POLLfest – our politics festival to celebrate Parliament Week 2014

After the success of POLLfest last year, we wanted to make POLLfest 2 bigger and better! We teamed up with some fantastic partners to deliver a week of events for Parliament Week 2014 to celebrate democracy at the home of ideas worth fighting for.

14 November 2014, Democratic Dialogue @ People's History Museum (10)We kicked off on Friday 14 November with Democratic Dialogue: How young people would like to communicate with Parliament.  We worked with the brilliant Democratic Society and welcomed over 60 young people, 3 MPs, 2 MEPs and 6 democratic experts to the museum. They sat down and discussed 4 topics that had been pre-selected by the young people: How do young people and politicians view one another?; E-petitions; Political and Democratic Education; and votes at 16. The very intense discussions threw up some really interesting points and we’re busy collating all the feedback. We’ll create a list of ways that will help improve the relationship between young people, politicians and parliament and publish it here.


17 November 2014, The Power of Parliament schools workshop @ People's History Museum (50)On Monday 17 November we welcomed pupils from Queensgate Primary, Brimrod Primary School and Roundthorn Primary Academy to The Power of Parliament. Wendy Lavin from Parliament’s Education Service gave a brilliant interactive Introduction to Parliament Talk (fact of the day: Michael Jackson wanted to buy the Queen’s gold throne in the House of Lords). The pupils then took part in three workshops –exploring our galleries to find out about the history of democracy, debating House of Commons-style and doing some creative consultation for our forthcoming Election! exhibition. The groups clearly had a great time making politicians!

On Wednesday 19 November Gary Hart from the Parliamentary Outreach Team came to do a free workshop for adults and young people to explain how to Get Involved with Parliament. We learned how the House of Commons and the House of Lords work, and ways that you can help to influence policy, such as contacting your MP or submitting evidence to a select committee. A personal highlight was getting 10/10 in the Parliament quiz – working at the PHM definitely pays off sometimes!

We wrapped up the week with a Pecha Kucha night on the theme of Politics and the North. Five brilliant speakers each had 20 slides (with only 20 seconds for each slide) to whizz us through their specialist subjects:


We’d like to thank everybody who got involved in POLLfest including:

  • Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central
  • John Leech, MP for Manchester Withington
  • Mike Kane, MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East
  • Julie Ward, MEP for North West England
  • Afzal Khan, MEP for North West England
  • Helen Milner, CEO Tinder Foundation & Member of the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy
  • Rachael Farrington, Creator of votingcounts.org.uk
  • Rachel Gibson, Manchester University
  • Charlotte Mulcare, Democratic Society
  • Oliver Sidorczuk, Policy Coordinator, Bite the Ballot
  • Harriet Andrews, Uprising
  • Manchester Enterprise Academy
  • Mount St Joseph Business & Ent College
  • National Children’s Bureau
  • St Paul’s Catholic High School
  • Upton Hall School
  • William Hulme’s Grammar School
  • Starting Point Community Learning Partnership
  • Reclaim
  • Wendy Lavin, Parliament’s Education Service
  • Queensgate Primary
  • Brimrod Primary School
  • Roundthorn Primary Academy
  • Gary Hart, Parlimentary Outreach Service
  • Pecha Kucha Manchester and all the speakers

‘Joining the Radicals’ at the People’s History Museum

A guest post from Individual Giving Manager Kim Gowland

I joined the People’s History Museum in early October this year as Individual Giving Manager and things have been very exciting and fast moving since then!

Sponsors - bannerI’ve always loved the People’s History Museum, and feel that it has a unique place in the museums world, telling the story of democracy and representing real working people, rather than kings, queens and so on.  So I was delighted to be commissioned by the museum to turn the huge support and goodwill it already has into financial support and funding. This is really important at a time when funding cuts threaten museums like PHM and we all need to find new ways to be resilient and carry on the good work museums do.

Last week, we launched the People’s History Museum’s new fundraising campaign, which is called ‘Join the Radicals’. The Radicals in question are the heroes of the museum and its collection, who progressed democracy, equality, peace and welfare in our country. They are men and women who believed in ideas worth fighting for. They dared to challenge convention and believed in the spirit of fairness, co-operation and people power. They were pioneers who changed history and made life better for ordinary working people.

The ‘Join the Radicals’ campaign aims to harness the power of these radical thinkers and doers and to ensure that the museum continues to flourish and tell their stories.

Alan Johnson MP with Katy Ashton and Lord John Monks © Rod Leon - resized for webThe campaign was launched on Monday 17 November at a reception at the House of Commons, with a special guest of honour, the Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP.  Individuals, groups and organisations were invited to sponsor one of ‘100 Radical Heroes’ whose stories are uniquely told by the museum.

Our list of 100 heroes includes politicians, union leaders, suffragists, campaigners, workers, footballers and writers who all made a difference. Tom Paine…Emmeline Pankhurst …William Wilberforce…Viv Anderson… George Orwell…Karl Marx… Disraeli, Bevan and Churchill.

The launch event was attended by over 60 guests, and the sponsorship campaign has already succeeded in attracting a number of pledges from attendees. These included a pledge from Alan Johnson for his own personal radical hero who wasn’t on our list – Scottish trade union activist, orator, politician and journalist, James ‘Jimmy’ Reid. Reid was famously one of the leaders in the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Work-in and also a great supporter of Scottish independence. This pledge takes the number of Radical Heroes to 101 but who’s counting!

