From the Poor Laws to JobCentrePlus: A Century on the Dole

PhD student Bethan Foulkes is holding a workshop at PHM next week. ‘From the Poor Laws to JobCentrePlus: A Century on the Dole’ will be held in our mini theatre on Friday 6 June from 11am-2pm. In this blog, Bethan tells us more about the workshop.

Job Centre064To introduce myself, I’m Bethan Foulkes- a PhD candidate at the University of Manchester, studying late-Victorian conceptualisations of unemployment within the North West. In January, I was lucky enough to gain a position as a Researcher in Residence at the People’s History Museum; a collaborative project between the university and cultural partners, aiming to place academic researchers within cultural institutions who could benefit from their research skills. My project for the PHM is a day of workshops on the history of unemployment relief, entitled ‘From the Poor Laws to JobCentrePlus: A Century on the Dole’. This blog will just outline my research processes, the experience of working in the museum stores, and the ultimate aims of the project.

At our first planning meeting, Chris Burgess (my contact at the PHM) mentioned that they were in possession of the Department of Employment’s object collection, and that this had sat idle since being donated. The opportunity to be amongst the first people (certainly the first from an academic institution) to engage with these objects was too good to pass up on, and I leapt at the chance. By the end of this meeting it was agreed that my project would research a small selection of these items through the paper records and photographs, in order to discover their histories. The next step was to get down to the museum’s object store, to have a look and what objects were available.Job Centre

A few days later I got down to the store, and was absolutely delighted with what I found. Dozens of signs and notices, and one particularly beautiful cast iron insignia (of origin still unknown). After some unexpected manual labour to get a good look at everything, the recurrent theme was that of labour exchanges, or job centres as they would later become. There were signs dating from as early as 1913 and the 20s and 30s outlining the services available at ‘labour exchanges’. Similar ones existed from the mid-20th century for the ‘employment exchanges’, and finally signs from the 1970s almost to the current day, for ‘job centres’. From this, the project seemed to write itself; a 100 year history of work for the unemployed, from labour exchanges to the job centre. Shortly after this visit, myself and Chris from PHM decided that the event would be held in the museum galleries. Luckily for me this is where I feel most at home; embracing and absorbing the beautiful and inspiring collections. The stage was set, and now it was time to actually do some work.

As the research project and ultimate exhibition is essentially based around a chronology of unemployment relief, my first step was to make notes for myself of everything I already knew. Conveniently, lots of my PhD research feeds directly into this project, so I’m at a significant advantage in terms of already having a rough framework for discussion. From there, it was just a matter of good old fashioned scholarship; reading, note-taking, and assembling my timeline. Throughout this process, I have obviously been continuing with my thesis research, and that has come in massively useful in terms of primary research for the project. An example of this can be found in the very early decades of unemployment relief; my research into Trade Union unemployment solutions forms an excellent context for the latter institutions covered by the workshop.

The final developmental planning stage for the event was heading back into my new favourite place- the People’s History Museum stores. Knowing exactly what form my workshop discussion was going to take, I needed to select the artefacts, ephemera, and photographs to be taken up to the museum ready for the adoring public! This was as fascinating as predicted, and if anything I struggled to narrow down my choices. A few examples of the artefacts we’ll be handling and discussing are as follows; William Henry Jones’ 1930s Benefits Book, early 20th century photographs of Labour Exchange frontages, the cover of the Daily Mirror from the first day Exchanges opened, a 1913 Board of Trade sign, and an illuminating (luminous orange!) 1980s JobCentre sign.

So here we are, just over a week away from the big day: ‘From the Poor Laws to JobCentrePlus, A Century on the Dole’, at the People’s History Museum. The format of the day will be that of a relaxed and informal workshop. I have plenty of artefacts and photographs, and a prepared talk on the history of the institutions administering unemployment relief. You will be able to handle the majority of the pieces, take a good look at the ephemera and photographs, and discuss any facets of the topic. I want the event to take the form of a dialogue and discussion, rather than a lecture. I invite everyone to come and share your stories and personal histories of unemployment relief or JobCentres. I am more than happy to answer any questions or discuss any topics that people would like to chat about, and want to be able to combine your experiences with my research to really develop our understanding of Job Centres. Ultimately this is an opportunity for you to get your hands on some fascinating, sometimes beautiful, and always exciting (to me) objects, and to develop an understanding of a key fragment of OUR welfare system. It is a chance to discuss these ideas with like-minded individuals and an expert researcher, in a laid back setting. I really hope to see some of you there!


