Sunday, January 29, 2017

Slums and War (A Look into the Darker Part of Manchester's Past)


This weekend most of the group is in Dublin (there are actually only three of us still in Manchester right now). Each weekend the professors offer an optional excursion, the past two weeks I wasn't able to attend so I really wanted to go on this last one. This week's excursion was a small walking tour of Angel Meadow, which was the largest slum in Industrial Manchester; and it wasn't until after World War II that urban renewal truly came to the area. 

It was a really heartbreaking tour. While most of the evidence that Angel Meadow was a slum has been removed, after all of the reading for this class it really isn't that hard to imagine the conditions faced by those that live there. One of the most poignant parts of the tour was our stop at the Angel Meadow cemetery. It is now a park, but before the urban renewal it was a burial ground. Bodies were not given individual grave sites, they were shoved into mass graves and then the grave sites were paved over. There are stories of children using skulls as soccer balls because there was nothing else for them to play with in the community. It is stories like this that really bring home how terrible the conditions were in Manchester.

In connection to our class reading, we were able to see the street that a character lived on in Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell. It is just another example of the great literary history available in Manchester, everyday I am faced with something that challenges or heightens my understanding of our coursework. There is no better way to learn. 

On a much lighter note, we went to an Italian restaurant near the hotel for dinner and it was fabulous! There was live music while we were eating (with lots of Frank Sinatra, my favorite). After dinner we came back to the hotel and started watching A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix. I highly recommend it (much better than the movie version). 

On Saturday Emma and I decided to go back to Salford because we wanted to return to the Imperial War Museum. I'm really glad that we went back because there was so much more to the museum than we saw the first time. There are two exhibitions at the museum, and both are absolutely fantastic! The first traces the history of war from World War I to the present day. It is absolutely fascinating to see how the experience of war has shaped the UK. The museum also plays a short film about the experience of children in war that is absolutely heartbreaking. 

Imperial War Museum

The second exhibit is "Fashion on the Ration." It details how rationing during World War II changed the fashion industry. The exhibit was filled with examples of how fashion, and clothing production itself, were changed by the coupon ration system that was used during WWII. Being able to see the transition of women into wearing pants more regularly was amazing, especially considering how little we think of it now. 

Quote from the Fashion on the Ration Exhibit

After the museum Emma and I had lunch, and on the way back to the MetroLink station stumbled on a small farmer's market. It was a really great find! They had some absolutely amazing desserts, which I was a huge fan of. 

At 6:45 pm we decided that we should probably eat dinner. After a fruitless search (every place we went to was full), Pizza Express became our only hope. We got takeaway pizza and returned to the hotel to continue watching A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix, it was the perfect end to the day. 


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