A tribute to Radical Hero Betty Tebbs

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Betty Tebbs (10 April 1918 – 23 January 2017)

A blog by Helen Antrobus, Business Development Officer

 

In June 2016, something very exciting happened in the People’s History Museum. In front of an audience of 200 people, Betty Tebbs, aged 98, told the story of her life. From all the evaluation forms and feedback the staff at the museum received, she inspired so many more people to go and join peace movements, social campaigns, and political parties. Her standing ovation was incredible. This was the moment Betty was made a Radical Hero of the People’s History Museum, in recognition of the astounding life of activism she had led.

Elizabeth Tebbs was born in 1918, the same year women were finally granted the vote img028-no-2and World War I ended. She first became politically active at 14, when she was paid two shillings less than the boy next to her at the paper mill where they worked, just for being a girl. After joining her trade union at East Lancashire Paper Mill, Betty remained there for seventeen years – becoming Mother of the Chapel and leading the women out on strikes.

This fiery spirit and fight for equality was present through her entire life. Once a Labour councillor, a member of the Communist Party and the President of the National Assembly of Women, Betty travelled the world fighting for women’s rights, peace, and change. From Greenham Common to being arrested outside Trident aged 89, Betty was involved in the major campaigns and protests of the last sixty years, even being part of a delegation at the Geneva peace talks between the USA and the Soviet Union.

Betty’s energy, optimism, and hope never left her. Sharp and witty, she carried on speaking out for peace and socialism. Betty passed away peacefully at her home on 23rd January 2017. Everybody at the museum, and many people who visited, were touched by Betty’s story, and inspired by her. Her legacy will continue, and she will never be forgotten.

Black Radical History

The museum is delighted to continue to work with the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) to host a series of courses in autumn 2016. You can find out more about the Black Radical History course in our guest blog from WEA tutor Mark Krantz, who is leading the course.

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For Black History Month, a course to explore how Black radicals have made history. From opposition to slavery and the battle for the vote, to the fight against racism and Islamophobia, and the question of supporting refugees today. The course includes a presentation from Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre and a visit to the PHM’s archives and galleries.

The uprising of slaves on the sugar island of Saint-Domingue began in 1791 and lasted for 13 years. A slave army led by Toussaint-Louverture defeated the professional armies sent to crush the revolt. Spain, France and Britain were defeated and the slaves won their freedom in the country known today as Haiti.

William Cuffay was a Chartist leader at the forefront of the struggle to win the vote in Britain. Cuffay was the son of a former slave, he led strikes, spoke at meetings, and led protests of mainly white workers across the country.

When Abraham Lincoln declared the abolition of slavery during the American Civil War, 30 former slaves who had escaped to Britain spoke at meetings in the Manchester area. They played a crucial role in winning workers to support the union struggle that defeated the army of the slave holding states of the Southern Confederacy.

Too often the role of black people in the struggles for their own liberation is omitted from history. This course places black radicals at the centre of historical change, exploring the history and politics of race, and strategies for fighting racism.

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This course will cover

  • Opposition to slavery, and the American Civil War
  • William Cuffay and the fight for the vote
  • Racism and anti racism from the 1970s until today
  • Rebel women from Farhat Khan, and Lydia Besong, to Manjeet Kaur and Aderonke Apata
  • The challenge of Islamophobia, stereotyping, and the Prevent agenda

Suitable for people aged 19 years and over

Course runs Friday 7 October to Friday 4 November 2016

1.00pm – 3.30pm

Cost £40.30 or free to those in receipt of means tested benefits

Booking Requirements: Booking required by contacting WEA on 0151 243 5340 or booking online via WEA’s website. Please quote course ref C3839448

*Please note this is a five week course, attendees are required to book onto all five weeks of the course*

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Zombie Capitalism and its discontents: The economics and politics of austerity

The museum is delighted to continue to work with the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) to host a series of courses in autumn 2016. You can find out more about the Zombie Capitalism and its discontents course in our guest blog from WEA tutor Mark Krantz, who is leading the course.

26-september-3-october-zombie-capitalism-and-its-discontents-the-economics-and-politics-of-austerity-wea-course-peoples-history-museum-photograph-mark-krantzSince the economic crash of 2008 austerity has been imposed on the people by politicians and bankers.  Today the need for austerity is being challenged.  This course will examine various explanations of economic crises, as well as the impact of austerity on people and politics today.