Microresidencies Shortlist Announced

1 & 2 March, Play Your Party @ People's History MuseumWe are delighted to announce the shortlist of 12 artists, musicians, writers and creative practitioners that will be vying for your votes for our Microresidencies project.  We had 90 incredible proposals from artists across the land (and even overseas!) and we (Catherine, Daisy, Harriet, Lisa, Louise and Zofia) were overwhelmed by the immense amount of talent that’s out there.

Over the course of our Work in Progress exhibition this summer, we will be inviting three early career artists to base their studios in the exhibition space.  They will have one week to explore our collections, engage with our visitors and create something inspirational.

Now it’s over to you… have a look at the 12 most original and creative ideas and vote for your three favourites.  The three artists with the most public votes will win – simple!*  The prize is £600 per residency and the chance to work at the home of ideas worth fighting for.

You can vote from Wednesday 28 May until 5.00pm on Wednesday 11 June

Winners announced: Monday 16 June

*In the event of a tie, a panel of museum staff will have the deciding vote. Our decision is final.

The shortlisted artists are:

  • Oliver Bliss
  • Quina Chapman
  • Claire Curtin
  • Simon Farid
  • Alex Gardner
  • Jamie Ingram & James McCormick
  • Lauren Murphy
  • Nick Oram
  • Kyra Pollitt
  • Sashwati Mira Sengupta & Jaydev Mistry
  • Meg Woods
  • Lewis Wright

You can find out more about their proposals and how to vote here.

Get voting!!

The Pump House

A guest blog by our Senior Gallery Assistant (Buildings), Anthony Dillon

People's History Museum 011As a Gallery Assistant at the People’s History Museum we often get asked questions about the Pump House, which is situated in the old side of the museum.

A grade 2 listed building and built in Edwardian times the architect was Mr Henry Price.

Its purpose was to pressurise water up to 1200psi in the accumulator tower. This pressurised water was then pumped under the streets of Manchester through a system of metal pop riveted piping that led to the local cotton mills and factories that often leaked. This pressurised water was then used to power all the machinery in the factories.

The pressurised water was used to power the factories and  the local town hall clock and the emergency curtain at the theatres and anything else the Edwardians needed to power.

The Pump House today has a different use, it no longer pressurises water for the factories it now has a different use as a event space for weddings and conferences and also when not being used for theses purposes we use it as a Community Gallery space.

The Pump House is well worth a visit at PHM and if you need any help just ask any of our friendly front of house staff to assist you at anytime.

Badges of Honour

Today one of our volunteers, Charlotte Knowles, tells us about her experience documenting our trade union badge collection.

Transport and General Workers Union – this badge shows the clasped hands of unity.

Transport and General Workers Union – this badge shows the clasped hands of unity.

As a volunteer at the People’s History Museum I feel extremely privileged to have been given the opportunity to contribute to a project cataloguing the trade union badge collection. Every week I descend into the bowels of the museum to examine badges from all over the world and to help document the history of trade unionism. The experience has taught me much about trade unions, a subject of which I was completely ignorant before.

The 18th and 19th centuries saw rapid industrialisation throughout Britain and consequently the foundation of many trade unions. The foundation of trade unions gave unprecedented security and protection for many workers and built a rostrum for the working-classes. It also created a sense of solidarity for union members, a community of allied workers who shared their concerns and would support one another.

One of the most poignant relics of trade union history is the trade union badge. At the People’s History Museum we are currently cataloguing our impressive collection of trade union badges. We have recently counted them and discovered we possess 6,185 badges from all over the world!

These badges are so important because each badge carries a wealth of information and symbolism. A badge not only identifies trade union members, but illustrates the pride workers take in their profession and in their union membership. They are adorned with images and mottos that communicate what the unions fight to protect. There are badges commemorating decades of membership, as well as important events such as conferences, strikes, elections and to honour the Tolpuddle martyrs. But perhaps most importantly, they proclaim the existence of the union and the power they can have to affect change.

Scottish Painters Society bagde

Scottish Painters Society bagde

Whilst counting the thousands of badges in our collection many have stood out and fascinated me.

Some simply because they are unusual or interesting shapes, like the Scottish Painters Society badge – a beautiful enamel badge shaped like a painter’s palette. The Scottish Painters Society was founded in 1898 for 1,227 Scottish house and ship painters.

Amalgamated Society of Shuttlemakers badge

Amalgamated Society of Shuttlemakers badge

Others because of the eye-catching symbolism, such as the Amalgamated Society of Shuttlemakers badge. The union was founded in 1891 in Lancashire and Yorkshire. After World War II, 90% of shuttlemakers in the UK belonged to the union, but it was disbanded in 1993 with only 7 members remaining. Their badge brings together the clasped hands of unity, the ancient Roman symbol of power called the ‘fasces’ and the shuttle, the product of their industry. This powerfully symbolises what the union stood for – strength through unity and work.

