What Is the City but the People 

Dominic Rogers

Piccadilly Gardens was the backdrop for the launch event of Manchester International Festival (MIF), What Is the City, but the People? - a busy crossroads between various areas in Manchester City Centre. ‘Ordinary’ people walked down the catwalk. Messages displayed on two big screens showed the roads that the people had taken in their lives and for the most part, a resolution to their circumstances. The show was an exploration of connection in a city where unknown people are faces in a crowd. It highlighted the vulnerability of these people, the vulnerability of humans, and the bravery of sharing their message.

A message appeared on the big screen “John never intended to be a drag queen. It was an accident”. This quote reminded me of the process of randomisation of atoms; how an atom randomly colliding can be compared to a human and their life- bouncing constantly - forming different experiences. Manchester University is after all where the atom was first split, which led to the development of nuclear power. It was at this same university where that Alan Turing was a robotics professor, who is famous for breaking the Enigma code, and in his lifetime was condemned for being homosexual.

Manchester is now a safe space for the LGBT community. Drag performers from club night ‘Cha Cha Boudoir’ walked the catwalk and morphed as they went: into a peacock fluttering its feathers, lady death, or a Greek God like creature. It was the visual embodiment of change that the show represented in its entirety. The ability for humans to change and adapt to their surroundings. “As a geeky queer kid, Michael loved gods, monsters & dragons”.  Childhood experiences form part of who we are as adults.  Some Gods are a hyperbolic interpretation of a personality trait, as drag can be. “Donna is an extension of who I am – Kieran”. Drag and identity, like human physical selves, evolve and change with time. 

The show made me look at the person next to me and wonder who they were, and ask what they were thinking. So much of the time we walk past a person paying little or no attention. Everyone has a story; having open dialogue in this story is important. What Is the City? certainly opened up topics in my mind, snapshot moments and its fast pace sending the neurons swirling. In the final runway walk, a young child was staring at the shiny Greek God. The child and God danced. What is the city but these extraordinary people? Could it be any other city? (DR)


Links Relevant to this diagnosis:

MIF - What Is the City but the People?

The Power of Vulnerability - TED

Manchester University - Splitting the Atom 

Alan Turing in Manchester

Crash Course on Identity - PBS

Cha Cha Boudoir 

People's History Museum - Never Going Underground

#LGBTQManchester #CityHistories #identity #MIF2017