The People’s River Project

The People’s River was a community-led project delivered by Manchester Histories who collaborated with people who live and work along the River Irk in North Manchester. The project aimed to reveal and share the often hidden histories and stories of people’s heritage in a creative way.

Two people in park you can only see their backs they are looking at an photography exhibition held between some trees
Women looking at a wall with signs on you can only make out the first sign which says and where we exist in harmony
Back of heads of man and woman looking at a set of photography on a pin board

The project is inspired by and designed to commemorate the bicentenary of Friedrich Engels’ birth and his connection to the industrial river. Engels, a German socialist philosopher, wrote about the River Irk in his 1845 essay ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’, based on his experiences in Manchester.

During Covid-19, Artist and Photographer Liz Wewiora worked with groups from Many Hands Craft Collective and members of Collyhurst Big Local, employees of HMG Paints Ltd, walking groups from the No. 93 Wellbeing Centre and the Friends of Angel Meadow. Through online and individual socially distanced workshops they have walked, explored and shared stories about the hidden histories of the Irk Valley.

Photography, poetry and cyanotype prints made by the various groups working with Liz Wewiora were put on display in three locations across Manchester from Thursday 20th May until Sunday 20th June 2021.

Two temporary outdoor exhibitions were installed in Queen’s Park in Harpurhey and St Michael’s Flags in Angel Meadows Park. A third permanent display of the work made by users of the No. 93 Wellbeing Centre is now on display in the art and therapy rooms of the Centre.

The photographs and poetry made by the groups reflect the Irk Valley’s ever changing landscape, exploring ideas of personal journeys, community, nature and regeneration. The cyanotype process acts as a reminder of both the surrounding nature and the local industrial history which has shaped the Irk Valley from Engel’s period to today.

Digital Heritage Walking App

During the various workshops members of the community groups shared stories about the local area with one another. Some of these hidden histories have been documented on a new heritage walking trail which can be followed using the Love Exploring app. Or you can see a snapshot of the trail on our website here. Be guided around the Irk Valley and listen to people from Collyhurst as they describe the heritage of the area, their memories of the streets and the people who once lived there.

To download the free app please visit the Love Exploring website at Or alternatively search for ‘Love Exploring’ app directly on either the Apple Store or the Google Store. Once downloaded you’ll need to sign up to the app by making your own account with an email and password. When you’re ready to go simply search for the Manchester area and scroll down until you find ‘Irk Valley – The People’s River’ trail.

Check out excerpts of the digital trail here.

Do you want to learn more about Friedrich Engels?

Then please download our brand new educational toolkit for free

View the Issuu version here
Download the pdf. of the toolkit here

The booklet introduces Engels life, his work and his connection with Manchester. Each chapter has its own creative activity at the end. You can choose to respond however you would like to each activity.

You may wish to respond in the form of a poem, song, rap, a short story or perhaps you would prefer to sketch a drawing or take a photograph. However, you want to express yourself. Each activity in the booklet is designed to take only a few minutes at a time and can be done alone, with friends, members of your family, your neighbours or work colleagues over a brew.

Once you have completed all the activities we would love to see your responses. Send them in an email to us via this email address

“Well, I certainly think it has benefited myself, it has made me slow down, look at my local area in a different way, chat to other people about the local area. I feel better for being out. I think it is really important to do this with other people to and share it with other people, which also benefits the rest of the community.”

Community member
Group of people stood in a park in front of wooden structure exhibiting a photography exhibition

24 Participants from the local community took part in the project

People standing in Angel Meadow park looking at an photography exhibition set between trees

5725 Estimated audience members who visited the temporary exhibitions

Man cutting up photographs behind a table of photography negatives

200+ Printed toolkits received