But the most interesting thing about our trade union badges is thinking about the people who wore them. It reminds us of the message of the People’s History Museum – that there are ideas worth fighting for. The people who wore those badges were members of a union because they banded together to fight for their own working rights, and those of others in their industry.

Play Your Part Year 2 – Exciting times ahead!

Play Your PartOver the past few weeks I’ve had a lot of fun planning what we’re going to be doing for Year 2 of Play Your Part.  Unfortunately I’m now billy no mates as this year the funding only covers my post (but Harriet has been appointed as Curatorial Assistant (Collections), so we still get to work together), so I’m going to be doing a lot of work with colleagues across the organisation to embed everything PYP so we can continue to be relevant, resonant and responsive after the project has finished.

Last year was a flurry of experimental activity, and this year I’ll continue to experiment, but in a more focused way.  Strands of the project that I’ll be working on will include:

  • Our Work in Progress exhibition (12 July – 14 September 2014), which will be an evolving, experimental space, where visitors come to do, not come to see.
  • Developing some exciting landmark events, including POLLfest 2 in November
  • Working with our Learning and Front of House teams to develop a Family Friendly weekend offer – there is talk of tents!
  • Continuing to expand our celebration of LGBT history, by working with historian Jeff Evans to develop our LGBT history tour, redisplay our equality case and continue to programme events
  • Redeveloping our Welcome Wall in the museum’s foyer, to make it more collections focused
  • Creating a programme of object handling workshops, which will be led by volunteers

Keep up to date with our progress on the blog, at the museum and don’t forget to get involved and Play Your Part!

Playing Politics – full programme announced

14 June 2014, Playing Politics, Chile Solidarity Campaign banner @ People's History MuseumWe are excited to announce full details of Playing Politics our Politics in Sport festival on Saturday 14 June.

To commemorate the anniversary of ‘the match of shame’ between Chile and Scotland on 15 June 1977 and to celebrate the start of the World Cup in Brazil, we will investigate when the worlds of politics and sport have come together.  Join us for our day long festival of talks, displays, object handling and political fun and games.

All day

  • Enjoy some political fun and games, including Spin Doctors, Toppling Tyrants and Democratic Darts.
  • Our friends at the National Football Museum will be displaying some of their intriguing political collections.
  • Object handling table

Drop in, no booking required

1.00pm – 3.00pm

Use your head!

What happens when the worlds of sport and politics collide?  Find out in this interesting series of talks.

From the Factory to the Field: The story of Dick, Kerr Ladies FC

Peter Marsden, trade unionist and activist

Dick, Kerr Ladies FC attracted over 900,000 paying spectators to 67 charity games during 1921. How did a team of working class women from a Preston munition’s factory spring to national and international prominence? Why later that year did the FA ban them from playing on any affiliated ground? Peter Marsden explores a unique story and a sexist decision which stymied the development of women’s football in Britain for almost half a century.


“Carriers of the Dream” – Tennis Radicals of the 1960s and 1970s

Peter Marsden, trade unionist and activist

How did the radical politics of the 1960s – the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam demonstrations, the Paris and Prague uprisings and the Women’s Liberation Movement – influence sport, particularly a conservative one like tennis? Peter Marsden focuses on two key sporting heroes and their lasting legacies; Arthur Ashe and his opposition to apartheid and Billie Jean King and her campaign for women’s equality.


“Football without the fans is nothing” The Green Brigade at Celtic: An example of left-wing football fandom?

Michael Lavalette, Liverpool Hope University

The Green Brigade (GB) fan group are a vibrant presence at Celtic matches. Their displays are entertaining and political. Their politics are explicitly republican and socialist but this has brought them into conflict with the authorities and increasingly the club. This talk with pictures will look at the GB and explore what it tells us about modern fandom.


Passion and Transformation, Order and Progress – The essence of Rio 2016

Chris Parkes and David Hindley, Nottingham Trent University

‘A pre-match’ analysis into how Brazil and the Rio De Janeiro 2016 Organising Committee aims to frame and use the Olympics to advance their political aspirations. The presentation, which is underpinned by primary research, will explore the messages and language that intends to prove they are an emerging nation ready for a more influential position on a global stage.


Pirates, Punks & Politics: FC St. Pauli – football’s radical club.

Nick Davidson, author of Pirates, Punks & Politics

FC St. Pauli is based in a working class district of Hamburg only a few hundred yards from the infamous Reeperbahn. In the mid-1980s punks and anarchists began to watch games. In the years that followed, the number of fans with left-leaning political ideals swelled. Join Nick Davidson as he looks back over 25 years of politics in the stadium and describes how fans of the club continue to battle against fascism, racism, sexism, homophobia and the creep of commercialism in modern football.


