The People's River

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.

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.

Photographs taken and selected by Ged from the Many Hands Craft Collective for the People's River project

Line of a poem written by Hannah Gaunt for the peoples river project
The People's River photographs taken by Liz Long and Liz Wewiora
Cyanotype prints from the peoples river project

The People's River Photography Exhibitions open Thursday 20th May

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

Two temporary outdoor exhibitions will be 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 will be 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.

Picture taken by the Many Hands Craft Collective which will feature in the people's river walking route app

New digital heritage walking trail coming soon on Love Exploring 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. 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.

The trail is available to download from Thursday the 20th May.

To download the free app please visit the Love Exploring website at and once downloaded search for the 'Irk Valley Heritage Trail'. Or alternatively search for 'Love Exploring' app directly on either the Apple Store or the Google Store.

The People's River Toolkit

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

The People's River project is coordinated in partnership with the organisation Wupperverband in the city of Wuppertal, Engels’ birthplace in Germany, as part of their celebration of Engels’ birth (‘Engels 2020’).

The project has been funded by Manchester City Council through their Neighbourhood Investment Fund and Economic Regeneration Fund.

Image Credits:
Top image - various photographs from the HMG Paints Ltd archive and documentary photographs of the site today by Liz Wewiora.

Second row of images left to right - Collection of Photographs by Many Hands Craft Collective, an excerpt of a poem by Hannah from the Friends of Angel Meadow, Collection of Photographs by Liz from the Friends of Angel Meadows.
Third image - Collection of Cyanotypes created by the walking groups at No. 93 Wellbeing Centre in Harpurhey.
Fourth image - Photograph taken by the Many Hands Craft Collective and Members of the Collyhurst Big Local.
Bottom image - The People's River project graphics by Imagine CGA: Graphic Design Studio

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