Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners material at the People’s History Museum

A guest post from Archive volunteer and UCLan placement student, Emily Fisher.

With the release of the film Pride on the 12 September 2014, there has been a large increase in interest in the Lesbian and Gay Support the Miners (LGSM) material held by the Labour History Archive and Study Centre. LGSM set up during the 1984 – 1985 miners strike and served to challenge many prejudices. By 1985 there were 11 LGSM groups all over the country; the London group alone raised £11,000 by December 1985. The recognition of LGBT rights by the unions and Labour movements during the miners’ strike led to a formation of a network of LGBT groups for the members of the Trade Unions, which is still going strong today.LGSm image 2

The archive holds two boxes full of posters, pamphlets, hymn sheets, newspaper articles and minutes from numerous meetings. Although, predominantly the boxes are focused on LGSM, there are other collections available. One example is the Labour campaign for lesbian and gays rights. Within this collection there is the “Legislation for Lesbian and Gay Rights: A Manifesto”, this ultimately is the Labour Party campaigning for more equality for LGBT groups with regard to the Labour movement.

The collection also contains an end of year report on the work carried out by the by the London district of the Communist Party of Great Britain, with regard to the Lesbian and Gay advisory. This report states the work carried out by the CPGB to help lesbians and gays obtain the rights they deserve.

The support of the Communist Party of Great Britain continues, when a campaign by the conservatives to petition against the introduction of homosexual and lesbian education is met fiercely by the CPGB, with letters and posters being published asking for all LGBT groups to come together and complain against this petition.

The second box particularly focuses on members of the LGSM movement, along with letters to and from the movement. There are numerous letters containing donations to the movement which suggests that they obtained a huge amount of support across the nation considering the amount of donation letters there are in the collection. Within the collection there is some material solely based on the miners’ strike itself and its progress. This collection on the whole is extremely interesting and contains some excellent material focussing on a topic that is very personal to a vast amount of people.


St Paul’s Peel Primary School visit

A guest post by our Learning Assistant Liz Thorpe.

Build A Banner - ALFFH - St. Pauls PS 25.06 (3)On Wednesday 25 June St Paul’s Peel Primary School took up the opportunity to visit us for a free, World War I (WWI) themed, Build a Banner session as we commemorate the centenary of the start of WWI. The group explored our changing exhibition A Land Fit For Heroes: War and the Working Class 1914-1918  as part of the workshop. The group clearly enjoyed their workshop, where they learnt about symbols and their meanings, and also how and why banners are used. They then got to work creating their very own banner to take back to school.

St Paul Peels CofE PS @ People's History MuseumWe asked that they write a blog about their experience here but what we did not expect was a delivery of beautifully illustrated letters from each of the children, telling us about how much they enjoyed themselves!

Here are some of the things they shared with us …


 ‘I learned today that the eye meant ‘The eye of the God and the dove meant peace, the holding hands meant friendship and the bees meant workers.’


 ‘To make the all seeing eye of god I had to make a template of an eye on pink card and when I had done that I stuck the card of white sticky card. Then we had to put black sticky paper for the eye lashes. I also used the same black paper for the pupil. Then we covered the eye in blue card and the eye was finished.’


 ‘I had so much fun I wish I could go again I am going to ask my mum if I can go again.’


 ‘I never knew what the symbols meant before they were explained. The bee hive means working hard, the dove means peace, and the eye symbols god is watching over you.’


St Paul Peels CofE PS @ People's History Museum  (1) ‘Most of all we really enjoyed the banner workshop, we made a banner and decorated it with pictures of the eye of god, poppies and white doves.’


 ‘I am amazed that you have managed to keep the banners clean for all of those years.’


 ‘My favourite part was making our own banner with bees and poppies. I think I’d give it a ten star rating. The phrase “work together for peace” was a brilliant idea …’


 ‘Pauline was very kind and kind because she showed us all of the museum and explained what everything was about.’


