On a sunny Saturday morning at the end of August, I travelled to Radcliffe Library to record the visit of the Manchester Voices project, this being the ‘umbrella’ term for a series of research projects investigating and celebrating the accents and dialects of Greater Manchester.
Manchester Voices is the idea of Dr Rob Drummond and Dr Erin Carrie from the Department of Linguistics at Manchester Metropolitan University. They aim to capture the different dialects of Greater Manchester by asking people questions about their different accents and dialects, and how they feel their accent shapes their sense of local identity. Over two weeks Dr Drummond, Dr Carrie and their two MMU student assistants toured around the region in their splendid red van, enticing people aboard with the prospect of their voice being captured for posterity, as well as supporting academic research into understanding how the way in which we speak helps to make us who we are.
As Archivist and keen advocate of the preservation of local customs and heritage, I duly clambered aboard to record my contribution.Once settled in with just Chester the talking laptop as my guide, I tapped the screen and began to speak… The questions posed concerned identity, belonging and how I felt about my accent and where I lived. It’s hard not to feel a little self-conscious, with the awareness that I was occasionally lapsing, Hyacinth Bucket-style, into my ‘posh telephone voice’. I soon snapped out of it however, and began to relax and enjoy the interrogation! I recalled when, whilst briefly living ‘down South’ in the late 1980s, I reduced the office to hysterics when I asked if anyone wanted ‘a brew’. “Ooh you sound just like someone off Coronation Street” they said! This was an interesting observation to me as I had never thought of my accent as being particularly broad (although on several occasions I have been asked if I am from Blackburn). To this day I am also unsure as to which Coronation Street character I reminded them of…
The second part of the project will be the creation of a Greater Manchester Dialect Map, an interactive resource whereby people can describe their own dialect and how they think people speak in other areas.
For more information about the project and to contribute to the Dialect Map, visit http://www.manchestervoices.org