For me, photographs are such a valuable aspect of any archive. This is not only because of the stories they tell and the memories they preserve, but also because they transcend any language or literacy barriers and can be appreciated by everyone who sees them. We are lucky enough to have had thousands of photographs donated to us over the years, and they are by far my favourite collections to look through.
The Elouise Edwards Photograph Collection is our largest collection of photographs, featuring everything from sporting events and political demonstrations to photos from the Abasindi Black Women’s Collective and Roots Festivals. Most of the photographs are shot beautifully in black and white, and show members of various communities around Manchester in the 1970s and 1980s, mostly in Moss Side and Hulme. Elouise Edwards is a longstanding resident of Moss Side herself, after moving here in 1961 from Guyana where she was born. Although Elouise was at first unhappy in England, she soon found her passion in the promoting, defending and empowering of her community. If these photographs are anything to go by, she helped make a lot of people happy!
The photographs are categorised into six groups – Abasindi, Adventure Play, Demonstrations & Campaigns, General, Roots and Sport, meaning there’s almost definitely a photograph for every aspect of community life that you could be interested in. I searched through them to find suitable contributions to the recent Twitter tags #HairyArchives and #ArchiveAnimals and was successful in both cases! This is why the Elouise Edwards collection is so important to our archive; it paints a genuine portrait of black and minority ethnic communities in Manchester in the 70s and 80s in a playfully candid but poignant way.
Some of the most powerful photographs are of people protesting – marching to demand housing rights, to protest a new motorway being built, for the reopening of closed playgrounds. I’ve enjoyed attempting to place the location of several of the protests – Manchester looked very different in the 1970s and 80s! Flicking through the photographs I’ve seen just about everyone joining in the marches – every age, ethnicity, religion and…. Well, there was even a dog in one of them. The photos reminded me how powerful communities are when they come together over a common cause, something the people of Manchester are, and seemingly have been for a long time, especially good at.
Keep your eyes peeled for further blog posts in which I hope to explore parts of this collection in more depth, but more importantly – come in and explore the wonderful time machine that is the Elouise Edwards photograph collection yourself!
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