Southern Voices is a network of people committed to bringing the knowledge and understanding of Southern* and Black** people to the global issues that are central to education and to living in the world today.
Formed in October 1990, and originally named the Southern Voices Project, it was the brainchild and inspiration of a group of post-graduate students from the various Manchester universities and founded by them with the support of exiles, Diaspora and local British people. It was a critical response to the exclusion of Southern people in discussions as well as the negativity in images and information of the Global South. This included information generated in classrooms, learning institutions and ‘development’ charities.
A central objective was to investigate the educational potential of involving people from the South in development education activity, mostly in schools. The group set out to make links in a limited and ‘intensive’ way, focusing particularly on children in primary schools, groups already concerned with development issues in the broadest sense and people from the South studying in three departments in the University of Manchester.
From the beginning, a core principle for the group was to initiate and grow an active network of people and groups who were committed to making ‘Southern Voices’ heard more loudly, clearly and often, and on their own terms.
Southern Voices’ original focus was the relationship and issues affecting the countries of the South and the North and it aimed to bring southern voices to fora where these issues were analysed, debated, policy decided and knowledge negotiated but where Southern perspectives were seldom heard.
Southern Voices’ works across sectors. Some of these are youth and community groups, formal sector education, development education centres, heritage, voluntary and statutory sectors.
We use different mechanisms to implement our aims. We have:
- run thematic workshops and ‘learning’ sessions (believing that in an exchange everyone learns)
- organised conferences on issues of topical and educational concern (such as southern perspectives on sustainability or interdependence)
- organised focused and comparative workshops (for instance examining poverty in both the South and North)
- written on development and educational themes, contributing to publications for schools.
- responded to requests from various groups including working closely with church and Charity groups on Jubilee 2000 and ‘debt’ issues.
- Worked in partnership with various groups: Southern Voices has been on the Board of the World Studies Trust (WST); the North West Global Education Network (NWGEN); the Board of British Overseas NGOs (BOND); One World Linking (UKOWLA); and the Community Advisory Panel (CAP) of the Manchester Museum
- run mini-projects with Community Groups and Museums. For example, we ran a series of workshops with Stockport Hat Museum and schools (Every Object Tells a Story) as well as Manchester Museum (Object Stories) and a Women’s Research Project.
Intercultural and anti-racist themes issues are integral to this kind of work and have always been core to Southern Voices. In recent years, this core work has become more explicit and visible and we have found ourselves, inevitably working at the interface of international/intercultural/ anti-racist work.
Financial support to Southern Voices
Southern Voices was initially funded in 1992 by the Voluntary Services Overseas, had substantial funds from the European Union over 10 years with additional grants from Oxfam, Christian Aid, the Methodist Relief and Development Fund and Community Awards.
From 2008 to 2011 we received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to work with the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)on ‘Textile Heritage: Weaving Stories’. This project explored the impact of the cotton industry on the countries colonised by the British and its continuing influence on the world today. It featured an exhibition and workshop series supported by educational materials. Since then we have continued to attract community awards grants and youth and community grants to run workshops.
In 2015, Southern Voices raised funds again from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop the Out of the Shadows project with a focus on the perspectives of colonised countries and their involvement in World War One.
The UK is in the throes of change that could be exciting and enriching but is currently negative, fearful and xenophobic. Southern Voices is managed by a group of people from different backgrounds and ethnicities, united by their commitment to its aims and active through the years while the project sought more substantial funds.
Our vision as Southern Voices is to go beyond mere tolerance and to exemplify through our work that differences can be exciting and creative; that points of tension are also shoots of new growth and that learning demands reflection and changes in ourselves as well as others.
Our aim is to make an enduring contribution to achieving this vision.
*Southern is used to refer to people who can trace their roots to countries in the Global South or so-called ‘developing’ world.
**Black is used as a political expression by all minority ethnic groups in the UK who feel or share a common experience of racism and discrimination