Over the coming months, we want to sign up 100 people or organisations to sponsor a Radical Hero as part of our broader ‘Join the Radicals’ campaign. Sponsorship will cost £3,000 and the funds raised will go directly to support our collections, exhibitions and ongoing learning programme, and to ensuring that the museum continues to flourish in these challenging economic times.

In return for their support, sponsors will receive a range of benefits including having their name displayed in the Museum alongside their chosen Radical Hero, a one-to-one behind the scenes session with a museum expert exploring the collections relating to their Radical Hero, and invitations to exclusive events.

And if you don’t have £3000 to spare, then don’t worry! The Radical Heroes sponsorship campaign is just one of the ways people can get involved in supporting the museum. The museum has a Supporters scheme which costs only £30 a year, and we also welcome one-off donations. The next few months will also see us launch a Patrons scheme which will be similar to the Supporters Scheme but with added benefits.

Find out more about our ‘Join the Radicals’ campaign and how you can support the museum, see our website or contact me on kim.gowland@phm.org.uk, Tel: 0161 838 9190.

A Land Fit For Heroes: Two WEA courses

A guest post by WEA tutor Mark Krantz 

Three mass movements dominated politics before the war.

The suffragettes had led a militant campaign demanding votes for women.

Trade union membership had soared as increasingly workers took strike action demanding wage rises in a period between 1910 and 1914 known as the ‘Great Unrest’.

Home Rule for Ireland had increasingly attracted support in parliament and amongst the people of Ireland. The outbreak of war in August 1914 halted these movements.

The People’s History Museum’s latest changing exhibition A Land Fit For Heroes: War and the Working Class 1914-1918 states that, ‘By Christmas 1914 the trade union movement had contributed 250,000 men to the effort’. The militant trades union leaders Ben Tillett and Will Thorne joined the recruitment drive.

Leading suffragettes Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst vociferously supported the war.

The campaign for Irish Home Rule was shelved as the British Empire was threatened by the war.

But as the war dragged on – opposition to the war grew.

Sylvia_PankhurstSuffragette Sylvia Pankhurst was an active opponent of the war. Glasgow Rent Strike WW1In 1915 rent strikes led by women spread across Glasgow, and workers demands for wage rises returned. At Easter in 1916 there was an uprising in Ireland led by James Connolly that shook the Empire. The three pre-war political questions returned.

While it was pro-war Arthur Henderson who had served as a Labour Party minister in the war cabinet, after the war it was the anti-war Ramsay MacDonald who became Labour’s first Prime Minister. Post war the Labour Party had replaced the Liberal Party as the main opposition to the Tories.Labour ELection Poster

CPGB logoRevolutionary movements in Russia and across Europe led to the establishment of Communist parties, including the Communist Party of Great Britain.

The Home Secretary Sir George Cave conceded, ‘Is it possible for us having called upon women for so large a contribution to the work of carrying on the war to refuse to women a voice in moulding the future of the country?’ Women’s lives and politics had been changed fundamentally by the war.

Two short courses will look at how the experience of total war, and the growing opposition to the war, fundamentally changed politics in Britain forever.


PrintA learning experience from the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) in association with the People’s History Museum


Fighting for a ‘Land Fit for Heroes’ – C3836480

Three meetings Thursday, 20 November, 27 November, 4 December 2014

1.00pm – 3.00pm. Cost: £18.60 or Free* (Please enquire)

The making of a ‘Land Fit for Heroes’ – C3837173

Three meetings Tuesday, 13 January, 20 January, 27 January 2015

1.00pm – 3.00pm. Cost: £18.60 or Free* (Please enquire)

HLF_National_Lottery_landscape_2747A Land Fit For Heroes exhibition is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund and will be on show from Saturday 24 May 2014 to Sunday 1 February 2015.

A Foot in the Past a Foot in the Present

A guest post by Curator Chris Burgess

Election!19th century historian Sir John Seeley stated that: ‘History is past politics; and politics present history’. Seeley’s words reflected the narrow view of history as a discipline at the time; history could only be history if it was political and concerned with great men. Our view of history has happily moved on since Seeley’s day but for the contemporary museum worker Seeley’s statement has some traction.

Museum objects are in the main from the past, in being of another time what do they say about the now? For visitors to PHM, what do political objects of the past say about the politics of the present? Such questions are not the idle musings of an idle curator, but run through the core of any interpretation of exhibitions. What are objects for, how should they be used?

If you occasionally scan this blog you’ll see that we are currently working on our next changing exhibition Election! a three part missive on all things voting. There will be a section with an object from every General Election of the 20th and 21st century; a whirlwind of voting history. In another section we’ve commissioned artist Alex Gardner to make the archaic and complicated mechanisms of how elections work visible.

So far so easy. In the first section we might anticipate that visitors might wallow in the nostalgia of elections, or discover new stuff about contests they never saw or can’t remember. The second section won’t be too controversial, an info-graph into politics the vision of voting mechanisms.

The third and final section is where it gets messy, when the museum grapples with the controversial of the current. As the 2015 General Election campaign gets going we will track its every move. As a politician speaks so their words will go in the show. When a new poster is produced we’ll post it in the space. And we’ll invite visitors to comment. We’re going to invite parties, and campaign groups, and individuals, of all shapes and all persuasions and all sizes to come and occupy this space for a bit and have their say. And the public can come to listen and can agree and can disagree.

It is at this stage we will have reached the point of no return. The museum will become a space to discuss politics whatever those politics may be. Quite what will happen I’m not sure. But hopefully past politics and present history will come together as one; we aim to make elections live and breathe here at PHM.

Election! Britain Votes opens on 14 Feb 2015