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Migrant Voices took over the Rylands

28 Jun 2022

On Saturday 18 June, as part of Manchester Festival of Libraries 2022, the John Rylands Research Institute and Library welcomed musicians from Olympias Music Foundation (OMF)

Group performance in the Historic Reading Room. Photo: Jill Jennings

Visitors experienced live music performances from across the globe and met with musicians to learn about their migration experiences. Music filled all areas of the Grade 1 listed building, and was truly an immersive experience for all.

Led by Jerome de Groot, Professor of English, American Studies and Creative Writing in the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, the event was part of the ‘Archiving Migrant Voices’ research project, bringing Manchester together through music. The project builds on two years of collaboration between OMF and the University of Manchester delivering ‘Musical Living Library’ events in libraries across Greater Manchester with members of Migrant Voices – a network of 70 diverse global majority musicians from 27 different countries. ‘Living Library’ events have happened in Longsight, Stockport, Bolton, and at the Manchester Poetry Library. This work been supported by internal grants from the Social Responsibility fund and the John Rylands Research Institute, as well as external AHRC and Wellcome funding. 

Oral histories collected from musicians as part of the Mapping Migrant Voices project were archived at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre. At the event, Maya Sharma shared and promoted these collections, which are based at Central Library. The project contributes to Professor de Groot’s ‘Manchester’s DNA’ project. Also taking part were representatives from Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine. On display was one of the only three printed copies of the full genome in the UK, generating further conversations around identity. 

One of the musicians who took part was a Ukranian bandura player called Mariam Destin. Mariam has only been in the UK for a month, and is trying to establish herself and build networks here in Manchester. 

Stephanie Seville, Exhibition and Engagement with Research Coordinator

Photo: Jill Jennings