Play Your Part Microresidencies project

Play Your PartPeople’s History Museum in Manchester is the national museum of democracy and the home of ideas worth fighting for. We are currently working on an exciting Arts Council funded project called Play Your Part.The projectaims to make the museum more relevant to today’s audiences, by responding to current events, linking them to campaigns of the past, with the hope of inspiring activists of the future.

This summer we will transform our Community Gallery into an evolving hub of creativity and experimentation. Work in Progress will be an interactive, experimental gallery, which will allow visitors to see behind the scenes of our Play Your Part project. Visitors will help us test out ideas for our new Welcome Wall, debate topical issues and get creative with a series of exciting workshops. The exhibition will start from nothing and evolve over time as we invite community groups, activists and visitors to experiment, contribute and create. We don’t yet know what will happen, but we’re excited to find out!

Are you an early career artist, designer, musician, writer or other creative practitioner looking for an exciting challenge over the summer? We are looking for three creative practitioners to base their studios in the gallery space in our Microresidencies project. You will have one week to explore our collections, engage with our visitors and create something inspirational.

We are open to creative ideas in any medium (subject to space constraints!). All we ask is that your idea engages with our visitors and includes an element of participation.

Interested? Please submit a 500 word proposal answering the following questions and supporting images to

  • Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself and your practice
  • What inspires you about the People’s History Museum?
  • What do you want to do with your Microresidency?
  • How will you engage visitors?
  • Anything else you want to tell us?

In the spirit of democracy we will be asking our visitors to vote on their favourite proposals, so please make sure you make your proposal as clear and engaging as possible.

Entries close: Sunday 18 May, 5.00pm

Shortlist announced: Tuesday 27 May

Public consultation: Wednesday 28 May – Wednesday 11 June

Winners announced: Monday 16 June

Each Microresidency will last for one week. Please indicate all dates you will be available for during the exhibition run of 12 July 2014 – 14 September 2014.

Fee: £600 per residency


Research trip to the Lowry

The lookoutAs part of our Play Your Part project, our Gallery Assistants have developed a series of very popular mini tours for adults that they deliver at the weekends.  The tours were developed because we wanted to create a sustainable events offer at the weekends that we could deliver in house, without extra staff needing to come in. Following the success of this adult programme, we’d like to do something similar for families so at the end of January we popped over to the Lowry to investigate their family offer.

We met with Michael Simpson, Director of Visual Art and Engagement and Lynsey O’Sullivan, Participation & Learning Manager who showed us to their family activity gallery, The Lookout. Michael and Lynsey explained that they previously didn’t have a dedicated family space, but had family activities across the organisation with some activity on the galleries.  Michael had previously worked at the Walker Art Gallery on their Big Art for Little Artists gallery and wanted to do something similar at the Lowry.

The starting point was talking to their front of house team as they had a desire to do it, they know what works as they talk to visitors and know what they like.  They set up family tours which are devised and led by the front of house team and include dressing up and props to engage visitors.

They identified a space in the galleries called the Deck that was difficult to programme that they developed into a family space on the theme of travelling. The space was created on a very small budget and most was built in house. The space worked very well and was very popular with families, however it was eventually taken over by the corporate team and converted to meeting rooms.

The appetite for a dedicated family space remained so they moved the Mr Lowry film and created a new family space that was smaller, but more impactful than before. This move brought criticism from the front of house team who felt that the fact the space was smaller than the Deck sent the wrong message to families that they were being pushed out.

The Lookout was created with a designer and was sponsored by Derwent, both which presented their own challenges. For example, they now want to install a large noticeboard for children’s artworks, however there is nowhere to put it. Now there are more stakeholders it adds an extra level of complication, when before it was just the front of house team making the decisions.

The learning team are populating the space with activity and have moved their Saturday workshops into the space. They have made the sessions free and weekly and visitor numbers have increased from 8 to 50. Families can also access the space self guided and it works in conjunction with Jack’s Packs for families.

The team anticipate that the space will develop over time and is a three way partnership between the learning team, front of house and families. It is a cheap and cheerful constant work in progress and there is no technology and no plans for technology.

The team are also very proud of their unique family talks that are led by their front of house team.  They engage the whole family and are aimed at families with children aged 5-11.  They adapted adult talks and use things like props as an engagement tool.  The talks last around 15-20 minutes and focus on one or two paintings.  They keep the formula quite loose as every family is different. They are free, drop in sessions at the weekends. Sometimes they get lots of attendees, sometimes no one.

