Refugees Make a Greater Manchester

A guest blog by Ben Knight a social work student on placement on the Wellbeing project at Refugee Action.

Ben worked with the arts drop-in group at Refugee Action to create a banner with positive messages about refugees and asylum seekers in Manchester.

As the collection at the People’s History Museum demonstrates – the making and displaying of banners has always been present at protests and marches. They are an essential way for the uncounted or underrepresented to make their voices heard loud and clear.

Refugee Action Banner- Aslyum Seekers Are Welcome HereFor the weekly arts drop-in at Refugee Action we wanted to create some banners that are inspired by the rich tradition of banner making on display at the People’s History Museum. Many of the participants in the group have experience organising protests around asylum issues such as the ‘Shut Down Yarlswood Detention Centre’ campaign and we wanted to channel this energy into creating some positive messages about refugees and asylum seekers in Manchester.

During the designing of our banners the educational resources made available by the People’s History Museum were invaluable. These resources included some symbols that have appeared on protest banners throughout history, including images of unity, diversity and collective action. The sessions resulted in two banners, one based around the phrase ‘Refugees Make A Greater Manchester’ and an ‘Asylum Seekers Welcome Here’ banner. Both banners are on display in our office at Canada House, and the latter banner was used by Manchester University students at a recent pop-up campaign to raise awareness of asylum issues on the streets of Manchester.

Refugee Action Banner- Aslyum Seekers Are Welcome Here at standOf our art-sessions, regular participant Bisham Dass says, that the art-sessions ‘aimed to provide a means for stress relief and emotional healing for asylum seekers and refugees who have been victims of abuse and hardship, and are in need of a mental sanctuary’.

The banner making session was a stimulating and thought provoking activity and we’re all pleased that the banners could be used in a public campaign.

If you would like to find out more about Banner Making workshops at People’s History Museum please contact the Learning Team.

Refugee Action are one of our Parliament Week partners.  Find out about our programme of events inspiring you to change your future.


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.

Conscientiously hated: Objectors during World War I

A guest post by our Exhibitions Assistant, Josh Butt.

In our upcoming exhibition A Land Fit For Heroes we will be looking at how and why most of the country got behind the nation’s great war effort. Despite mass support for the war there were a small number of people who objected to it.

Keir Hardie anti-war speech Trafalgar Square 1914Shortly before war was declared on 4 August 1914 the Labour MP Keir Hardie led an anti-war protest at Trafalgar Square attended by several thousand of people. There was little interest for war in the weeks leading up to the declaration. Yet after war was declared Hardie’s anti-war stance was reviled and his speeches met with heckling as the country came together in support for the war effort.

Public attitude towards the war is perhaps best shown in statistics.  Only 16,000 people, known as conscientious objectors, refused to serve in the army during the war, four times less than in World War II. Yet, over two and a half million men volunteered to fight between August 1914 and January 1916.

Conscientious objectors were often labelled as ‘conchies’ and the rest of the country had little time or sympathy for them. Those that stayed at home were viewed as ‘shirkers’ or cowards. This lack of sympathy was perhaps understandable,Recruiting Office 1915 especially from people who had just lost relatives at the front. Indeed many volunteers were motivated by the sense that if men were needed to win the war, why should they stay, while others fought for them? Clement Attlee, future Labour leader, reflected in his memoirs that ‘it appeared wrong to me to let others make a sacrifice while I stood by.’

This sense that those who refused were harmful to the war effort increased negative feeling towards objectors. Up before a conscription tribunal in Oldham an objector was described as ‘a deliberate and rank blasphemer, a coward and a cad, and nothing but a shivering mass of unwholesome fat’. God had already been conscripted.

Some objects served in a Non-Combatant Corps – dubbed the ‘No Courage Corps’. Those who refused to contribute in any way to the war effort spent the war in jail. Trouble for ‘conchies’ continued after the war with job interviewers asking candidates ‘and what did you do in the war?’. Often job adverts appeared with the line ‘No CO need apply’.

While objectors were viewed as cowards during the war, to face down such strong public opinion and not waiver from one’s morals took its own degree of courage.

Ingrid’s placement reflection

Today we have a guest post from Ingrid who is studying Museum Studies at Newcastle University and recently completed an eight week placement with the museum. Ingrid has been tweeting about it and more at @museumingrid

The work placement is a key part of Museum Studies Masters programmes, and I jumped at the chance to do mine at the People’s History Museum (PHM). I’d first visited the museum in winter 2010, where I had a chuckle at the temporary community exhibition of political Christmas cards and was struck by the contemporary and eye-catching way the museum presented the chronological story of working people in Britain.

