By Jo Manby
The Southern Voices (SV) archive collection relates to the establishment and development of the Manchester based organisation Southern Voices, founded in 1990 and originally named the Southern Voices Project. Southern Voices is still running; however, the AIU Centre archive holding runs up until the year 2009.
The archive collection documents SV’s legal framework and its various projects and collaborations as it sought to reclaim history for those of Southern descent and promote awareness. It includes day-to-day administrative papers such as meeting agendas and minutes, workshop plans and evaluation sheets, correspondence and applications for funding.
In the words of SV’s first employee, Jaya Graves,
Southern Voices (SV) was founded on the perception that there were few Southern people visible or involved in development NGOs, development education networks, charities and university departments. SV took the view that in the late 20th century this was an inexcusable state of affairs.*
SV took time to consider the definitions they were using and there are several items in the collection that document their discussions. ‘Southern’ was used to refer to the developing world, formerly known by some as the Third World. SV was concerned with raising awareness of the need to understand our history as citizens of the world:
Many issues and themes addressed in global education and global citizenship have roots in colonialism, like poverty, various ethnic conflicts, social injustices, environmental degradation, and a global imbalance of power and racism. Unless we have a deeper understanding of our history and its mythologising, the excesses of the past will be repeated. We will continue to imagine that the Northern way of life – its systems, ambitions and values – must be recreated elsewhere.*
One of the main activities of SV was to develop relationships between Manchester’s overseas student population and its existing communities, employing many of Southern origin as ambassadors who could nurture an understanding of the cultures of their own home countries. In the collection is evidence of collaborative workshops with Manchester Museum, Tate Liverpool, Stockport Hat Museum and many local schools, both primary and secondary, promoting development education and introducing cultural experiences. The evidence takes the form of project proposals, letters, funding applications and grant award letters, evaluation sheets and workers’ reports.
Among the section of the collection that contains publications is a Handbook for Students written for Students by Students: Some Experiences and Advice for Overseas Students by Students in Manchester. This 24 page booklet contains sections on:
- Expectations – Before Coming
- Arrival – Britain: Another Land
- Everyday Life (including Getting Out and About, Accommodation, Academic Support, Food and Shopping, and Getting to Know the Community)
SV made it their business to forge links between the students and local communities. A series of colour photographs illustrate Austin Chaba’s Drumming, Storytelling and Artwork sessions which were held at the Aquarius Community Centre in Hulme; and elsewhere in the archive is a letter from 2005 from the Centre’s coordinator to SV reporting on the success of these workshops.
Another letter, handwritten in ink on blue writing paper, from someone who signed themselves Tony, informs SV that he has arrived home safely and invites them to think of Ghana if they are planning another break. A true Southern ‘voice’, and an archetypical example of the connections of friendship extended across the globe by SV and its partners.
Look out for Part II of this post for more on this resource. A detailed collection of the day-to-day documentation of Southern Voices, available to students, researchers and the public to view by appointment, complete with a searchable database.
* Graves, J (2010) ‘Tales of hunting’, Policy & Practice: A Development Education Review, Vol. 10, Spring, pp. 127-134.