Stories to inspire us

A guest post by Matt Hill (Quiet Loner), our Songwriter-in-Residence. The residency’s aim is to interpret the museum’s collection through songs and in doing so increase public engagement with the collection. The project has been supported by a grant from Arts Council England.

4 June 2016, The Battle for the Ballot - the people's fight for the right to vote @ People's History Museum

For the past few months I’ve been immersed in the museum’s collections researching the history of the vote. I’ve been writing songs inspired by this and on June 4th I’ll present them for the first time in a new show as part of Manchester Histories Festival.

The idea of Universal Suffrage has it’s roots far back in history but I’ve started with the democratic awakening of the late 1700s and moved through the various Reform Acts of the 19th century. It’s a story that takes in appalling events like the Peterloo Massacre, popular movements like Chartism and culminates in the law breaking tactics of the Women’s Suffrage movement that finally led to Universal Suffrage in 1928.

In order to write the best songs I can, I’ve tried to read as much as I can about the people and events, especially drawing from first hand accounts of people who were there at the time. I’ve also sought out objects from the collections that might trigger ideas or inspiration. One item in the collection which fascinates me is the desk on which Thomas Paine wrote the Rights of Man. This was the starting point for a song exploring the ideas of Paine and his contemporary Mary Wollstonecraft. But it was the desk itself that provided the first lines of a song called “Nothing less than revolution”. “It’s been seven days now since I sat down at this desk The darkened oak is stained with sweat, my hands they seem possessed

as I write about the Rights of Man, how everyone has worth,

and the wrongs of handing power down through lines of noble birth”

I’ve also taken inspiration from the shiny sabres belonging to the Manchester Yeomanry at Peterloo, from prints of mass Chartist meetings, from satirical cartoons of the Hyde Park disturbances in 1867, from anti-Suffragette propaganda postcards and from the kitchen of suffragist Hannah Mitchell which is recreated in Gallery One. In each case something has triggered a line, phrase or image that has become the building block of a new song.

The fight for the right to vote is such an epic story with so many twists and turns and I’ve just an hour to tell it. But I hope that the stories within the songs will inspire people to come to the People’s History Museum and explore the collection themselves. There is so much worth seeking out.

The Battle for the Ballot premières as part of Manchester Histories festival on Sat 4 June. Reserve your place here.



Have Your Say on ‘Do we ‘really’ live in a democracy?’ on Friday 27 May

A guest post by Mark Krantz

29 April & Fri 27 May 2016, Have Your Say! @ People's History Museum
The battle to win the vote for all took over almost one hundred years. Today we have universal suffrage, election of representatives by ballot, and a referendum to decide on membership of the EU.

However, the question of how democratic is Britain is up for discussion.

Where as once there was the demand for ‘no taxation without representation’, today the Panama papers reveal that for the corporations and for some of the richest people in society, taxation is for other people to pay.

The Hillsborough inquest revealed that for years sections of the police conspired to avoid being accountable for their actions. Are they beyond democratic control and accountability?

Decision making over health has been devolved to an appointed interim mayor for Greater Manchester, despite an election that rejected an elected mayor for Manchester.

Opponents of this development believe that ‘Devo Manc’ is ‘undemocratic.’ There will though be an election next year for the post of Greater Manchester Mayor.

Come to the Have Your Say event at the People’s History Museum on Friday 27 May and discuss: Do we ‘really’ live in a democracy?

These monthly discussions will take on the last Friday of the month 1.00pm – 3.00pm, future dates are 24 June and 29 July 2016.  Have Your Say on June 24, will focus on ‘What next after the EU referendum results have been announced?’


Wigan youth group’s visit to People’s History Museum

A guest blog by Wigan Youth Voice

 Wigan Youth Voice at the museum

‘I really enjoyed seeing the stuff about equality as well as getting an insight into the past,’ says Terri-Leigh Smith, 15, from Wigan.

Terri-Leigh is part of Wigan youth group, Wigan Youth Voice, one of several youth groups run by Wigan Council to encourage and enable young people to have their views heard, campaign for change, improve their communities and influence decisions that are made about things that affect young people.

The group chose to visit the People’s History Museum as a reward for their work over the past year and so that they could find out more about the history of democracy.

Youth worker Scott Williams explains,

‘The museum was brilliant because as youth workers we talk to young people about democracy and politics and how valuable it is to have the opportunity to have your say and make a difference. But it was great to be able to show them real life examples of the struggles some people have been through in the past to create change.’

Scott adds,

‘The visit inspired a really interesting discussion afterwards about how much some things have changed and how some things still aren’t equal and need to change.’

Some of the group particularly appreciated how interactive the exhibitions were.

Lenin Ireme, 14, says,

‘I really liked the models of the old houses. You could go in and look inside them. I didn’t realise some people used to have bathrooms in their kitchens. I wouldn’t have liked that, it’s not good hygiene. You could also dress up in different hats and become different people.’

Whilst others learned some new things.

Adam Green, 17, says,

‘It was all about how things were in the past, how people lived and what has changed. I learned more about equal rights, especially for women, and the suffragettes.’

The group will now be recommending the visit to the other Youth Voice groups in Wigan Borough. To find out more about how young people can get involved and have their say in Wigan, email

More info on Wigan youth groups