A while ago I saw an invitation to submit a short story to Women’s Words Manchester as part of an archive of women’s stories about Manchester. The stories were to be archived to celebrate 100 years since some women got the vote, and was supported by the Pankhurst Centre , Manchester Libraries.Archives+. Soroptomoists Europe and the Arts Council England. Tonight marked the culmination of a lot of hard work and the launch of the archive – My Write as a Woman. I was delighted to be invited to the participant’s preview, and when I arrived I was overwhelmed by the number of stories laid out. I found my own almost immediately and I am completely humbled by its inclusion in this wonderful project.
More than 350 women submitted their story, and these will now be archived and made available to the public as one record. Later, the stories will be digitised and will each have it’s own record. Workshops were held to help and encourage women to submit stories, as well as direct submission welcomed. Additional commissioned pieces were included in a new edition of The Suffragette and performed at an earlier Tea Party event.
I really did not know what to expect at the launch event, but as I looked through the stories to find my own amongst the many hundreds there, I discovered stories of heartbreak, of optimism, of poverty, of hard work and babies born, of local history and Manchester Milestones. Stories of coming to the city and leaving the city, and of staying. Stories of overcoming problems and of discovering who we really are in our beautiful city.
The city as a backdrop to these stories highlighted how much these women love Manchester, how strongly they feel about it and how they can call it home. These stories are truly a snapshot of lives lived, of memories and of the desire to shout it from the rooftops. I guess this archive is the literary equivalent of that and so many voices have been heard.
But most of all, the overwhelming feeling of the stories, the events and the legacy of this project is love. That we’re in it together and that, even in times of desperate sadness for the city, WE ARE THERE.
I wish I could have read all the stories, and I will make a promise to myself that, some time in the future, I will. I left a little bit of myself there tonight, a little bit of my heart. A little bit of the love affair between me and Manchester.