Multilingual Streets artwork installed at Burnage Academy

A new vinyl artwork has been installed at Burnage Academy, Manchester, which shows a collaborative response by Year 9 pupils to the languages and cultures of Rusholme. The artwork was conceived as a sensory map representing the colours, shapes and signs in the linguistic landscape. The work is the result of a series of workshops in June and July 2019 led by Dr Jessica Bradley at the University of Sheffield, freelance artist-researcher Dr Louise Atkinson and Professor Yaron Matras at Multilingual Manchester.

During the workshops, the young people used artistic methods including drawing, photography and collage to produce individual works which were then digitised and combined to create an overall image representing their experience of the Rusholme area. The process of using artistic methods to explore these questions opened up new possibilities for understanding as the young people needed to analyse and interpret the images around them, in order to re-present their findings.

The artworks explored current research into the ways in which language represents the culture and demographics of an area and asks questions about the languages we see and hear, and the functions these languages perform. This enabled the young people to think analytically about the world around them and introduced them to new ways of researching and working independently.

In producing the artwork and engaging in questions of language and culture, the young people were also able to reflect on their own experiences of multilingualism and the diversity of language which surrounds them, encouraging them to experiment with new scripts as well as their existing repertoire.

Burnage Academy Head of Languages Mr Morrison said, ‘we’re really pleased to see the artwork up in our canteen. The project was a great success, thanks to the hard work of staff at school, the range of academics involved, and of course our students – who put so much into the research. It was a large part of the Language and EAL Faculty’s Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural offer, something that is very important to us here at Burnage. The work that we do with Multilingual Manchester, including the Multilingual Streets project, helps us to promote languages in school and support students in fostering a love of the languages that they may already speak’.

Project principal investigator Dr Jessica Bradley said ‘we were so impressed with the way the young people approached the activities and the images they created. We’d like to thank Denise Bowler at the Whitworth Gallery and Clare Haywood, Alex Robertson and Leonie Gaiser from Multilingual Manchester for their support in hosting and facilitating the workshops’.

The Multilingual Streets project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Open World Research Initiative through the Cross Language Dynamics Reshaping Community programme. It is led by Dr Jessica Bradley, School of Education, University of Sheffield, working with artist-researcher Dr Louise Atkinson and Multilingual Manchester. A series of project toolkits for schools is being produced and will be available to download from the project website in 2020.

More information about Multilingual Manchester is available here.