The People’s Guide Project

A guest blog from artists Kate Dunstone and Chloe Hamill

The People's GuideOver the past few months we’ve been exploring the museum, meeting visitors and learning more about the collections as we work with community groups to create their own guides to the must-see sights at PHM.

Working with groups from Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester Youth Council and Manchester Aid to Kosovo (so far!) we’ve seen the museum from a whole lot of different perspectives, and discovered some hidden gems embedded in the collection.

The People's GuideSpeaking with a Yemeni student from MMU opened our eyes to the relevance of the museum’s ‘history of democracy’ to the modern world, where free speech and the right to vote are still being fought for. Manchester Youth Council’s enthusiasm and engagement gave us hope for Britain’s political future, as we learned about the issues they feel strongly about, and how they’re working to change them. A Sunday morning with Manchester Aid to Kosovo gave us an opportunity to have some in depth discussion about the importance of the museum in the modern political landscape.

The People's GuideIt’s been a difficult, but hugely enjoyable, task to bring together all these perspectives into easy to follow guides for museum visitors, but I think we’ve achieved it. Keep a look out for the People’s Guides at PHM’s reception in the coming weeks!

We’re really excited to share all the recommendations and ideas we’ve gathered with PHM’s visitors, and encourage everyone to share their own favourite exhibits with us and the museum at

Work in Progress – Week 6

Week 6 of Work in Progress was exceptionally busy, with pretty much an event every day.  We kicked things off on Saturday with a very inspiring talk from Alex Jones of the English Disco Lovers.  He talked about how it all started in a field in Somerset, his influences as a Quaker and an artist, spreading the disco love across the country and his top tips for campaigning (including harnessing the power of social media and making sure you give yourself a break every now and again!).

18 Aug - 9 Sept, SELFIE_SHOW-OFF by Karol Kochanowski @ People's History Museum (34)On Sunday we peeled back the boards for the Private View of #SELFIE_SHOW-OFF by Karol Kochanowski.  Karol’s abstract paintings focus on the artist’s personality as an intrinsic part of his artwork.  The exhibition is part of the Manchester Pride Fringe and will be displayed alongside Work in Progress until 9 September.


The museum’s events team gathered on Monday morning to brainstorm ideas for our Winter Events Programme.  Traditionally the winter season is usually our quietest, but we’ve got some exciting events in the pipeline, including the LGBT History Festival in February.  Bob Bonner from Friends of London Road Fire Station popped in in the afternoon to do a talk about the history of the building.  Bob gave us a great insight into the design, use and life of the building, especially how much it means to people and how many memories people have of the place.

Bethan Foulkes Live ResearchResearcher Bethan Foulkes was in residence from Tuesday to Thursday, looking at historical experiences of unemployment in our collections and chatting to visitors about their contemporary experiences.  She rounded off her Live Research with an event on Thursday afternoon, encouraging visitors to get hands on with some archive material.

On Tuesday a group of us met to discuss our plans for Hands on History, our new object handling programme that will be delivered by volunteers. We’re going to be trialling the session next year, and we’re currently planning what objects we should include.  The theme will be World War I to link in with our current exhibition A Land Fit For Heroes, our Living History performance Baddies, and of course the First World War Centenary. We’ll keep you updated with how the project develops.

Two young people from the Trailblazers project visited on Wednesday.  They’re working on developing an interactive map of cultural venues in Manchester for teenagers, and came to pick my brains about the PHM.  After chatting about interesting facts including cheese and Peterloo, I seized the opportunity to talk about our events programming, how we can make it more accessible for young people and what they thought of our Welcome Wall.  Whilst they were here they also met artists Kate and Chloe for a workshop for their People’s Guide project.

I also met with artist Rebecca Davies to discuss her practice, Play Your Part and potential collaborations. Rebecca works within a participatory practice through illustration, performance and event and really connects with communities using quirky methods such as bingo and a travelling ice cream van. We even managed to fit in a bit of a rant about the London-centricity of politics!

LGBT case redisplay consultationThe end of the week focused on all things Pride!  Since the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act was passed in 2013, we’ve been very conscious that our Gay Rights case in our Main Galleries is out of date.  We’ve also recently acquired some new LGBT material, so we’d like to give the case and text panel a refresh.  With this in mind, I’ve set up a display case in Work in Progress with some key objects.  We’re asking visitors to vote on which objects we should include and if there’s anything we’re missing.  Come along and have your say!

We’ve been working with historian Jeff Evans to develop our LGBT history tour, which I delivered for the first time on Friday. The tour focused on contextualising the history of gender and sexuality within the social and political framework of the museum.  It was impossible to cover everything within a 45 minute tour, but the feedback was generally positive, with some really constructive comments on how we can improve the tour and things we’ve missed.  I’ll definitely be tweaking the tour ready for its official launch in February as part of the LGBT History Festival.

