this by selling food straight to the consumers, which in most cases are restaurants and institutions.
Chris identified many challenges in changing the food system, with scaling up urban organic agricultural projects one of the main issues. Currently, Kindling Trust has many informal farming operations that draw inspiration from Copenhagen agricultural models, however they have struggled to find enough volunteers to scale up operations. Another issue with scaling up is the difficulty in managing organic farms, which can be very labour intensive. Methods like permaculture and companion planting can be difficult to execute at a large scale. Kindling Trust is currently looking to purchase or lease farmland close to Greater Manchester and uses agro-ecological methods of farming.
Although Kindling Trust has a long way to go to achieve their vision of ‘a just and ecologically sustainable society’, what Chris and others are doing to improve food sovereignty and the health of their community is very inspiring. We saw many parallels to Victoria’s own Chris Hildreth and his TOPSOIL project, which is also an urban farming initiative aiming to improve food sovereignty, health, and change the food system. Kindling Trust approaches issues surrounding social inequalities from the ground up, involving community members in farming projects, working with charities, and closing the gap between producers and consumers through various projects outlined on their website.
On our third day of the field school, the class had the pleasure of boarding the train out of Manchester for a day trip to Chester. In contrast to the post-Industrial city of Manchester, Chester came into itself in medieval times as a trading hub. It has a unique cityscape because of its two tiered commercial space, with shop access from below and above. Our tour guide, Tom Jones (the original, he claims) explained that the shops had followed this design since their creation, and that retail has always been Chester central economy. It is now a bustling tourist attraction, but the beauty of the medieval architecture managed to wow all of us on the field school.
Tom Jones was also a fabulous story teller, stopping in front of a building that had been built in the 1600s to tell us about a paranormal encounter from his wedding night! From a sustainability point of view, our trip to Chester was enlightening about how pre-industrial citizens used materials and resources. Our reading by Gibson (2005) explains “ancient” forms of sustainability would have been to support stability, ie, keeping up with the traditions that have worked in the past, and rejecting innovation. Tom Jones explained that much of Chester’s ancient history, like it’s Roman influences, are undetectable, because when new groups would conquer the city, the old relics would be used to create the new ones, almost like an ancient recycling. Today, Chester takes its history and heritage very seriously, and we were very happy to have Tom Jones as a guide to introduce us to that heritage.
Manchester's Worker Bees
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