A short film highlighting the outreach and public engagement work of the Multilingual Manchester (MLM) research unit at The University of Manchester has been launched.

Being Part of the City: Multilingual Manchester was edited by Matylda Wierietielny, a graduate of the University’s Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology, who created the concept together with the MLM research team.

The film draws on footage collected between 2015 and 2018 at various MLM events. It opens with scenes from the launch event of an online resource on the dialects of Kurdish, created as part of the AHRC funded language documentation project.

It gives a glimpse of the work of Manchester Arabic School, one of a network of schools that form part of MLM’s Supplementary School Support Platform, launched in 2017 to assist in the transmission of community and heritage languages.

The video also shows an example of creative engagement in a state school around the topic of languages and art in partnership with Community Rail Lancashire, and captures the atmosphere of Levenshulme Language Day, a family-friendly activity run by MLM in 2015 and again in 2017 to celebrate language diversity.

There are also scenes of MLM’s student volunteer activity, which attracts over 100 participants every year, many of whom support English conversation sessions at partner community centres around the city, and from public discussions on the relevance of language provisions in public services.

The commentary addresses the role of expertise in public engagement, the process of reciprocal enquiry involving students and stakeholders, and the pitfalls of researchers providing outreach support and offering a community vision while avoiding the role of service deliverers and advocates/lobbyists.

Multilingual Manchester was founded in 2009-2010 as a unique model that brings together research, undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, and outreach and public engagement. Its thematic focus is on language diversity in the city. It runs a cross-Faculty student volunteer scheme and a Faculty-based PhD student placement scheme, and has a strong public engagement portfolio. MLM aims to raise awareness of language diversity among University staff and students and key stakeholders in the city, and to actively engage with local communities and public service providers around the challenges and opportunities of multilingualism. It also pilots a model of civic university engagement, by creating a setting in which students and staff contribute to the work of local stakeholders by providing and using this engagement as a fruitful setting to trial research ideas and gain research insights.