Forever Young: eight decades of youth culture told by people who were there.

YouTube Link to Forever Young Film

Forever Young is a film about eight decades of youth culture told in the words of people whose ages range from their late-teens to their eighties. These interviews and the film’s title are a powerful reminder of how a sense of being young doesn’t disappear with the passage of time but continues to influence how individuals define themselves across adulthood.

Forever Young was never intended to be a representative account of what it is, or was, to be a teenager. Rather, it is an impressionistic portrayal of teenage lives across the decades, from the 1940s until the present day. The film is intended to challenge generational stereotypes of older and younger people and raise questions of what age means; what it means to be defined as young and what it means to be described as ‘old’.

Many different threads are woven into these stories about what it was and what it is to be a teenager. Some experiences remain strikingly familiar yet others suggest how much life has changed in the past seventy years. For Joan, the oldest interviewee who grew up in the 1940s, the term teenager would have had little meaning, as it was an American description which didn’t really start to be used in Britain until the 1950s.

For Alan, who entered his teens after the Second World War, the excitement of being young was associated with the advent of rock n’ roll. Popular music, from the mid-1950s, gave the young a new language through which to express themselves and assumed an increasingly powerful role in their lives, not just as listeners but as makers of music, as Forever Young highlights, in interviews and on its soundtrack, some of which was composed by two of the film’s participants.

These intimate snapshots of teenage rites of passage, both the mundane and life-changing, suggest the shaping effects of the teen years and the power of teenage experiences to establish patterns and interests, from music to politics, which can last a lifetime. For the younger interviewees, Forever Young illustrates the hesitancies, fragilities and uncertainties of adolescence and the tentative self-making and self-confidence of these transitional years, which for older interviewees are often all the more vivid precisely because a pattern had not yet been set.

Forever Young gives us a taste of what it was and is to be young. Its broad brush strokes can do little more than sketch in some of the family backgrounds and communities from which those interviewed come. Nonetheless,it does suggest how young people’s sense of place has changed and is changing, moving from a local sense of place to a greater sense of the global. What is particularly powerful is the way the film shows how the communality of teen culture is and has been refracted by individuality, by belonging and and by separation.

Forever Young raises questions about changes and continuities in the experiences of teenagers over the past seventy years, about similarities and differences between the experiences of being young in different times, and how recollections of being a teenager might be placed within broader life narratives. It shows how the young and not-so-young can find spaces in which to share understanding of those changes and illustrates the value of encouraging individuals to reflect on how their teenage experiences have shaped or are shaping adult identities.

Melanie Tebbutt
Manchester Metropolitan University

Forever Young was made with the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy, as part of Manchester Metropolitan University’s Humanities in Public festival and the nationwide Being Human festival, which is administered by the School of Advanced Study, London. Both festivals highlight the role of the humanities in UK national culture and engage creatively with the public. Forever Young has been shown in venues across north-west England and at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. It combines talking head interviews with archive material from the North West Film Archive and Manchester Metropolitan University. It was inspired by research conducted in the Manchester Centre for Youth Studies and reflects the Centre’s aspiration to highlight the complexity of young people’s lives in ways which contest negative stereotypes of their behaviour, in contemporary society and historically.

Link to the Manchester Centre for Youth Studies

Comments from young men who took part in the Passions project


‘Coming here every Wednesday morning was good. When I first did it I thought I wasn’t going to like it, but it was good, I wanted to do it’.

‘At the start I didn’t think I would be into something like this but then I ended up liking it’.

‘I’m proud of really wanting to complete the films’.

‘We got more sensible. When we first started we used to act silly, mess about, and then we started taking it a bit more seriously. When you learn how to do it, it’s pretty good’.


Tommy Mcdonagh, Moston and Collyhurst Lads Club ABC

‘The project, it opens new doors for them. When they went to look round the university you could see they were looking at it, it opened their eyes. One of them said “I might go to college, if I do well next year and keep doing it, I could go to uni”. There’s no chance he’d have thought that if he’d not visited, not a chance. It’s opened their eyes and they won’t settle for what people say they should do. Now they can choose to do whatever they want to’.


Visit to the Archives at Manchester Library

‘It’s the first time I’ve been anywhere like that [the archive]. It was good. And we wouldn’t have done stuff like going to see that play. We went to the library and it’s got stuff about the gym a hundred years ago. We saw that film about Brian [club manager] and found he’d made his own short film, 30 or 40 years ago, filmed here at this gym. I’ve learned about the history of this gym and stuff about people who used to come here. It’s good, interesting, the old clips’.


