Making a Difference: celebrating success

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This guest post from Wendy Gallagher, our Head of Civic Engagement and Education, shares the amazing work that was recognised by the University of Manchester in the annual Making a Difference Awards.

The University of Manchester’s Making a Difference Awards are an annual celebration of the outstanding work carried out by the University community of staff, students, alumni and external partners. It is a chance to demonstrate and celebrate the differences people make in communities and beyond, covering a range of social responsibility projects and activities both from students and staff. In what can only be described as a previously unthinkable and challenging year for our museum staff, the young people we work with, and many of our external partners, some truly amazing things were achieved, and it was fantastic to see these efforts gaining recognition at this year’s Making a Difference Awards.

Film studio set in the museum
Making a Difference Awards: filming in the Museum’s Living Worlds Gallery

The evening was broadcast live from the Museum’s Living Worlds Gallery, with Julian Skyrme, Director of Social Responsibility, joined by Lemn Sissay, the University’s Chancellor, via Zoom. Not only did the Museum provide a beautiful setting – what Julian Skyrme described as “Manchester’s finest and most socially responsible TV studio” – but we also supplied 10 items from the collection that gradually appeared around Julian throughout the evening – a slightly crazy but fun sort of museum bingo. The lucky winners received a beautiful gift from the museum shop.

Man surrounded by museum objects
Museum Bingo: 10 museum objects surrounding the host, Julian Skyrme

There were nine award categories that offered people the chance to share some of their best social responsibility activity that has significantly impacted on peoples’ lives. Over 140 entries were submitted this year, with judges recognising 17 winners, 25 highly commended and six Covid special recognition awards. Manchester Museum really shone this year and we are super proud to share some of our successes:

Outstanding professional services for social responsibility:
Highly Commened: Manchester Museum from Home: A great example of collective endeavour at Manchester Museum. This project created of a platform of digital participatory activities and events as a response to the pandemic.
Highly Commended: Return of Cultural Heritage: Manchester Museum repatriation: Esme Ward, Stephen Welsh, Gillian Smithson, Irit Narkiss – Manchester Museum. This project involves unconditional repatriation of 43 cultural heritage objects to Australia’s First Nations peoples.

Outstanding contribution to widening participation
Winner: Project Inc. Manchester Museum Partnership: An innovative partnership that aims to deliver much-needed educational provision, and make Manchester Museum more accessible for neuro-diverse young people. A special thank you to Lisa Alberti, Alice Demba, and all of the team and young people at Project Inc, and Anna Bunney at Manchester Museum.

  • Award acceptance speech

Outstanding public and community engagement initiative: Outstanding contribution by our cultural institutions
Winner: Young People in Museums as part of South Asian Heritage Month: This is a project that engaged young people to celebrate the diverse heritage of South Asian history and culture. A massive thank you to the SAHM project team: Barinur Rashid, Dr Sadia Habib, Nusrat Ahmed. Chiara Ludolini, Michelle Scott, Roheema Yasmin, Hawwa Alam, Shafia Fiaz, Rissat Hassan, Samihah Muddabir, and Hannah Rustomjee (Manchester Museum) and Jill Richens, Issy Cecil, and Parvinder Marwaha (British Council).

  • Award acceptance speech

After the Award Ceremony our director, Esme Ward, joined Lemn Sissay and Julian Skyrme for an ‘in conversation’ session to discuss the impacts of lockdown on the cultural sector. As Esme described, as challenging and exhausting as the last year has been, it also provided a moment to do things differently; “to listen and to accelerate some of the work we’ve been doing, particularly around what it really means to care in the city and for the people we work with“.

Conversation between 3 people, one on a zoom screen
Esme Ward, Lemn Sissay and Julian Skyrme in conversation

The amazing success of the Museum’s highly commended and winning projects is just the tip of the iceberg: this year has truely been a rollercoaster, and the night most definitely reminded us of the amazing highs we’ve experienced. Well done to everyone involved!

A full list of the winners and highly commended projects can be found on the Social Responsibility website, and you can watch the Making A Difference Awards ceremony on the University’s YouTube channel.

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