Author: Piotr Kisiel
Many inhabitants of Manchester (UK) might not be aware that there are some cities on the continent that claim their kinship with their city. This assertion made by the Saxon (Chemnitz) and Polish Manchester (Łódź) is based on their role as the centre of the textile industry during the long 19thcentury. Today, the two cities are trying to reinvent themselves, not that different from the way in which (the “original”) Manchester transformed into the city it is today.
During my visit in both cities I’ve looked what from the industrial past is commemorated and how, both in the urban public space as well as in city museums. There are many fascinating aspects of the post-industrial city landscape, but two things seem crucial to me. Firstly, the both cities are narrated in a way that leaves the workers out. These are post-industrial cities, which are told without mentioning the workers. One can learn quite a lot about the factories and the technologies used to produce the textiles, one is shown the splendour the industrial tycoons residences, but not much about the workers themselves. The other important thing I’ve learned is that one of the biggest problem with the industrial heritage is that hardly anyone sees it as its heritage. This raises a question, if heritage framework is the best one, if it plays almost no identity role.
Fascinating, but as a Mancunian (though I long ago relocated to the south of England) , I am not sure I entirely agree with your hypothesis that the in the city’s narratives the workers are left out. Manchester’s emblem is the worker bee not the Queen and this year there are extensive preparations for a celebration of the Peterloo massacre. Perhaps it is reparations with social history and family historians righting wrongs … many thanks.