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!).
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.
Researcher 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!
The 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.
We 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. 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.