Manchester has long been famous for its music scene, but the Northern city’s ties to Hip Hop are lesser known than its links with the post-punk scene. That will soon change with the creation of Manchester Hip Hop Archives (MHHA).
The announcement of the archive thanks to a grant of £343,000 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to Unity Radio, marks a double celebration for the team as the station marks its 10th birthday on December 10th.
Following the award, the project got underway just ahead of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown being declared. Thankfully, the team were able to work through the unusual circumstances and have been hard at work laying the foundations for MHHA.
Despite the project’s unconventional start, the team are gearing up to share what they’ve discovered and unveil some of the never-before-shared stories of the youth movement from the Northern English city.
Although hip hop culture is synonymous with cities across America, such as New York and Atlanta, the archives will reveal that Manchester has its own collection of fascinating stories to be shared.
These include memories from Robert McFarlane, also known as Prince Kool, who was the UK’s first rap champion in 1987, winning the DMC UK Rap completion at the Hippodrome in London, and has been appointed as the Chair for MHHA.
His role as a founding member of the ‘Rock The House Crew,’ that played a significant role in the city’s Hip Hop scene in its early days, and how he created the first ‘Manchester Rap Competitions’ at Fielden Park Young People’s Centre, West Didsbury in 1989 and 1990, will also feed into the archives.
Despite the prevalence of hip hop culture in art, clothing and music, and the ever-growing popularity of related genres like grime, the project team have found that many young people are unaware of where it all began and the role Manchester has played in its development.
Writer, broadcaster, activist, and former Hacienda DJ Dave Haslam, said:
“Manchester is a city full of stories, and with a popular culture that’s the envy of the world. I am lucky enough to have been around in the early days in the 1980s, and it’ll be a pleasure to help celebrate that scene, and all the subsequent eras – the fashions, the clubs, the studios, the record stores, all of it – and to rediscover the foundations which underpin the thriving music scene in Manchester’s right now. People know Manchester’s headline music history, but I love that now, thanks to Manchester Hip Hop Archives, we have a chance to celebrate an under-documented and under-appreciated part of that story, and the communities and the context. And we can share all that with the world and with the young. All our ideas and experiences will be re-energised by the younger kids; our past is fuel for their future.”
Manchester denizen and winner of the Urban Music Awards Best DJ 2020 accolade, DJ G-A-Z, added:
“Manchester played a significant role in the migration of Hip Hop into the UK in the early years, and this story has yet to be told. At a time that Manchester’s Rap sound has become the hottest in the UK , there has never been better time to celebrate our regional culture and history, and the Manchester Hip Hop Archive is set to do this!”
Hip hop has played a huge part in Manchester’s musical history and contemporary culture, and with the project focussing on the pre-Internet era of the movement, it is increasingly likely that stories and memories will be lost with many stories being committed to mediums like cassette and video tapes. By digitising the stories they can be shared with young people, who will be given the chance to delve into the archives and discover the impact hip hop has had on the politics and culture of the city.
Commenting on the project, David Renwick, Director of England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:
“Music is at the heart of Manchester’s heritage, and it is a city renowned for being at the forefront of many musical movements. The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened many of the music venues across the city, and it’s incredibly important that we support projects like this to make sure we keep this community history alive. We’re incredibly proud, that thanks to National Lottery players we can support the creation of Manchester Hip Hop Archives and ensure that the musical history that the city has nurtured over the years isn’t lost forever. We’re really excited to hear the memories that come out of the communities who lived through the action, and see the baton passed on to future generations to continue building the story.”
As part of the project, the team will be running events and courses in schools that will allow young people to discover this lesser-known history. Training opportunities will also be available to equip them with skills, such as recording oral histories, digital archiving and social media to empower them to continue the city’s hip hop story.
In order to deliver education assemblies, workshops and projects in schools, MHHA have partnered with One Education Music and MyHub – the music education hub for the City of Manchester.
Head of Music at One Education Ltd, Lindsay Thomas, said:
“We’re delighted to be working in partnership with Manchester Hip Hop Archives. These projects are closely aligned to our vision to support young people in Manchester with a coherent, diverse, and high quality musical journey which may have a lifelong impact on several areas of their lives. Promoting inclusive music making through a modern music curriculum is key to reaching all pupils – we believe that every child can be successful in and through music.”
In order to complete the archives, the team are also calling on the people of Manchester to contribute their stories, whether it be an iconic hip hop performance, creating a graffiti mural with a socio-political message, or setting up a pirate radio station.