Long-lost voices of Cheetham Hill’s Jewish community unveiled in new MIF film

Manchester Jewish Museum may no longer be a functioning shul but it still has plenty of stories hidden within its walls. Turner prize-winning artist Laura Prouvost explores them for MIF.

Georgina Pellant Georgina Pellant - 7th July 2021

Manchester Jewish Museum has finally reopened its doors to the public, following two years of forced closure and a huge £6m refurbishment to the original Grade II-listed Portuguese and Spanish synagogue building.

As part of its grand reopening, the newly-renovated museum has partnered with the Manchester International Festival (MIF) to commission a new film and art installation to tell the long-lost stories of Cheetham Hill’s Jewish community.

The Ark at Manchester Jewish Museum still holds a set of Torah scrolls on loan from the original community, which shifted to a new building in Salford in the early 1980s.

Teams also uncovered a hidden time capsule containing newspapers, old coins and synagogue minutes dating back to the 1870s during the renovation process.

Suffice to say, it certainly still has plenty of stories hidden within its walls – many of which are now being revealed as part of a new MIF film currently on display from Turner-prize winner Laura Provost.


Called The long waited, weighted, gathering, the installation aims to explore the long-lost voices of Manchester’s Jewish community: transforming The Ladies’ Gallery in the historic synagogue into an immersive installation space.

Laura Provost’s work is on display until 19 July for MIF / Image:
A hidden time capsule containing newspapers, old coins and synagogue minutes dating back to the 1870s
A secret time capsule uncovered during the renovation process / Image: Manchester Jewish Museum

Shot inside the gallery and the surrounding Cheetham Hill area, the installation features as a major part of the reopening of the newly redeveloped Manchester Jewish Museum.


Award-winning artist Prouvost has explored the museum’s extensive collection to discover the stories behind past congregants of the synagogue: unearthing the stories of the Manchester women who once found comfort and community within its walls.

Her films are often accompanied by objects to evoke its themes and imagery, and The long waited, weighted, gathering is no exception.

She has also been working alongside the Museum’s resident Women’s Textiles Group, and their materials are being incorporated within the installation to give a voice to modern women in the local community as well as those from days past.

Image: Alys Williams
Image: Harry McKinley

The museum houses over 31,000 items in its collection, many of which are now going on display for the first time; sharing stories of Jewish Manchester by exploring universal themes of migration, communities, and identities.

Located in Cheetham Hill, it’s the only Jewish museum of its kind in the UK outside of London. 

Following the recent upgrades to the building, funded by a two-year £6 million Capital Development project and a £2.89m National Heritage Lottery grant, it now boasts an architecturally impressive extension and new veggie kosher-style café and kitchen – where schools and community groups can develop a greater understanding of the Jewish way of life.

Its 1874 Spanish and Portuguese synagogue has also been fully restored, whilst further new additions include a shop and learning studio for community events.

From personal letters and photographs to more eclectic items like a herring chopper and an English-Hebrew teapot, there is a huge range of objects on display.


Find out more here.

Featured image – Manchester Jewish Museum / Ruth Allan