The Flames, Oral History of Malawian People Living in Manchester was incepted on the 2nd January 2019. By this date the directors of St Hadrian had names of possible Malawi community members to be included in the project management committee arising from the consultations, discussions and meetings conducted on the consultancy stage whilst the need for this work was being ascertained. As based on the application submission, project proposal and agreements, the project set out to collect the Oral Histories on wedding ceremonies and Marriages of Malawian people living in Manchester. After several meetings and to make it more simpler as the title of the project, it was felt that; Flames, the Oral History of Malawian People Living in Manchester could be shortened to; “Flames Heritage Malawi.”
1.1 Activities Undertaken During the Period January – July 2019
- Appointment of management committee and the Project Manager.
- Oral History Training at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relationship Centre, 9 (nine) members attended.
- Online Research and books on Malawi traditions and practices for wedding ceremonies and marriages.
- Created the project website; flamesheritagemalawi.co.uk
- Held two community events with members of the community.
- Shared the information on the project at various for a.
- Engaged Malawian youth for a 3 (three) days web development seminar.
- Visited together with the youth, Manchester Museum to learn about heritage, migration in a broader context.
1.2 Appointment of Steering Management Committee and Project Manager
Upon meetings and deliberations, the following were recruited from the Malawi community in Manchester on voluntary basis as members of the project management committee and steering committee:
- Mr Chiwiriwiri Themba Sikwese.
- Mr Harry Kaliza.
- Miss Shallomy Kubwalo.
- Mrs Patuma Stambuli.
- Mr Mwalimbika Katsalira.
All accepted and agreed to be the steering for the project and the link to community members in Manchester.
Again upon deliberations and several meetings, it was agreed that Charles Kachitsa assume the post and role of the Project Manager for the Flames Heritage Malawi project. This was decided based on the work he was already doing for the organisation and his deep connections with not only the Malawi community but also other communities as the project was set to foremost promote social integration.
1.3 Flames Heritage Malawi Website Creation
In line with the project plan and schedule of activities, a website was created for the project which became live at the beginning of March 2019 after construction of basic content and other pages temperate. As the theme for the year was chosen as wedding ceremonies and marriages Oral History of Malawian people living in Manchester, it was resolved that for the year more content will be on those subjects. It was also designed to be user friendly for the youth and easier for teaching and repopulation by the youth on the web development seminars. The address for the website was chosen as: www.flamesheritagemalawi.co.uk .
It is capable of both hosting email addresses, other web pages to be developed by the youth, video content, social media integration and to be more interactive where visitors can leave comments.
The training was attended by 9 people from The Apostolic Order of St Hadrian of Canterbury as follows:
- Charles Leyman Kachitsa – Project Manager – author of this report
- Patuma Atima Stambuli – Management Committee member
- Tikhala Linda Chimpango
- Gift Chikapa
- Mary Tasowa Moyo
- Mwalimbika Katsalira – Management Committee member
- Charity Bygraves
- Allan Mandindi
- Chiwiriwiri Themba Sikwese – Management Committee member
The oral history training was conducted by Jennifer Vickers, the Community Engagement Manager at Ahmed Ullah Race Relation Centre, Education Trust with her two assistants.
The trainer started by building rapport with all attendees and explaining the meaning of Oral History in the context of the Flames Heritage Malawi project. Next it was looking at the objectives of carrying out a project like this one where she gave examples of other similar projects for example the Yemen group project.
The next segment Jennifer delivered how interviews should be conducted and questions to be asked which elaborated on encouraging use of open-ended questions as opposed to closed questions. It was also emphasised for interviewers to be proactive when designing and asking the question as these if done correctly bring people’s life stories alive.
It was advised that the interviews should be recorded using a high quality recorder. At the start of the recordings, the interviewer should make sure to capture the name of interviewee and date of the interview for easy reference when transcribing stage is reached. People being interviewed must be made to feel comfortable and in control of their story. Interviewer must make sure they are safe when visiting people’s homes for the exercise which if done alone it is always a standard safety procedure to let others know on going in and after coming out. A consent form must always be carried to the interview which must be shown at the beginning though the signing is to be done at the end.
Apart from a high quality recorder, other items to carry to the interview are spare batteries, a pad and pen for jotting any notes from the interview such as noting embargos as and when necessary.
The trainer advised that for the depositing of all material at Ahmed Ullah the following is the list of acceptable items: original recordings in WAV format without any editing, though in case of files for sharing on other channels like website they can be edited perhaps on using a software such as the highly recommended ‘Audacity.’ Also Index which documents mostly produced at the end of interviews, all consent forms for each recorded interview per respondent individuals. These are the mandatory items required, but additionally a summary containing a short biography of each individual interviewee with their index and or with transcripts. However, there is no mandatory requirement to compile transcripts although for good presentation they can be done.