LGSM displayWe were very lucky to get a sneak peek of the film Pride on Thursday night.  The film tells the story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, a support group that was set up to raise funds during the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike. The film is inspiring, emotional and definitely the film of the year! If you want to find out more about LGSM ahead of the film’s release in September, then come along to Work in Progress and see some of the original archive material on display.  23 August 2014, Q&A with the cast of the film Pride @ People's History Museum (1)Pathe films used this display as a backdrop for press interviews on Friday and screenwriter Stephen Beresford, actor Joseph Gilgun and LGSM member Mike Jackson were on hand to promote the film.  Stephen, Joe and Mike returned to the museum on Saturday for a public Q&A about the film and gave the audience insights into the history of the group, the making of the film and their ideas worth fighting for.

We continue the LGBT theme this week, with Oliver Bliss’s Microresidency.  Come along and sew your messages of hope to the MPs who voted ‘no’ to equal marriage.

Meet the artist: Oliver Bliss

In a series of blog posts we will get to know the artists who will be taking part in our Microresidencies project a little better.  Finally, it’s Oliver Bliss who will be resident in Work in Progress from Tues 26 – Sat 30 August.

Oliver BlissHi Oly, nice to meet you! Please can you introduce yourself…. 
I’m Oliver Bliss, I’ve been living in Manchester now for nearly ten years. I graduated from MMU with a BA in Fine Art Painting and I recently completed a MA in Arts Management from the University of Manchester. I’ve always had an interest in sexuality and identity and enjoy exploring these themes through a textiles based practice. I was really inspired by an exhibition in Craft Council called Boys Who Sew which was curated by Professor Janis Jeffries. It helped me move away from painting and explore mixed media and a little hand sewing. The biggest change in my practice was seeing Alice Kettle’s Three Caryatgids in the Whitworth Gallery. I was in the first term of University at MMU and I told my tutor Sharon Hall how fascinated I was with Kettle’s technique. My tutor was a real straight talker, she advised, very bluntly that I didn’t waste my student loan but instead invest it in something useful; a sewing machine. So I did, it had a lasting impact on my practice and I still use the same sewing machine to this day.

What attracted you to apply for the Microresidencies project? Have you done anything like this before?
I think the People’s History Museum is so important; I studied sociology at A level.  The museum’s collection brings to life our political history, how people’s collective action has led to a fair society in a way you can’t comprehend from any text book. Play Your Part really struck a chord with me and made me want to contribute to make LGBT history more visible. I volunteer with LGBT Youth North West which has really supported me. I’ve recently helped them with their Heritage Lottery project to capture an oral history of activists of our time who were instrumental in campaigning for equal rights such as the repeal of Section 28 and the campaign for equal marriage rights.

I’ve done a few small exhibitions myself and done heaps of volunteering for other groups and artist projects. An example was when I helped out with the Spring Shrouds projects with UHC to produce a hundred shrouds to cover street-based advert shells across Manchester city. The Mircoresidency is a great opportunity for me as it gives me the chance to lead on my own project and test out ideas to make a practice which is participatory. I had to make the decision not to make anything for two years when I was completing my masters as I was working full time. Having this chance to get creative again is great, it feel like a new starting point for me.

Can you tell me a bit about what you’re planning on doing for your Microresidency. What should our visitors expect when they come to your studio?
Visitors will have a chance to get stuck in and participate with some easy crafting. I want visitors to have a voice and contribute to an ongoing project I’m developing with the support of People’s History Museum.  I am currently in the process of developing a community quilt project which aims to celebrate the 396 MPs who voted ‘Yes’ for equal marriage in 2013 by printing hand drawn images of each MPs on hexagonal fabric and sewn together to form a political map celebrating each member that voted Yes for equal marriage. There were however 254 MPs that did not say ‘Yes’ for this bill. The aim of the residency is to host drop in workshops and ask visitors to create a range of positive messages to the MPs which did not vote for equal marriage.   The project aims to inspire more political engagement with current affairs whilst learning about the important roles of MPs. The project will draw out key examples from the People’s History Museum’s banner collection (which include banners from suffragettes and section 28 campaigns).   The project highlights that although LGBT people have gained rights, there is still work to be done to gain real equality.  The messages that are created will then be appliqued onto the hexagons to show where MPs did not vote Yes for Equal Marriage across the country. The studio will have lots of different materials for people to play around and get creative. I’ll have lots of things to help inspire people but I want them to come down and check it out themselves. I want the messages to be honest, optimistic and constructive; depending on how much time they have they can either leave a message for me to turn into an art work or generate one themselves with the tools that will be there in the studio.

