Back in early 2014 we met with Helen Malarky at the Institute of Humanities and Social Science Research of Manchester Metropolitan University to discuss a truly ambitious documentary. We would find eight local people who had been teenagers in each decade from the 1940s to the present day and interview them about their experiences as a young person of their era. Then we would weave the interviews into a documentary using footage from the Northwest Film Archive.
Meeting the participants and hearing their stories has been a huge privilege; from Joan who was a munitions worker and avid dancer in 1940s Radcliffe to Mog who went from hippy to punk in 1970s Manchester and beyond to the cosmopolitan Naomi a teen in the teens who has lived in more than five different countries! We just loved getting our teeth into this creative project and having access to the incredible treasure trove of local history that is the North West Film Archive.
The main challenge for us was editing so much fascinating information down to a 40 minute documentary. We looked for common threads in the participants’ stories on themes such as love and romance, education, work, fashion and popular culture. It was intriguing to see what had changed over the years and which aspects of teenage life seemed to have remained a constant.
Experiences of education were vastly different, for example, whereas image and wanting to achieve a certain look seemed important for everyone. All the participants had some interesting advice to for young people of today.
I found out some interesting facts about Manchester, too! Did you know, Stretford B&Q used to be the Hard Rock discotheque? Or that you used to be able to spend a whole afternoon in Virgin Records lounging on beanbags smoking cigarettes and listening to the latest tunes? Personally if I could go back to any of these decades I’d choose Mog’s experience from the 1970s. What about you?