Chile Fights: The Match of Shame and Pinochet’s Regime

Josh Butt, People’s History Museum

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. 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.  Josh Butt will look back at the events and display images from our collection.

Booking required for our Use Your Head! programme of talks via Eventbrite –

What if…the Professional Footballers’ Association had not been founded?

On Thursday 15 May, the PHM will explore alternative histories for Museums at Night. Join our hypothetical tour guides as they weave tall tales and ask you to imagine infinite possibilities of what might have been. In a series of blog posts before the event we’ll be featuring questions so you can swot up on your hypothetical history and add your own alternatives. On the night we’ll subvert our timeline with your suggestions. In this blog, Learning Officer Lisa Gillen asks What if…the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) had not been founded in 1907 in the Imperial Hotel, Manchester?

Time Off display at People's History Museum© zedphotoIn the Time off? displays in our Main Galleries we look at how people campaigned for shorter working hours and once time off had been won, how did people spend that time? The 1850 Factory Act declared all work to be finished at 2pm on Saturdays, allowing workers to enjoy a Saturday afternoon of leisure. As a result of this football clubs enjoyed a huge increase in popularity. People found playing football and going to the match for the 3pm kickoff a popular way to spend Saturday afternoons.

Football clubs became wealthier as attendances increased. Players started to be paid professionally, although the wages for the majority of players were low, with many continuing to hold down other jobs.

Professional players had little freedom to move to another club for better wages due to the‘retain and transfer’ system, introduced in 1893. The introduction of a maximum wage cap further restricted the amount that players could earn. Players sought to challenge these restrictions and to negotiate improved rights and working conditions for themselves and their teammates.

In October 1893 Billy Rose, goalkeeper for Preston North End, Stoke and England was first man to propose a player’s union. In 1898 the Association Footballers’ Union (AFU) was formed, although its lack of success led to it being dissolved in 1901.

On the 2 December 1907 at the Imperial Hotel, Manchester, the PFA was formed. At that time it was called the Association of Football Players’ and Trainers’ Union (the AFPTU) and was commonly referred to at the time as the Players’ Union. Among those present were seven Manchester United players, Charlie Roberts and Billy Meredith (who had been involved in the AFU), two Manchester City players, plus representatives from Newcastle United, Bradford City, West Bromwich Albion, Notts County, Sheffield United and Tottenham Hotspur. Like the AFU before it, the Players’ Union intended to assert their members rights and challenge the maximum wage and the restriction on transfers.

Outcasts FC @ People's History MuseumAn early struggle occurred shortly after the union was formed. The Football Association banned players affiliated with the the union, and membership fell. However Manchester United players refused to relinquish their membership. They became known as ‘The Outcasts FC’, and helped to sustain the union in its turbulent early years.

The PFA’s work to challenge restraints on players continued over the next 50 years; the maximum wage cap was scrapped in 1961 and the restriction on transfers was lifted in 1963. Today, players receive huge wages and enjoy freedom of movement within a transfer market.

Though, what if the PFA had not had been formed in 1907…..

Would the Football Association still be able to control and regulate the movement of players and the amount they are paid? Would this have, over time, led to a decline in quality of the game? Would Manchester United and Manchester City be so successful if restrictions were still imposed on the players they could buy and sell, and the wages they could pay? If the football clubs were not so successful, what would this mean for the city of Manchester?

If the maximum wage was not abolished in 1961 would this have changed the nature of premier league football today, where premiership players receive huge wages?

If clubs did not pay out such huge wages, would they reduce tickets costs, therefore making games be more affordable for fans to attend?

Or, if the maximum wage had not be abolished, would this have limited access to the sport for players on low incomes? Would a cap on wages mean that it would have become an elitist sport, where only players from wealthier backgrounds would be able to have a career?

If players remained on low wages would that have meant they would have had to continue to work during their sporting career? Players such as Bill Meredith had to do this, continuing to work as a miner whilst playing professional football.

Would this in turn have been a positive action for the sport, helping to maintain roots within local communities? Gaelic football remains an amateur sport In Ireland; players, coaches and managers are not paid and players continue to work in other jobs within the community. It is the most popular sport in Ireland.

What if Outcasts FC had decided to give up union membership in 1909? Would the PFA have survived? What effect would this have had on the history of the football league in England and Wales? Would the PFA have become as strong?

Join us next Thursday and discuss these and many more questions

What do you think? Add your answers below or come and discuss at our Museums at Night: What if…? event on Thursday 15 May, 5.00pm – 8.00pm