Do you have a favourite object/display in the PHM
It’s hard to choose a single object, I found the painting on the silk banners of the forestry ancient order fascinating as they are so detailed and well preserved. The banner is also rich in visual symbolism.  Possibly my favourite piece is a banner from 1903, of the Women’s Social and Political Union, Ilford which says Votes for Women- Believe and you will conquer. It’s such a powerful statement and really articulates their determinism and faith in a sharp single phrase. The banner itself is quite plain but there are subtle nuances in the colouring: purple for dignity, green for hope and white for purity, the coding is deliberately provocative whilst secretly empowering their cause.

If you could meet any person living or dead, who would it be?
I would have really liked to meet the German Emperor Wilhelm II who was a prominent figure during World War I. Some historians suggest that he was controlled by his generals and eventually he was forced to abdicate his throne.  I read a book called: Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past whilst  on holiday in Corfu. The book made references that although the Kaiser had seven children he enjoyed male-only hunting parties and long weekends. Whilst I was in Corfu we visited the Palace of Achilleio which was full of Greek works of art including lots of sculpture. There was this huge figure of a dying Achilles hidden in the back garden of the palace. The figure is Achilles in an incredibly erotic position, lying struck in the ankle with an arrow. Whilst on exploring the palace I found that the Kaiser had purchased the palace shortly after the peak of a scandal the Harden-Eulenburg affair which the book evidences questioning remarks about his sexuality. It was a bizarre coincidence that I was reading this book on holiday whilst visiting a place which the Kaiser he had purchased. It would have been a hidden oasis, an escape from his life in Germany. The book made me question why he chose a remote property in Corfu which was filled with Greek sculptures and homoerotic nudes. The more research I do into his life the more interested I am in who he was as an individual. There is no concrete evidence but it’s a great conspiracy and I would enjoy the chance to have an open conversation about his role as Kaiser, World War I and his personal life.

If you had a time machine that could only go forwards or backwards in time, would you like to see the past, or visit the future?
I think the future is always something you can look forward to, so I would prefer to visit some of the past. I’d like to attend a symposium by Plato or work with as an assistant to Michelangelo; but most of all I would love to see a dinosaur!

What’s your idea worth fighting for?
I think human rights are really important. The closer we get to creating an equal, tolerant  and fair society the closer we get to creating our own version of heaven on earth and that has to be worth striving towards. I think Moulin Rouge sum up best what is worth fighting for: Truth, Beauty, Freedom and above all things Love.

Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners

LGSM display @ People's History MuseumWork in Progress has a new display to celebrate the release of the film Pride and to highlight the history and work of Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM).

LGSM formed during the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike. They decided to raise money for the mining communities as they believed the two groups were against the same things such as the Thatcher government and the police. LGSM soon became one of the biggest fundraising groups in the whole of the UK. The Pits and Perverts benefit, held in London in December 1984, was a huge success and raised over £5000 for the miners.

At the time it was seen as revolutionary that these two contrasting communities could stand in unity against a common enemy. Pride, directed by Matthew Warchus and starring well known actors such as Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton, shows this unlikely relationship. The film tells the true story of the LGSM, led by campaigner Mark Ashton, travelling from London to a remote village in Wales to personally hand over the money they had raised.

The LGSM display in Work in Progress includes stills from the film, courtesy of Pathe films, and original LGSM photographs. It is also showcases some of the LGSM archival material which is held here at the museum, such as leaflets and posters.

If the display inspires you to find out more about the topic, we have an LGBT History Tour on Friday 22August. We also have a Q&A session on Saturday 23 August, which is a wonderful opportunity to meet some of the original LGSM members and the cast who play them in Pride. Hope to see you there!

People’s History Museum Work Experience

Anna Stephen, a student on work placement, tells us about her time at PHM in this guest post

IMG_7632My favourite object in the museum is the docker’s pineapple in his lunch box. It shows how ordinary the worker’s diet of the time was (a massive pie!), and that a piece of fruit we now consider part of our regular shop was now available for ordinary people- but still thought of as an exotic and exciting treat, not the commonplace object we know of today. Plus it is big and plastic and looks dangerous.
As part of my work experience placement at the People’s History Museum, I’ve done dribs and drabs of all sorts of interesting work to give a full perspective IMG_7631on employment opportunities at the museum. I’ve made dizzying use of the spinny chairs taking care of reception, and even been taught how to wield a gun by the front-of-house staff (a price-tag gun, that is)!
I’ve sat in on incredible schools living history performances- historical figures such as suffragette Hannah Mitchell and chartist William Cuffay are portrayed with great élan by professional actors who reenergise history, imbuing it with a sense of dynamism and urgency as they show children the perspective of someone actually living at the time. There’s also a Q&A session with the historical figures afterwards, so you can ask all the questions you would never be able to without a time machine!

