On Saturday 27th June, I spoke at the Twin Cities in Past and Present conference organised by the Manchester Centre for Regional History at the Manchester Metropolitan University.
The purpose of the conference was to explore the issues of identity in nearby twin cities and how and why such identities either merge or even often stay separate. Focussing on the cities of Manchester and Salford, it looked at relationships of dominance, subordination or equality. It also looked at issues of rivalry, co-operation or indifference that can arise between twin cities in social, economic and political terms.
I touched on a number of issues in my talk. Firstly, that whilst both Manchester and Salford face a number of challenges, be they in terms of deprivation, government cuts or identity, both are at a unique advantage purely by virtue of being cities.
Cities are fast becoming the powerhouses of today’s world economy and it is estimated by 2030, over 90 percent of global GDP will result from urban activity.
Cities are changing all the time, new ones are born, some die and some change so much that it can difficult to recognise them a decade down the line.
But identity remains a complex and important issue and between Manchester and Salford in particular, there exists a sense that Salford, the smaller of the two, can be engulfed or overshadowed by Manchester. This certainly has repercussions in both economic and political terms. Companies located in Salford often deliberately identify themselves as Manchester based as they feel this would attract more business.
We are also now presented with the prospect of a Mayor of Greater Manchester due to be elected in 2017. Whilst this is sure to bring some benefits to the region, economically and politically speaking, its also raises a number of questions with regards to how the 10 separate Greater Manchester authorities will merge under this set up. There is certainly no desire for each to be engulfed by one giant City of Manchester risking losing the autonomy and identities of each. But it also does provide the opportunity for each to work better together, in a dynamic of partnership, equality and co-operation rather than one of dominance.
We must recognise that our strength lies in our diversity and difference. It is through making the most of our unique identities and talents, like highly skilled labour, our location and connectivity, that our cities will find their competitive niche to thrive in the global economy.
This is why it is important to recognise that both Manchester, Salford and the remaining Greater Manchester authorities will recognise their greatest potential, not by causing some to lose their identities to others, but by preserving and promoting the individual and unique identities of all so that we can mutually benefit from each other.