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School of Arts, Languages and Cultures

Maps of Manchester immigration

Digital maps of immigrant populations in Manchester have informed local policy and raised public awareness about ethnic diversity and settlement in the city.

A street in Oldham, Greater Manchester
A street in Oldham, Greater Manchester.

Our mapping has highlighted the importance of immigrants in Manchester’s history through two large public exhibitions and teaching resources for schools. We also informed policy development in Oldham Council with our briefing on the area’s history of ethnic settlement.

Dr Laurence Brown used computerised mapping methods, known as GIS, to visualise how immigration has steered Manchester’s development and how migrants were transformed by social change within the city.

His work has provided historical insights for several exhibitions, educational resources and outreach initiatives:

  • Manchester Caribbean Carnival 2007 – information stall about the history and influence of immigration
  • Manchester Histories Festival 2009 – one of six thematic displays featuring maps of immigrant settlement in the city, visited by 4,000 people
  • Project '81 – Brown advised and supported this local history project which explored the impact of the 1981 riots on Manchester’s Caribbean community, ending in a touring exhibition, the creation of school teaching resources and workshops in local secondary schools
  • Manchester Histories Festival 2012 - lectures and talks in local schools and colleges
  • Discussion featuring Caribbean scholar Erna Brodber on Peace FM, a community radio station based in Moss Side

In 2012 Oldham Council asked Dr Brown to help it create maps and other materials to visualise the dynamics of ethnic communities in the borough. With colleagues he delivered two briefing papers mapping Oldham’s changing ethnic geographies and analysing the relationships between the built environment, housing tenure and migration flows within the area.

The research is now being used to help the council develop models of population growth and change that will provide demographic forecasts for policy and strategic planning.

Dr Brown's maps have provided historical insights for several exhibitions, educational resources and outreach initiatives

2500 people carnival info-graphic
2,500 people visited the Project '81 tent at the Manchester Caribbean Carnival.

Our research

The research took place in three distinct phases:

  • Phase 1 (2006-2010): Reconstructing the interactions between global routes of migration to Britain, using GIS to connect census data, oral history and archival research to visualise ethnic settlement within Greater Manchester
  • Phase 2 (2011): Examining the Moss Side riots of 1981, using spatial analysis to locate these events within the broader social, economic and demographic changes of the Caribbean community
  • Phase 3 (2011-13): Developing new approaches to the visualisation of ethnic settlement by connecting census demographic data, geographies of the built environment and archival research.

Key findings:

  • Areas once stigmatised as immobile ghettos in Moss Side and Oldham actually experienced considerable population change with the arrival of new immigrants and considerable movement within census boundaries
  • The dynamics of social networks and community activism within areas such as Moss Side have been powerfully shaped by the everyday life of migrant communities

Lead academics

  • Dr Laurence Brown
  • Mr Niall Cunningham