I’ve also designed a superhero postcard for children to design their own inspiring figure and describe what they’d do to change the world.

Work in Progress – Week 5

I can’t believe we’ve reached the halfway point of Work in Progress already!  The exhibition has completely transformed from the blank canvas at the beginning and feels alive with activity, opinions and displays. The boards are now getting really full, with displays about London Road Fire Station, Hough End Hall and our exhibitions team asking visitors for their election memories.  We’re going to be putting up a display about the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, ahead of our Q&A with the cast of the film Pride on Saturday 23 August, so we’ve unwrapped our brand new display cases ready to go.

More photos from Claire Curtin's Microresidency, Thurs 14 August 2014Week 5 has been a really fun, busy week as we’ve hosted our second Microresidency with artist Claire Curtin.  Claire led two screenprinting workshops on Saturday and Thursday and spent the week creating placards, collages and polling our visitors with questions such as, ‘Is Jeremy Clarkson a racist or just stupid?’ Her residency culminated in our People’s Protest, where campaigners marched from the museum to Lincoln Square with placards emblazoned with diverse slogans including ‘Down With Dave’, ‘Save our NHS’, ‘Give Peace a Chance’ and ‘Outlaw Shaving, Beards For All’. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists provided the music and everyone had an opportunity to make a speech and share their idea worth fighting for.

Monday 18 August – Tuesday 9 September 2014,  #SELFIE_SHOW-OFF exhibition by Karol Kochanowski @ People's History Museum (4)On Monday we (I say ‘we’, it was really Josh and Mark – I ‘supervised’) installed #SELFIE_SHOW-OFF exhibition by Karol Kochanowski, which is part of the Manchester Pride Fringe. Karol’s visually striking paintings will be on display for the remainder of Work in Progress’s run, and the exhibition provides a colourful complement.

I’ve had some great conversations with visitors this week, including the brilliant Amanda, who was really passionate about shopping ethically and voting using her money, rather than at the ballot box.

There’s been a few postcards posted in our suggestion box this week that are addressed to other people.  One of our visitors would like to go to a One Direction concert, and another has gotten their letter to Santa in early. There’s also been some thought provoking ‘Big Ideas’ posted, including ‘The only way to stop racism is to stop talking about it. Bringing it up isn’t letting it go’. Do you agree?

We’ve got a very busy week coming up, with the English Disco Lovers speaking this afternoon, the Private View of #SELFIE_SHOW-OFF tomorrow, Bob Bonner from London Road Fire Station speaking on Monday, Bethan Foulkes doing Live Research Tuesday – Thursday, our LGBT History Tour on Friday and Celebrating Community Spirit, our Q&A with the cast of the film Pride on Saturday.  Then I’ll be off for a couple of days to recuperate before we welcome Oly Bliss for his Microresidency on 26-30 August.  Phew!

Responding to Discrimination? The Labour Party, Post-war Immigration and the politics of Race.

Today we have a guest post from Marc Collinson, a PhD researcher currently using the Labour History Archive and Study Centre at PHM

LHASC @ People's History Museum 003Originally from the Calder Valley, I am a self-funded PhD student from Bangor University, undertaking research with support from the Society for the Study of Labour History. My research is looking into the impact of immigration and racial tension on the Labour Party both organisationally, on policy formulation and on its electoral performance. This project is focused on the political dynamics of the Labour Party, and the degree to which policy development at the Party’s London Headquarters reflected the opinions of the party and voters in provincial constituencies. From the late 1950s, mass immigration had a major impact on British, predominantly urban, society. This caused problems for the Labour Party, not least because it claimed to represent a white working-class that often felt threatened and angered by immigration. Areas like the Manchester, Merseyside and declining northern mill towns like Blackburn, Batley and Oldham saw racist agitation from an early date. These regions were also a stronghold of the populist ‘right-wing’ of the Labour Party and insufficient attention has been given to the responses of these Labour members to immigration. The membership of the National Front was often suggested to have been formed from these traditional Labour ranks.

LHASC @ People's History Museum 004
This study will utilize archives based at Labour History Archive in Manchester. These include the papers of leading politicians, minutes and memoranda of party committees, policy documents and newspapers. I have previously utilised the archives during Master and Undergraduate research and am always impressed by the easy availability of material, and the knowledgeable help given by Julie, Darren and the Archive Team