Faced with the financial crisis that began in 2007, some commentators talked of the dangers of ‘zombie banks’.  Too many financial institutions had lent money they did not have, to people who could never pay them back.  This led to the ‘banking crisis’.  As the banks got bailed out, their debts were taken over by nation states, which in order to balance their books, brought in harsh cuts and an economic policy of austerity.  With no signs of an end to the economic crisis, increasingly people are challenging the assumption that austerity is necessary.  Some economists are predicting even more economic uncertainty, others a long recession or even another crash.

This course will study:

  • Previous economic crises, and the crisis today
  • The impact of austerity on the people and on politics
  • We will consider competing economic theories; from Neoliberalism to Keynesianism, Marxism to Corbynomics, as well as current theories of economic inequality
  • Look at current protest movements, the political and electoral consequences of austerity, as well as alternative economic futures.

Suitable for people aged 19 years and over

Course runs Mon 26 September to Mon 5 December (half term break on Mon 24 October), 1.00pm – 3.00pm

Cost £65.10 or free to those in receipt of means tested benefits

Booking Requirements: Booking required by contacting WEA on 0151 243 5340 or booking online via WEA’s website. Please quote course ref C3839453

*Please note this is a ten week course, attendees are required to book onto all ten weeks of the course*

 

LGBT Heritage Trail

On Thursday 16 June, the Never Going Underground Community Curators were taken on Paul Fairweather’s Manchester LGBT Heritage Trail. Keep an eye out for rainbow tiles on the streets of Manchester that mark significant places in the city’s LGBT history.  You can find out more about the trail on the OUT! Manchester website. In this blog, Community Curator John Browne shares his notes and photos from the trail.  It’s important to note, that we ran out of time to complete the whole trail, as the group were so engaged – sharing their stories and picking Paul’s (incredibly knowledgeable!) brain!

1 Manchester Magistrates Court

Manchester Magistrate’s Court

Paul Fairweather started the walk outside the Magistrate’s Court  where many thousands of gay men had been prosecuted for consensual sex between males in public. A guilty verdict often resulted in loss of jobs, problems with family and friends, and rejection by many faith based organisations. Paul noted that many people committed suicide or had to leave their neighbourhoods  because of press coverage. Paul spoke about many campaigns mounted by the LGBT+ community to reform the criminal justice system by highlighting  unfair and unjust laws. He cited an example by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality to try and get the conviction of Bill Walker overturned in 1976.

2 Alan Turning

Alan Turing statue, Sackville Park

Here Paul explained the work of Alan Turing who is credited with the invention of the first digital computer, as well as playing a major role in World War II, by breaking the Enigma Code that German submarines used when attacking food and armament shipments heading to the UK.  The life of Turing has been portrayed in a play and more recently in The Imitation Game 2014. Turing was subject to ‘hormonal treatment’ to try and ‘cure’ his gayness. After being arrested for admitting he was gay he committed suicide.

3 Beacon of hope

Beacon of Hope, Sackville Park

Manchester was one of the first UK cities to have a community help line providing information about AIDS. Set up in 1984 the service went on to become George House Trust. Paul spoke about early days,  including the fight the local community won over the interment  of Rodger Youd. Rodger wanted to leave hospital to go home to die. There was no treatment in 1984.  Detained against his will a judge ruled he could go home. He died in hospital three weeks after his call to AIDS line, too weak to move any more. As a result the whole relationship between medical professionals and the LGBT+ community changed.  People demanded that they should have a major say in the method and direction of treatment. Over the years Manchester individuals and groups pioneered many novel and innovative ways to make the world a better place for people with HIV and developed mass public education on prevention and risk reduction. The beacon of hope salutes past struggles and lights the way to a brighter future.

4 Transgender Memorial

Transgender Memorial, Sackville Park

We visited the Transgender Memorial which contains the names of trans* persons who have died due to oppression and harassment. Each year Manchester hosts Sparkle

Community fight back

Whilst taking a break from the walk Paul gave numerous examples of the  way the community had fought back against police harassment  in Manchester 

6 Albert Kennedey

Albert Kennedy

This tile marked the spot where Albert Kennedy fell to his death. Driven to suicide whilst in the care of Salford City Council . This entirely preventable tragedy  prompted the establishment of the Albert Kennedy Trust. Over the years AKT has provided support and fostering  to LGBT+ youth so they could go on to lead full and fulfilling lives.

