“How can we become more politically savvy?”

This was one of many questions posed during an incredible two days at the first Manchester Inner City Exchange which brought together 15 community groups from across 9 different neighbourhoods in Manchester and Stockport.

Local residents shared stories of change over time in their neighbourhoods and the challenges and opportunities they are currently faced with as well as strategies, ideas and initiatives for bringing their communities together around shared goals. The themes were, perhaps unsurprisingly, common: people feel ‘underestimated’, ‘invisible’, and ‘fear to go out’.

Yet, this time and space was brimming with creativity, determination, and imagination with street poets, craft and writing collectives, and even a theatre group. The room was also brimming with courage. In Tina Cribbin’s poem, The Courage, (from her new collection Classphemy that she kindly shared readings from during the exchange), she writes:

“It’s the courage to stand against the rising tide and

Refusal to hide

From policies that aim to cause pain and suffering with human rights denied”

We heard positive stories of how courageous residents have brought change to their once-forgotten communities both internationally and closer to home. About local residents joining together to stand up for their rights, their land, their housing, their access to the cities and towns that are the places they call home. We heard about Abram Communities Together‘s new neighbourhood plan; we heard from Granby 4 Streets on their twenty year struggle to save their neighbourhood and develop a community land trust; and from Slum/Shack Dwellers International Kenya on how a savings-based movement for bottom up local development has grown out of Nairobi’s anti-eviction struggle and is now working hand in hand with the Greater Manchester Savers Network.

This was a residents-only space for communities to talk freely and identify their shared collective stories, their shared imagined futures. By the end of day two, the most popular question was:

“How can we work together to tell more stories that get heard?”

If you are a local resident in an inner city area of Manchester who wants to be part of the answer, please get in touch to find out details of the next event in November…