‘We’ve learned how to be interviewed without looking stupid, more con dence in front of the camera. Sometimes we used to mumble or keep moving around whereas now we know what to do’.

‘I can speak to new people now’.
‘I thought I’d be dead cringey and feel stupid but it feels good’.

‘I was interested in sport but this opens up a whole other circle’.

‘I would maybe carry on lming for boxing shows, you could lm it and make money from that’.

‘I’ve never done something like this – technology and lming, so would consider it in future, now we’ve made lms and interviewed people, it’s the beginning of something’.

At first I was hoping it [the film] wasn’t going to get on anything like Twitter or Facebook but I wouldn’t be bothered now if it did’.

Andy Cheshire, FC United

‘This has been a fantastic experience for the boys involved. They have had opportunities that none of their peers have had and have learnt new skills that can be used for the rest of their lives. The work they have completed is a credit to them and the club and they should all be extremely proud.’

Passions of Youth Awards Night: Film Premiere, Celebration and Reception, 23rd November 2015

Passions of Youth Awards Night: Film Premiere, Celebration and Reception

23rd November 2015 at FC United of Manchester, Broadhurst Park, 310 Lightbowne Road, Moston, Manchester


The Film Premiere, Celebration and Reception for the Passions of Youth project took place on the 23rd November 2015 at FC United, Moston, Manchester.

The event was introduced by Sue Reddish, the project’s Creative Director, who welcomed an audience of nearly 100 guests to the screening of two films made by young footballers from FC United, To Be Continued, and by boxers at Collyhurst and Moston Lads’ Club, A 100 Years and Still Fighting.

Sue explained how the ambitious year-long project had involved the arts team working alongside the young men, their coaches, archivists, youth workers, historians and staff at Manchester Metropolitan University. The aim was to work with groups of young men who shared a leisure passion, be that football, boxing, basketball, music or fishing – and encourage them to reflect on the wider benefits of pursuing these interests.

The Passions project also wanted to explore whether these were similar or different to what other young men from previous generations experienced, so the young men also interviewed older people and researched archives, using history as a tool to understand the present. It was, as she described, a very ambitious project, but one which in many ways surpassed the team’s aspirations.

The young men learned new skills in all aspects of film making and performance – they had to research, devise, write, perform, record their work and communicate their ideas clearly, skills that along with those they learned pursuing their hobby should stand them in good stead in the future.

Sue pointed out that while not everyone can be a champion boxer, professional footballer or film maker, everyone on the project was able to have a go, to develop their confidence, learn new things about themselves and see what the support of others could offer – valuable skills that she hoped they would take into future employment, study or their leisure pursuits.

Sue also explained how the learning had not been just one way. She had found out about basketball strategy, stood ringside at her first pro-boxing match, and been told in no uncertain terms that it was time she watched ‘Rocky’ a film which, until then, had completely passed her by!

Jim Dalziel, the community film-maker, found out more about football – fact and fiction – and now regularly regaled anyone who would listen about the ‘curse of Man City’!

Most importantly, what everyone observed was these young men learning about themselves and what they could achieve when they put their minds to it. Both the Boxers and the Footballers brought their enthusiasm, skills, humour and commitment to the Passions project, to make films they should be proud of.


First Black Heavyweight Champion of the World

By Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson was the first black heavyweight champion of the world. He was American and he was born in 1878. He had his first professional boxing fight in 1898.

Throughout his career, Johnson began to build a unique fighting style of his own which was not customary to boxing during this time. Though Johnson would typically fight first, he would defensively fight. Johnson’s efforts to win the world heavyweight title were thwarted, as world heavyweight champion James J. Jeffries refused to face him then.

Black boxers could meet white boxers in other competitions but not for the world heavyweight championship. Johnson eventually won the world heavyweight title in 1908.

Jack wants to be a professional boxer and is just about to start a scaffolding course.

MMU Visit

By Frank McDonagh

Thursday 26th March the Passions of Youth project came to the Manchester Metropolitan University to come and look at some of the activities the students get up to.

The day started with researching some videos to do with the sports some of the students were into for example football and boxing. This was followed by a tour of ‘The Shed’ to see the equipment students use in the media centre.

They we went to the 3D printing room where they showed the students the possibilities of what they can build – For example, football boots designed to fit the footballers feet perfectly.

Finally the day ended with the blog in workshop which is actually where I wrote this review.

Overall I enjoyed the visit and was interested in the 3D printing as that is something that is probably going to become more common in all sports across the world.

Frank does boxing at Collyhurst and Moston Boxing Club..