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28th November 2018

Rusholme Heritage Project: ‘Documenting Life in the Curry Mile’

Louis Haddad reviews The Rusholme Heritage Project’s latest exhibition ‘Documenting Everyday Life in the Curry Mile’, reflecting on the vibrancy of a road we pass everyday
Rusholme Heritage Project: ‘Documenting Life in the Curry Mile’
Photo: Alex Pepperhill @ Flickr

As part of MACFestlocal photographer and member of ‘The Rusholme Heritage Project’ Phil Portus presented his latest project. The talk and exhibition, which took place at the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, offered a brilliant insight into a project that aims to capture a community in all its vibrancy.

Living as a student in Manchester can mean travelling up and down this road constantly, if not popping in for the odd curry, kebab, or international food shopping experience. However, this project dives deeper into appreciating the people, places, and culture that make the Curry Mile such a famous, loved, and amazing place to be.

This project sees a group of local artists and photographers capturing portraits, stories, and social events on the Curry Mile throughout 2018. It is significant both as a piece of social history and as an exhibition of local artists. Indeed, part of the project’s aim is to secure funding for a permanent archive so that everyone can enjoy the legacy of this ever-changing community.

The talk defined this project as the capturing of a moment in a greater history of the Curry Mile. Portus led the audience through the fascinating history of Wilmslow road and Rusholme to set the scene for the contemporary embodiment of the area that this project captures.

By the 1990s and early 2000s, locals estimate that there were more than 50 curry houses along the ‘mile’. Yet times have changed, and now just 8 curry houses remain, having been replaced by a dazzling array of sweet shops, takeaways, barbers, and Arabic and other Middle Eastern Restaurants.

The use of mixed media to capture the vibrant life of such a culturally diverse area makes for a fascinating piece of social history. Video interviews, in particular, show the people who work and live in the area’s stories of why people come to Rusholme, what it is like to be part of this community, and how it is has changed over time.

A kaleidoscopic breadth of colour is a stand-out feature of the photography, as it captures a spirited and dynamic community in its day-to-day life. Everything one associates with the Curry Mile — rows of brightly coloured vegetable stands, to clouds of shisha vapour billowing from outdoor seating areas and neatly coiffed men maintaining their sharp looks at the barbers — are shown in their true exuberance.

One of the main themes that shines through much of the work in this project, is the warmth of the Rusholme community. Portus recounted wonderful stories of the kind and welcoming people who made this project possible, and this can be seen in the smiles and energy of each picture. The happiness people experienced to talk and have their photo taken, shows that this is a project which captures a community which is proud of its cultural identity.

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