My placement has been mostly within the Exhibitions department. I’ve been conducting research into Tailored Trades as part of a newly formed AHRC Network between Northumbria University and the University of Exeter. I’ve had the incredible opportunity to create a display case for their launch event – the case will be in the museum’s processional way museum on 29 June and will include objects highlighting the radical changes in production and consumption of clothing between 1880 and 1939.

paper pattern adverts from Labour WomanI’ve had the pleasure of working with the collections of both PHM and the Working Class Movement Library in Salford and have unearthed incredible treasures such as tailors notebooks from 1907, and these incredible paper pattern adverts from Labour Woman, the Labour Party’s publication for women. They’re so Great Gatsby!

I’ve done so much research into the banner collection at the museum and read so many different records from Tailors Trade Unions that I feel like I was a member myself! The solidarity of trade unions is such an inspiring story and one which is core to the museum’s exhibitions. Tailors trade unions are pretty much the first examples of women being active in trade unions, basically due to the amount of women who happened to work in these trades. The role of working women campaigning for rights and an active voice has been a real theme in my placement which has been an unexpected delight as it’s one close to my heart. This particular project has helped me to develop working knowledge of the exhibition process, I’ve really had to manage my time myself which has been a really useful experience which I’m sure will come in handy.

Food Pamphlet Table DisplayAnother task I was given was to create two small displays for the museum cafe, using material from the archive. I scanned in some eye catching pamphlet covers and newspaper articles and created reproductions to use as table top displays. This was really fun because the museum has some really amazing things in its archive that don’t often see the light of day, so doing this has meant that visitors can enjoy them and the cafe has been brightened up too.

I’ve also been able to experience the early stages of a major changing exhibition, as museum staff have been busily preparing ideas, having meetings and developing designs for the forthcoming exhibition about the Cooperative. I shadowed the Exhibitions Assistant in several visits to the museum’s collections store to photograph potential objects that may be selected for the exhibition. This chance to go truly behind the scenes and put my object handling training into practice was very enjoyable.

Emily Wilding Davison the one who threw herself under the horse a play by Cambridge Devised TheatreAnother one of my highlights has been blogging for the Wonder Women Manchester blog about a series of events at the museum in commemorating the centenary of Emily Wilding Davison’s death. There have been installations, talks and even a play in the museum!

I’ve really loved doing my placement at PHM, it’s gotten better and better and I’ll be sad to leave, thanks to all of the staff for being so supportive to their placement students, I’ve been one of a few in the time I’ve been here. It’s been incredibly varied, possibly due to the nature of my interests and I’ve loved every moment!

Play Your Part – the first experiment

Ground floor board RESIZED

Do you prefer brilliant badges or beautiful banners?  Do you fantasise about trying on a suffragette sash?

We’d like to find out what your favourite objects at PHM are.  You can tell us at the museum by writing (or drawing!) your answer on one of our chalkboards*, or if you’re not in the area pop it in the comments below.  To inspire you our lovely PHM staff will be blogging about their favourite objects over the next few weeks.

The top ten objects will feature in a very special ‘People’s Choice’ section on our website, so make sure yours is in there!

*Some of our very conscientious visitors “found” the boxes of chalk we put out and responsibly handed them back to our Gallery Assistants.  We’ve now added a label (silly us – obviously everything in a museum needs a label!)


An exciting new project: Play Your Part


In general, museums may look at different aspects of the past, but as organisations they are constantly evolving and challenging themselves to think differently about their role in society.

Over the course of 2013-2014, with support from Arts Council England,  will be undertaking a pioneering new project which will hopefully challenge us to think differently about ourselves, in order to be more relevant in today’s world, resonate with our everyday lives and inspire people to respond. 

What this means is, we’ll be experimenting with different ways of getting you involved, putting on ground breaking and quirky events, pop-up exhibitions and looking at our collection in a new way.  We’ll be finding some hidden gems from our stores and asking you for your stories and experiences and how they relate to your life, both past and present.

This is an experiment – we’re not totally sure how the project will play out, which is what makes it so exciting!  There’ll be mistakes, there’ll be happy accidents, but we’ll share them with you along the way. We want you to share too!  Tell us your ideas, experiences and random musings using the comments below or email Harriet or Catherine.