If you would like to bring your class in for a free workshop in the next academic year we are offering pARTicipate: Build a Banner sessions for primary schools and Living History: Baddies – Conscience & Conflict during World War I for secondary schools.

One free session per Greater Manchester district.

Offered on a first come, first served basis. To find out more please email learning@phm.org.uk or call 0161 838 9190

The exhibition is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.


Better together or going it alone? Scottish Referendum display at the PHM.


Today Scotland votes to decide on whether they will be an independent country.  Last year Harriet Richardson wrote this blog post about our collections related to this issue.  Please note that this was originally published on 19 September 2013.  You can see how our visitors voted here.

Yesterday marked one year to go until Scotland will vote to decide the future of their country…are they better staying within the UK or will they decide to become independent and go it alone? In honour of this momentous question, which will inevitably affect all living in the UK today and most people have an opinion on, we decided to search through our collections and review the history of this debate, while presenting material from both contemporary campaigns; Better Together and YES Scotland.

The first stop was our very own Archive and Study Centre to look at material surrounding the history of this story. Since the Act of Union in 1707, groups within Scotland have advocated for a separate Scottish Parliament, known as devolution, or complete independence from the United Kingdom. The first vote on devolution was held in 1979. Despite a majority of people voting ‘yes’ the act required 40% of all people in Scotland to do so, as this did not occur nothing changed. The second vote for devolution took place in 1997and this time Scotland did vote yes. Devolution brought a Scottish parliament with powers to legislate over health, education and housing, but not economic policy, defence or foreign affairs.

We were able to piece together pamphlets, leaflets and photographs from the archive and theIMG_2933 Working Class Movement Library and create a case which charted the long history which will result in the referendum next year.  My personal favourite is this photograph of a lady campaigning for a Scottish Assembly in 1987- she looks to be there for the long haul, despite the bad weather!

To bring the display right up to the present day, the very helpful people at both YES Scotland and Better Together sent us some campaign material including badges, posters, balloons, pens, leaflets and even a bottle opener/ key IMG_2927ring- always something to keep handy! These items were displayed in a separate case and the posters were stuck up on the wall bringing contemporary debate inside our museum setting.

The ‘Yes’ Scotland campaign argues that a future under a social union will result in a much more equal society, because Scotland will be able to prioritise on matters most important to them. While the ‘Better Together’ campaign argue that were Scotland to become independent the country would be worse off economically, politically and socially.

Unless you live in Scotland, you won’t get to vote in the 2014 referendum, although a ‘yes’ voteIMG_2923 would radically alter what it means to be British. We thought therefore that it would be a great idea to use one of our new perspex ballot boxes, and offer our visitors the chance to ‘play their part’ and cast their vote. Visitors are asked the question which will be used next year; ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ and are asked to tick a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ box. So far we have had loads of votes, and the display has only been up one day! We’ll tweet what the majority of our visitors have decided to vote for in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for our very own PHM poll.

Get involved in our Fun Palace

A guest post from our fab volunteer Sarah Taylor who is busy organising our PHM Fun Palace.

fun-palace-illustration1We are holding a Fun Palace on Saturday 4 October! Over that weekend, Fun Palaces are going to be popping up all over the country, celebrating arts, sciences and everyday cultures. Our Fun Palace will be all about Manchester’s history.

Come down and join us for a chance to learn all about our wonderful city. They’ll be opportunities to ask questions about things you’ve always wanted to know, share your favourite Manchester memories and even make your own ice cream cone (unfortunately not edible!) – did you know that the twist ice cream cone was invented in Manchester?!

As part of the Fun Palace we want to know about your Manchester histories. We’re inviting everyone to tweet in photos of themselves, family and friends in Manchester, young and old, past and present! The photos will be displayed on the day along with visitors’ written memories of the city. Tweet us @PHMMcr with #PHMFunPalace

So don’t hesitate to get involved via twitter and come and visit our Fun Palace on Saturday 4 October!