After our meeting we discussed how we could approach a flexible weekend family offer at the PHM.  We’ve already got a lot of props and interactives on our galleries that we can incorporate, and our front of house team are full of ideas and enthusiasm.  We’ll keep you updated on what we develop…

Playing Politics – Call for Participants

Saturday 14 June 2014

Playing Politics: Politics in Sport Festival

Call for participants

14 June 2014, Playing Politics, Chile Solidarity Campaign banner @ People's History Museum‘The cell was one of the team changing rooms… By the entrance to the tunnel where the players would go out onto the pitch, a heavy machine-gun was mounted.’

British eye-witness, imprisoned in 1973.

In 1973 General Pinochet led a military coup in Chile. Foreigners, trade unionists and anti-Pinochet protesters were rounded up and taken to detention camps. One such camp was the National Stadium in Santiago, where several detainees were tortured and executed. Others were forced into exile overseas.

Four years later, with Pinochet’s regime in place, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) arranged a friendly against Chile, which took place in the National Stadium on 15 June 1977. The SFA argued that there was no politics in sport. The issue was raised in the House of Commons, a group of Chilean exiles were refused a meeting with the SFA, a week long picket was organised outside SFA headquarters and many fans boycotted Scotland matches. Despite all of this, the game went ahead. Scotland won the match 4-2.

To commemorate the anniversary of ‘the match of shame’ and to celebrate the start of the World Cup in Brazil, we want to investigate when the worlds of politics and sport have come together. Our day long festival will bring out more of our sporting collections and visitors can get involved with lots of political fun and games.

We are looking for groups or individuals to contribute to the day, with short presentations or displays about anything related to politics and sport.

Topics covered may include:

  • How politics have influenced sport
  • How sport has influenced politics
  • Is there politics in sport?
  • Sporting boycott of South Africa during the Apartheid era
  • The controversy surrounding the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics
  • Racism in sport
  • Homophobia in sport
  • Women in sport
  • Debate about the World Cup in Brazil

If you’d like to get involved, please email your name, contact details, information about yourself or your organisation and a short (250 word) proposal to by Thursday 1 May.

The Legacy of the Suffragettes

A guest blog by our Director, Katy Archer

The People’s History Museum hosted the Suffragette Legacy Conference on Saturday 8 March, in partnership with Manchester University. The event formed part of the International Women’s Day celebrations for 2014 and the ongoing Wonder Women campaign.8 March 2014, Suffragette Legacy Conference @ People's History Museum (2)

With a diverse and dynamic programme of speakers and contributors, the day was interesting, engaging and thought-provoking. I personally found parts of the day funny, sad, inspiring and surprising…

Alison Ronan’s paper really helped to set the scene by exploring and uncovering the work of the Suffragettes in Manchester and the North West, while we also heard an international perspective from Katherine Chan and about the Birmingham experience from Nicola Gauld and Sima Gonsai in the afternoon.

The day included fascinating perspectives on research into the legacy of the suffragettes and their links to modern day campaigning such as Ben Halligan’s presentation on the ‘Slutwalk’ and Bernadette Hyland talking about the links between the Suffragettes and working class women today.

There were creative sessions including Steph Pike’s beautiful poetry, information about Warp and Weft’s ‘Masks in the TownHall’ project and the Pankhurst Centre’s photography project. All showing how important and powerful arts and culture are to making a point, to engaging audiences and to reflecting on big contemporary issues in today’s society.

And the day was also brought to life by our very own Hannah Mitchell with an extract from The Hard Way Up – the real-life story of a working class Suffragette from the North West.8 March 2014, Suffragette Legacy Conference @ People's History Museum (1)

The day has been captured on storify and definitely generated a lot of comment and dialogue on twitter. We received lots of positive feedback from speakers and from delegates and the conference format is definitely something for us to build upon in future years as we head towards 2018 and the centenary of women gaining the right to vote for the first time.

But the Suffragettes story and legacy wasn’t just about the right to vote – something that we discussed a lot on the day – and there were many other issues being addressed by women at the time and by women today… rights at work… rights at home… rights that are all part of the People’s History Museum’s story as the ‘home of ideas worth fighting for’.

You can see these ‘ideas’ on display in our main exhibition spaces, our changing exhibitions, our community gallery and our pop-up displays around the museum.

And you can take part in and enjoy many more events like the Suffragette Legacy Conference at the museum in 2014 – keep checking our website for details of upcoming events and sign up to our e-newsletter as well to keep up to date.