Jennifer added that according to her experience for this kind of project it will be fine if 30 interviews are not attained as required. Few done may be for reasons of time constraints and or also because of the need to maintain high quality in the output. Also she advised that with oral history to be authentic originality audio recording is the most ideal method as opposed to video recording of the interviews as people may be conscious of the gadgets and therefore not act naturally. In this case she proposed doing the audios first and only going back to video interview only those selected few who will be included in the final video documentary at the end of the project.
Finally after a question and answer exercise, Jennifer the trainer assured that she is always available for assistance should there be need by the project manager and his team to clarity any aspects of the project. She promised to send through some templates for instance interview consent forms and other useful documents.
We have been able to reach out to communities through two Malawi community groups; Pamodzi and Women Aspire both in Manchester. Here below is our report for the events conducted at these groups:
3.1 Pamodzi Men’s Group
A predominantly men’s grouping of Malawians living in Manchester with the objective to bring together people, with the view of helping one another , the sharing of knowledge and seeking, assisting each other in times of need.
We were able to organise a meeting with the group members which took place in Manchester attended by 40 people. It was held on 2nd March 2019. The Project manager was able to present the aims, objectives and intended outcome of the project. Thereafter he engaged the audience into a debate on how the project can be enriched at the same time inviting them to participate in the various ways or roles including giving oral interviews, as event volunteers, making aware as well as bringing their children to the project events, and interaction with the project management at any time during its life.
The meeting ended through discussions of main themes for the project over a meal and some light refreshments. Members posed and consented to photo images which were taken and made available with the attendance sheet for the meeting.
3.2 Women Aspire Group
At the Women Aspire event, we were able to present about the project in collaboration with other speakers who spoke on the essence of the 21st Century woman. The briefing as presented by the Project’s manager and management committee member Mr Sikwese fitted well with the other topic. The debate that ensued at the end of the program following the main presentations, discussed what then would be the parameters necessary and ideal for adoption in marrying the practices of the twenty first century woman and the wedding ceremonies/ marriage practices of Malawians living in Manchester.
The event was attended by 70 (seventy) women, majority of which were of Malawian origin community members although other diverse communities were also well represented. It took place on 30th March 2019.
From the feedback received; the women acknowledged the project well with most indicating willingness to participate in various roles of the project including giving interviews. The attendees felt the project outcomes and the fact that younger and future generation will benefit from it as a more compelling resolve to contribute and be part of the project. It was observed that traditions and practices get lost in translation sometimes if they are not well defined and explained. This project was received as offering an opportunity for Malawian people in Manchester to explain why and how they choose particular practices, thus contributing to a larger scale to social integration of various communities in the country.
We had scheduled to train the youth in web development skills as one of the project objectives. For that reason a lecturer with the university of Derby, Mr Anisa Mkuwu was engaged to take the youth for the three days seminar. This happened during the half term holidays from 29th to 31st May 2019.
For the mobilisation of the youth we engaged Malawian churches and groups some of which have already been mentioned in the report by targeting the parents. Although the project had intended to train only 5 youths, because of higher interest we had 24 youth turning up. They were introduced to web design and made to design their own websites. The interface with the main Flames Heritage Website of these sites that were developed by the youth served the purpose of letting them know about the main themes, seeing what the objectives of the project are and seeing other information that will be required to develop it further. At the end of the seminar the youth were able to develop their own websites using the WordPress software with some doing that as a group exercise.
To sample the websites the youths developed, these can be accessed through the following web addresses:
Images and a list for attendees on each of the three days were obtained for the project’s records.
We were able to visit the Manchester Museum in the precinct of the Manchester University on Oxford Road with 20 youths accompanied by some adults.
The members and youth were able to learn about the importance of heritage to society. They were particularly fascinated with the museum’s ‘Future Heritage’ section that is now collecting artefacts from our modern era for preservation into the future.
Out of the visit we were also able to forge a relationship with the museum assurance of future collaboration for instance we were instantly invited to prepare an enactment of a wedding ceremony by the youth to be presented at the Museum in October 2019 as part of the project.
The youth were impressed with seeing some live animals and also preserved bodies of lifelike animals which they could have learnt about in school but had not sighted live. The trip proved to be one of the highlights of the project especially for the youth and perhaps a feature to maintain for future similar projects by this organisation. Images, photos and attendance sheets of the visit were taken for records.
The main activity of the project was planned as the Oral History interviews to be conducted with some Malawians living in Manchester on the subject of wedding ceremonies and marriages. As this report was been written the project had managed to interview 26 out of 30 people that includes couples counted as a unit (one). It was planned that the remaining four were to be done by end of the month July, 2019.
Already those interviewed expressed appreciation with the project as a tool for social integration. More so couples who had been interviewed most commented that going through the exercise was invigorating as they had experienced like they were renewing their vows by revisiting their courtship period, day they had a proposal with agreement for marriage and the experience, excitement that they were revisiting for their wedding ceremony and subsequent married or family life after.