Work in Progress – the final fortnight

Work in Progress photomontageI’m writing this sat in my office in Work in Progress for the final time.  I’ve spent the past couple of weeks creating a photomontage that I’ve used to cover the calendar in the exhibition.  It’s been great looking back at the photos from the start of the exhibition and seeing how much it’s progressed.

Re-Telling WorkshopWe’ve had lots of fantastic events over the past fortnight. On Thursday 4 September Sophia Gardiner, artist in residence at Refugee and Asylum Seeker Participatory Action Research (RAPAR) delivered Re-Telling: Scapegoats, Media & Politics. The workshop encouraged participants to cut up newspaper headlines to create responses to negative stories about migrants. You can read Sophia’s blog post about the workshop here.

7 September 2014, Protest Photography @ People's History Museum (1)This was followed by a weekend of photography workshops. On the Saturday Curated Place returned for their Secret Cities Immersion – Manchester Hidden Spaces Workshop.  Then on the Sunday photographer Stephen Speed joined us for Protest Photography, a really interesting discussion on the ethics and aesthetics of protest photography. It was a real insight into the processes and considerations a photojournalist undertakes.

Internally, we held our events meeting in the workshop space on Monday 8 September, to finalise our Winter Events programme. Marge Ainsley joined us on Wednesday 3 September to deliver observational research training.  We’re going to be using this to analyse visitors’ responses to our Welcome Wall as we test out ideas to redevelop it.

13 September 2014, Wollstonecraftivism @ People's History Museum (35)Our final weekend of events kicked off yesterday with Wollstonecraftivism led by the fantastic No More Page 3.  After discussions about representations of women in our galleries, including Mary Wollstonecraft and Rose Queens, the participants stitched messages into a wedding dress. As you can see, the final product is brilliant!

Which leads me to today, the final day of the exhibition. Sashwati Mira Sengupta and Jaydev Mistry popped in this morning to install Protest, Migration and Workers Rights, an AV installation that was created after their Microresidency. I’ve also had a few familiar faces come and say hello and it’s been lovely to reflect on all the great activities we’ve had throughout the exhibition.  I’ll write another blog post in a few weeks to reflect on the whole process, but for now I’m going to sign off and in true Work in Progress style begin to take down the exhibition so everyone can see the process from start to finish.

Re-Telling: Scapegoats, Media & Politics Workshop

A guest post by Sophia Gardiner, artist in residence at Refugee and Asylum Seeker Participatory Action Research (RAPAR) who delivered Re-Telling: Scapegoats, Media & Politics on Thursday 4 September as part of our Work in Progress exhibition.

Re-Telling WorkshopThe term ‘Scapegoat’ stems from Ancient Greek and Hebrew traditions. In the Biblical text, an actual goat is prepared as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the populace by having it ‘carry’ their sins out into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement, removing sin from the community. The original term ‘azazel’, means ‘for removal’, or ‘sender away of sins’.

In modern usage, ‘Scapegoat’ or ‘Scapegoating’ refers to the practice of singling out a particular party for unmerited blame in society. As a political tool, we often see the scapegoating of distinct social groups. Throughout recent history, such group range from Trade Unionists, the Jewish community, migrant groups (such as immigrants from the West Indies and Eastern European migrants), Irish Travellers, the unemployed, the Muslim community and refugees. Such scapegoats are often propagated by mainstream media, who neglect important facts about these communities, twist visual representations and appropriate situations to the advantage of the worldview that they are selling – often in favour of those who seek to profit from social division.

Working with refugees, asylum seekers and other displaced peoples, I have seen first hand how scapegoating can affect communities and individuals. It results in social isolation, mental health issues such as depression and a lack of awareness about your rights. It also brings about stereotyping, racial tensions, prevents accountability, legitimises harmful legislation targeting certain groups, hate crime and violence.