7 Manchester Gay Centre

Bloom Street Gay Centre

Paul worked at 61A Bloom Street the home of Manchester Gay Centre. A UK first funded by an urban aid grant, the centre become the heart of LGBT+ support and activism in the 1980s. The  LBGT+ world is not immune to fall outs rows and splits. Bloom Street was the stage where huge battles about issue such as PIE, separatism, the inclusion of  bisexuals, gender and identity politics took place. Members of the centre were key to offering a vision of the type of society we wanted to build. Inevitably ongoing  tensions resulted in a split between Gay Men and Lesbians in the city.

8 CHE

CHE

Paul moved to Manchester to become a worker for the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. The tile is located near the now defunct Manchester office. In conversation the group learnt  about the role of activists  in Burnley who had taken a huge stride  to establish a LGBT+ movement and use LGBT+ visibility to show we really are everywhere. Throughout  the walk Paul shared examples of  his extensive archive of historical leaflets, magazines and notes from the 1970s & ‘80s many of which we hope to copy and get into the PHM archive. For more  wonderful detail about the part Burnley played in our liberation and the courageous  Mary Winters tale, sacked from the omnibus company  for wearing a Lesbian Lib badge visit http://www.lGBThiddenhistory.co.uk

9 Manchester Town Hall

Manchester Town Hall

The final stop was Manchester Town Hall. Paul reeled off list of Manchester firsts that emanated from this building:

  • Lesbians & Gay men’s committees
  • Full time officers working on LGBT+ issues
  • The first Lesbian Lord Mayor in the UK
  • Support to LGBT+ community groups by way of grants
  • Political support to get legal reform and changes in employment and education that supported LGBT+ lifestyles
  • The Mardi  Gras /Pride parades
  • A purpose built LGBT+ centre
  • The fightback against  section 28

After answering many questions Paul concluded the walk and reflected on how amazing Manchester and its people have been, taking what were radical ideas and concepts  and making them everyday for LGBT+ people in the city. We know that activism has to adopt and change to deal with new challenges ‘somewhere’ in the future a new chapter for the LGBT+ heritage trail is being laid down right now.

10 Tile

Sound from the Stores – Darkest Hour

On 12 May 2016 we welcomed sound artists  Falk Morawitz & Guillaume Dujat to the museum as part of our Manchester After Hours Sound from the Stores commission. We are delighted to share a video of their performance, which was inspired by PHM’s collections.

 Program Note:

”Darkest Hour“ is a sound-centric multimedia piece based on materials located in the People’s History Museum’s Archive concerning the refugee situation during the First and Second World War. The performance mixes the materials of the archive with sound and audio snippets concerning the current refugee debate, illustrating the timelessness of the issue. In the light of repeating history, we hope to demonstrate the relevance of the archival material in present day.

Live: – Audio visual performance, ~13 minutes (premiered 12.05.2016 at the People’s History Museum Manchester). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIzFJPzyPxw

Installation: – Fixed audio visual installation, 11.30 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9_5gogeMVo

Fabric of Protest Session 4: Starting the banner!

Artist Helen Mather has been working with the Learning Team at PHM to run monthly textile workshops The Fabric of Protest where participants can create their own piece of protest art in response to the museum’s collections and learn new textile techniques. The group are currently looking at the Match Girls’ Strike of 1888 and working on a banner piece to commemorate the bravery of the young women and the start of unionism as we know it today.

You can read Helen’s latest blog post about the most recent session. You can follow the group’s journey on Helen’s tumblr blog.

We had a number of new participants this month working alongside our regulars doing some excellent stitching and creative collaborations.

We welcomed a group of lecturers in textiles and fashion from Huddersfield University, a London fashion student about to go on her travels around Europe and two women who were off to do some cycling activism (there’s definitely a banner in there somewhere!).

We discussed the project so far and the ideas behind the Match Girl banner before setting to work on the first job, stitching the words. We used a mixture of appliqué and trapunto quilting to raise the surface of the letters. It was a great start and its exciting to see something grow from everyone’s contributions.

One of our regulars, Tricia has been attending a broadcasting course at all FM in Levenshulme and was armed with a zoom recorder to interview participants, Lisa and myself about the work we have been doing together. She was pretty impressive behind the mic, a natural it seems! We look forward to hearing her piece once its been edited.

A lot of tea drinking and chatting whilst stitching, ideas and conversations flowing freely, exchanges of knowledge and skills passing effortlessly, what a great session! Thank you to all who attended, I hope you had as much fun as I did, though it really did go too fast…

The next Fabric of Protest workshop will be on Saturday 20 August. Future workshops are Thurs 15 September, Sat 22 Oct and Thurs 17 Nov