For the interviewers it also felt to be a learning curve as they sat in interviews listening to different people narrating their different experiences and paths they had taken in life, also their understanding of wedding ceremonies and marriage. The author was particularly enthralled to gain more experience in research, in this case on heritage for Malawi people living in Manchester.
On the 15th July 2019, the project manager and one volunteer member were able to go and share the Flames Heritage Malawi Project to a wider audience that included the Mayor of Manchester City at the Manchester Central Library. The event was organised by the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relationship Centre housed within the Manchester Library, an organisation which will archive and manage the material produced on completion of this project.
General feedback after the Flames Heritage Malawi presentation was encouraging with most of the patrons expressing their appreciation on how the project sought to engage the Malawi community to share their Oral Histories on wedding ceremonies and marriages, a subject which is universal but more often cultural specific in terms of its practice. There was a feeling that a project such as this promotes deeper social integration and we were edged to plan and go on sharing about this project to as many audiences as possible.
A forum organised by the Manchester City Council where community leaders from different backgrounds share ideas on education, influence and eradication to youth particularly those in the danger of radicalised into extreme anti-societal views. The project manager has been able to attend the meetings to share ideas and strategies on how the intended group objectives can be operationalised into the fabrics of the various projects in and around Manchester.
8.2 Out of Africa – Afrojam Festival
The project manager became involved with the organisation, Out of Africa in its organising and planning of hosting a festival, the Afrojam Festival in the neighbourhood sponsored by the Manchester International Festival held on 25th May 2019. The festival featured music and cultural dances showcasing the various African traditions and practices. It also involved sampling of various African cuisines from four selected African nationalities represented in Manchester which included a Malawian caterer.
8.3 We stand Together – Social Integration
The project continues to engage with the wider community and the youth in Manchester through the We Stand Together organisation which is based in Manchester and promotes amongst its other objectives, social cohesion and tolerance between different cultures.
8.4 African Council UK
An umbrella body of African community organisations formed in Manchester. The project was able to engage and network for linking with other communities to share about the themes being undertaken but also to understand current pertinent issues taking shape in the community.
8.5 Africa Israel Partnership
This has been another forum for sharing of ideas especially learning from the Jewish community in Manchester who have had faced various challenges in the strive to integrate into the main stream multi-faceted society. Project members have had the opportunity to attend various events of the organisation where the Flames Heritage Malawi project was also shared.
8.6 Malawi Social Football Group
Several members of the management committee and the wider members, volunteers are involved with the Malawi Social Football group and have been able to share aspects of the project with people in it. Some of the project interviewees were recruited from this forum.
Majority of the Malawian people living in Manchester identify themselves as Christians and regular church goers. Therefore the project has been able to mostly engage with church leaders and also share with them updates about the project. Indeed, two of the project management committee members are church leaders which have made it easier for us to pass on information and in mobilising people for interviews, to events, engaging the youth as some invitations were sent through the churches. Because of the aforesaid our experience has been that to reach members of our community at times the church would have to be engaged at a certain level.
8.8 The British Army
The project manager was invited to attend an event celebrating the contribution of minority groups of people to the British Army, historically and present especially such nationalities from the Commonwealth countries. The event termed the inaugural Victoria Cross Day (VC Day) took place on the 30th May 2019 at the National Memorial Arboretum, celebrated Caribbean and African contributions to the British Army; recognising inspirational role models illustrative of over 200 years of distinguished service characterised by loyalty and courage to ensure that these contributions take their rightful place in the collective memory of the United Kingdom. It turned out to be a great event where various nationalities including serving army officers shared their stories and experience.
In carrying out the project it has not been all a smooth ride as there have been several challenges encountered along the way. However, solutions and challenges by the project management to overcome these have shown that properly addressing and adopting methods to counter the challenges if taken care of mean these cannot derail successful completion of the project. Some of these challenges have been:
- Organisation of Events
It was found out that to most people just calling them to an event with one specific theme such as the projects would not be attractive enough except perhaps for the end of project celebration. In that regard the two events that we were able to organise and participate in had auxiliary items. Also as stated in 8 above one of the strategies to enhance participation has been our strategy to meet people or engage them through invitation where we would most likely find them such as the church. The numbers so far attending the events have had indicated that the strategies that we are employing have worked.
- Project Costs
It has been experienced that some project costs were not factored in properly and or fully considered in the budget yet as emerging items have proved to be part and parcel of the project’s objectives. For instance the travel to the Museum as a cost was not itemised properly in the budget. Also we have realised that we could have put more in promotions and marketing as an important aspect of the project as it became clear when making presentations to wider groups/ communities that projects such as these are what people want to hear and that we should make them aware of its existence. More and more people have shown interest to host us for talks about the project.