With a delegation from RAPAR human rights charity, I arranged a workshop which would give victims of scapegoating, some of the most persecuted and voiceless individuals in our community, an opportunity to actively confront the media that is used against them by politicians and tabloids, by cutting apart the hysterical headlines, ill-informed quotations and propaganda to tell it like it is…


“I had no idea how therapeutic that could be, cutting up all those offensive headlines!”

–                   Nahella (Workshop Participant)


“We have all these untruths and biased opinions of the politicians and newspapers which have some really hurtful affects on these communities, we did not simply say ‘this is your opinion, but we think…’ it was about saying ‘your opinion is wrong, and here is why…’.”

–       Workshop Participant

“The power is in the words and its how we use them. So we took the negative words and made them positive, and so can we do with our lives and society, to not to feed our younger generation with harmfully biased views, but with positive and welcoming attitude.”

– Manjeet (Workshop Participant)


“I think it was a very empowering exercise for us. I think these headlines are highly discriminatory, and I hate how they just get away with saying these things.”

–       Workshop Participant


“I liked having the opportunity to express myself so that people will know we are here to contribute, to help this country not to hurt it. It is often hard to get people to understand this, but our work today made me feel better about confronting this attitude”.

–         Abiola (Workshop Participant)


The delegation consisted primarily of asylum seekers (people who have claimed asylum after fleeing persecution in their own country). For them, the important aspect of this workshop was that the participants- rather than simply talking or writing about their own stories, were actively ‘Re-writing’ the propaganda used against them in a direct way.

They were able to not only challenge this media, but to challenge it in a way that would give them an outlet for not simply expressing themselves, but to do so in a community setting that would enhance their participation and dialogue about their perspective, their stories and how their existence should be acknowledged and understood that these communities are given space to speak out for themselves.

Work in Progress – Week 7

Oliver Bliss's Microresidency StudioBy far the highlight of the week has been Oliver Bliss’s Microresidency (mainly because of the fab music he’s been blasting out of his iPad all week, including the top 30 Gay Anthems).  Oly has been crafting messages of hope to the MPs who voted ‘no’ to the Same Sex Marriage Bill.  He invited visitors to make their own hexagons, which will be gathered together to form the Equality Quilt later in the year.  Oly has blogged about his residency here and I’d urge you to read his thoughts, and look at all the fantastic photographs of inspirational artworks made by Oly and our visitors. A personal highlight was helping out on Saturday afternoon and chatting to the lovely group from LGBT Youth North West.

We had a great meeting with Sue Sanders, Jeff Evans and Sylvia Kölling on Thursday about LGBT History Month and plans for the LGBT History Festival in February.  We’re very excited to be hosting the Sunday hub of the festival and there’s lots of great events in the pipeline.

I also met with artist Phoebe Myers about her plans for the Free For Arts Festival.  Phoebe is going to be making a Freedom Banner and is inviting visitors to contribute their freedoms, both big and small, which are important to them.  The workshop will be held on Saturday 4 October as part of our PHM Fun Palace, and the banner will be displayed at the museum until Friday 10 October.

We’ve made some progress with the object handling strand of the project.  We (myself, Kirsty our Learning Manager, Harriet our Curatorial Assistant and Mark our Front of House Co-ordinator) are setting up an object handling programme of events, which will be led by volunteers.  Two of our new volunteers John and Genevive let us pick their brains about the object handling training they received at Manchester Museum, which objects draw in visitors and what objects we should include in our World War I object handling box. We’re sourcing some more 3D objects and will start trialling object handling sessions in November.

work in progressI think I’ve discovered why some people have been reluctant to come into the exhibition. I was chatting to a visitor who thought that the big ‘Work in Progress’ sign meant that they couldn’t come in because it wasn’t ready yet.  Oops!

I can’t believe that we’ve only got two weeks of the exhibition left now!  Coming up this week we’ve got two workshops: Re-Telling: Scapegoats, Media & Politics on Thursday and Protest Photography on Sunday. Do come along!