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If Manchester was an animal, what kind would it be?

Delivering the CityVerve project in Manchester

There are many things that make Manchester a great city, so many in fact that it would take too long to list (okay we may be biased). But, as our city grows, so do its demands, pressures and opportunities. And, these not only impact us as individuals but in many ways shape how we perceive our city.

One area of demand is the quality of air in Manchester. With the positive changes created through CityVerve – how would cleaner air change our experience of Manchester?

We asked a group of 30 children, aged 2 – 10 (and their parents) to answer this question in a visual arts workshop at August’s community forum.  We wanted to find out how these changes have shaped the perception of children; how they see the city of Manchester as it currently is and how it could be with cleaner air.

In the workshop, children visualised the process of the city becoming a more efficient and healthier place to live. The workshop ties into the work carried out through CityVerve, which aims to transform Manchester into a smart city. Through one of its initiatives, information gathered through smart sensors will allow appropriate action to be taken to make the city air cleaner.

How do we currently experience Manchester?

So, with air quality as the theme, we began the workshop with discussions about how both children and parents felt about Manchester.

We asked them to share how they experienced Manchester with their five senses. The overall feeling was a sense of pride about the city, but with an honest insight into their experiences. Smells centred around food, car fumes, cigarette smoke and sewage smells (with a mention of flowers to make us feel better). All of these highlighting a need for cleaner air.

The list for hearing was almost as long with sirens, music, cars, cheering, busses, and alarms – the city seemed to be a loud place for children. Tastes mostly centred on food with some children saying they could taste a ‘cloudiness’ or ‘wateriness’.

Imagining Manchester as an animal.

We continued the workshop by asking the parents and children to imagine and draw Manchester as an animal. We challenged them to dig a little deeper and think about what body parts it would need as an animal, taking into consideration Manchester and its environment.

The drawings showed animals presented with fur to keep them warm, others, with waterproof skin (handy in Manchester…). Some of the children imagined Manchester with elephant ears to waft away pollution, or a peacock because “Manchester is proud and full of beautiful people”. Some imagined Manchester with owl eyes with a thriving nightlife, and one of our favourite, “colourful like a chameleon”.

How can Manchester transform with cleaner air?

We asked parents and children how their animals could be different in a more connected city with cleaner air. We shared ‘Super Powers’ corresponding to navigation, sight and speed that could be gained through cleaner air quality. The groups were then invited to transform their existing animal to incorporate these new super powers.

At this stage of the workshop, the children got out their paint brushes and formed their new Manchester creature.

Take a look at the video below to grab the best highlights of the day:

Our next community forum event is on 27th September 2017 at Z Arts in Hulme, and aims to inspire and motivate fitness lovers and PE dodgers alike to get physical, explore the neighbourhood and make friends.