Tony Benn: A life in objects

Our Curator, Chris Burgess remembers Tony Benn

Tony Benn candleSince Tony Benn left parliament in 2001 his political persona has been that of a genial firebrand of the left. This candle, currently in the collection of the People’s History Museum, represents that face. Benn holds his famous diary and smokes his homely pipe.

The cuddly political stalwart was but one career of Anthony Wedgwood Benn. Documents here at the People’s History Museum show the trajectory of a man who began as a progressive within the Labour movement to someone who was a standard bearer for the hard left. Benn had been a BBC producer before being elected to parliament at the age of 25 in 1950 for Bristol South East. Labour put the young radio executive’s talents to good use as he set about reforming the party’s communication. In the collections here at PHM we have a poster designed by Benn. Produced in 1955, a time when few people had televisions, Benn’s intention was for those with, to invite those without, to watch Labour’s election broadcast on their set.See Labour on TV

In the Wilson government Benn’s image as a man of the modern showed through. Whilst working as Post Master General, he saw the opening of, the Post Office (now BT) Tower. A familiar site to Londoners, it was, a beacon of modernity when first built. During his period as Minister of Technology he played a part in the development of Concorde and when he returned to the cabinet following the Labour victory of 1974, first as Minister of Industry and then Minister of Energy, he was partly responsible for the commercialisation of the North Sea Oil field. Tony BennHe kept a bottle of the first North Sea Oil for the rest of his life.

Given this cabinet career served largely under Harold Wilson, Benn might have been considered within that group of reformist politicians who had wanted to bring Labour closer to the centre. However, towards the end of the 1970s and 1980s, Benn moved dramatically to the left, claiming that this was because he was upset by the centralisation of power in the party structure. Benn became increasingly associated with the trade union movement, perhaps seeing it as a platform to launch his own attempt on the party’s leadership.

Labour BriefingHe was a firebrand of the left during the 1980s. Hugely popular with activists and a great orator, Benn’s support for strong left wing policies was at odds with moderates in the party. In 1988 he ran for the leadership against Neil Kinnock, on a ticket with fellow socialist Eric Heffer.

The divisions between the Bennite faction and the rest of the party still run deep. During a conference held last year at PHM to mark 50 years since Harold Wilson’s White Heat of Technology speech, the Wilsonite Gerald Kaufmann was decisive in his views that Benn should not be remembered as the cuddly elder statesman he became, but as the fiery figure who prevented unity in the 1980s.

While politicians drift in and out of favour, Benn’s popularity remained until his death. He was a conviction politician and a great orator, both of which are perhaps lacking in today’s parliament. But for a man whose political life spanned the whole of the post war era, it’s important to remember that he had not one political career, but several.

The Exquisite Secret Vintage Wedding Fair @ People’s History Museum, 11.00am – 4.00pm, Sunday 23 March 2014

Guest Post by Rebecca Jenkinson, Pretty Little Trio Vintage (Organiser of The Secret Vintage Wedding Fair)

16 January 2014, Secret Vintage Wedding Fair photoshoot @ People's History Museum © Lucy G Photography (2)What is a secret wedding fair?  Well up until today the exact location of our wedding event has been a total secret, we have told everyone that it is taking place, the date, the time, that it is in Manchester city centre, but we’ve kept the exact venue a very closely guarded secret.  Why? Well, for intrigue, for a bit of mystery… for a bit of fun.  Everyone loves a good secret, finding out about it, being in on it and so today we are very excited to finally announce the venue…….

The Secret Vintage Wedding Fair will be gracing the fabulous Engine Hall at the People’s History Museum on Sunday 23 March 2014 and is a must visit event for anyone planning a wedding with a vintage vibe, with 30 of the North West’s loveliest wedding suppliers who are vintage or vintage inspired in the services they provide on hand to help.  There will also be music from It’s a Wind Up gramophone DJs, paper pom pom and bunting making workshops, vintage hair and make up demos and a very lovely goody bag for brides.16 January 2014, Secret Vintage Wedding Fair photoshoot @ People's History Museum © Lucy G Photography (12)

I fell in love with the venue which is a bit of a secret gem in itself, perfect for a vintage wedding be it a pretty tea party feel, a glamorous prohibition style 1920s inspired affair or even an awesome steampunk celebration.  The People’s History Museum is a truly unique and historic space and I’m so excited to be working with their lovely staff and to hosting its first ever wedding fair.

We hope you can join us on the day, tickets are available in advance online at:

In the meantime, please enjoy our secret photo shoot at the People’s History Museum that was featured on Love My Dress wedding blog.

(Image credit