Manchester city of Literature – UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day

Over the last few weeks, we have been working with our friends at Manchester City of Literature on the communications campaign for their celebration of UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day (IMLD), which launches today.

As with a lot of real-life events over the last year, this two-week long celebration has evolved to survive and comes at us in the form of a creative lockdown festival, running 16-28th February.

It’s made up of 18 virtual events from partners across the city, including a strand of events for children, from poetry readings to comic strips, intended to support parents tackling the mountainous task of home-schooling and entertaining their families whilst working from home across half-term during lockdown.

This is an incredibly important project and one we’ve been proud to undertake. IMLD has been observed globally since 2000 and has hugely significant historical roots; in Bangladesh 21st February is the anniversary of the day when Bangladeshis fought for recognition for the Bangla language.

In the city of Manchester, there are over 200 different languages spoken, and IMLD promotes awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity to advance inclusion. This project has educated us further as to the struggles and prejudices that many people face in order to use their mother tongues in today’s society; often many miles from home and the smells, tastes and sounds can be a distant memory but the mother language is the one thing that can provide comfort through familiarity.

This is defined and explored to poignant effect within the festival through The Mother Tongue is Hungry; a Community Arts North West project from three multi-lingual performers, Abas Eljanabi, Farjana Kabir and Louison Kangombe. They present a series of short films, extracts of their new collaborative performance piece, invoking The Mother Tongue’s hunger for home, distant memories, change and revolution.

These learnings shaped our campaign and fuelled our passion to place meaningful coverage and tell specific stories; today’s features on DesiBlitz and Mancunian Matters and last week’s features on Creative Tourist, Asian Image and Manchester’s Finest will provide a small flavour of support for the celebration in the media so far.

City of Literature’s Community Engagement Manager Reece Williams being interviewed on BBC Radio Manchester’s Breakfast Show on Sunday 21st Feb, as well as Chairperson Zahid Hussain and poet Anjum Malik joining The Big Debate Show on BBC Asian Network on Tuesday 23rd will be lovely pieces to listen out for.

From a personal point of view, I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of celebrating the strength in our great city’s linguistic diversity, and I’m looking forward to the wonderfully varied events that make up Manchester’s International Mother Language Day festival, each sharing different insights and perspectives.

Obviously, you may not have the luxury of time to take a look at everything that the celebration has offer, so Sundae’s top picks would be Our City of Languages: an afternoon of films, talks, interviews and performance broadcast live from Manchester Poetry Library and hosted by Hafsah Bashir, Decolonising Mother Tongues: a panel on decolonising translation and looking at playwright Amber Lone’s work with women from, charity for migrant women, Safety4Sisters and Multilingual Mushaira: an event featuring poetry on the theme of Friendship by schoolchildren across Manchester hosted by poet Anjum Malik.

If you do one thing this February, take the time to embrace the unique connection that only art, literature and poetry can give you to others… while having a helluva lot of fun in the process.

Friendship and acceptance are universal but they start right here.

Tom x


Image courtesy of Manchester City of Literature




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