Rubbish Remixers

30 November 2013, Rubbish Remixers @ People's History Museum, copyright Manchester Youth Council (2)This guest blog is by Team v Manchester who hosted the event Rubbish Remixers at the museum on Saturday 30 November.

We held an up cycling day to teach people about the impact of clothing waste upon the environment. We decided it would be better to teach people by teaching them how they can practically up cycle their old clothes.

We had four stalls at the event:

  1. Fabrics and buttons
  2. Stencils and fabric pens
  3. Spray dyes
  4. Natural dyes – using food and products you would find at home

We displayed the t-shirts the volunteers had up cycled at the training session they had done previously

We had 25 people attend our event and had some really positive feedback. Lots of the people got involved in the stalls but a few just had a chat with us about what we were doing.

The volunteers handled the event really well and said they enjoyed it very much.

The space we used was fantastic for the event and the messy room was especially useful.



IMG_3385IMG_3387This month we’ve been working on some programming that explores the often complicated relationship between fashion and protest.  We’ve got an exciting new pop-up exhibition in the foyer and The Left Bank cafe bar from Labour Behind the Label called Made in Cambodia and you can sample life as a garment worker at their Race for a Living Wage: educational exploitation for all the family! event this Sunday.   The exhibition details the lives of Cambodian garment workers producing sportswear goods in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympics. The photography exhibition follows one day in the lives of a group of women garment workers who work in the Shen Zhou garment factory in Phnom Penh, making products for Adidas’s 2012 Olympics range. Their stories speak of poverty pay, excessive working hours, job insecurity and lack of union rights. Many work 11 hour days and survive on a basic wage of £39 a month, forced to share small rooms in factory-owned apartment blocks. The photos are taken by Will Baxter.

IMG_3398Our Learning Officer, Lisa Gillen, shares the story of her personal fashion/protest object:

I was given the protest clothing ticket by a friend during the summer of 2012. She was distributing these to ask people to get involved in a protest against the poor wages paid to people involved in making adidas goods in other countries.

Adidas was one company receiving a lot of coverage for the Olympics that summer.  The protest involved putting the protest tickets in stores that sold adidas goods. I really liked how the protest was a simple idea, but also quite effective in raising awareness of the issue with people who may be buying adidas goods.  I keep this pinned by my desk to remind me of the creative and inventive ways that people can protest and how methods of protest can comes in many different forms.

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!

Tailored Trades Network Launch at People’s History Museum

The People’s History Museum recently hosted the launch of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Supported Tailored Trades Network, we asked the network coordinators Dr Nicole Robertson and Dr Vike Plock to write us a short blog post about the launch and the network.

How did women in Manchester use home dressmaking to access fashionable clothes?  

What role did the tailored trades play in the lives of young working-class women? 

How are textile items preserved for future generations?  

These were the themes of an event held at the People’s History Museum on Saturday 29 June.  The event provided an opportunity to hear Dr Charlotte Wildman (University of Manchester) speak on working-class women’s fashion and Leanne Tonkin (Textile Conservator at the People’s History Museum) present on the work undertaken by the Textile Conservation Studio.

This event launched the ‘Tailored Trades: Clothes, Labour and Professional Communities 1880-1939’ project. A virtual exhibition of items associated with the project, from the collections of the People’s History Museum, Working Class Movement Library and National Co-operative Archives, can be found at

2.4  Paper pattern - dress and blouse

Useful Blouse and Afternoon Frock
(June 1933)
pattern printed in Labour Woman magazine
Most working-class women sewed their own clothes for their families.  Labour Woman was the Labour Party’s women magazine for 58 years. The magazine began by covering the fight for the extension of the voting franchise to women.

The ‘Tailored Trades: Clothes, Labour and Professional Communities 1880-1939’ project is a series of events organised by Dr Vike Martina Plock (University of Exeter) and Dr Nicole Robertson (Northumbria University).  Partners include the PHM and the Bishopsgate Institute.  The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.  Details of forthcoming events can be found at:

28. NU Tailors & Garment Workers M&C Branch.._edited-2

National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers (NUTGW) M&C Branch banner (About 1939)
For those working in the textile trade, the profession could be one where employees were poorly paid and expected to work long hours.  A number of trade unions were formed to try and improve the conditions of employees in the textile trade and to represent their interests. M&C stood for Mantle and Costume, and this banner would have cost about £93 at the time.

There have always been handbags worth fighting for…

At the PHM we believe that there have always been ideas worth fighting for.  Through our collections and stories we express the passion, euphoria and despair that comes with standing up for what you believe in.  Some of these ideas divide opinion, others are now universally accepted.  Many people have sacrificed their lives for their ideals.

As part of my research for Play Your Part I have kept a search on Twitter for the keywords ‘protest’ and ‘democracy’.  These feeds have recently been dominated by news and opinions of events in Egypt, Wendy Davis’ filibuster in Texas and, strangely, a planned protest against Taylor Swift by the controversial Westboro Baptist Church.  I’ve come across some interesting links, controversial opinions and inspiring videos.  Then I saw this.  Apparently Roberto Cavalli believe that handbags are worth fighting for.  Or scarves.  It’s quite hard to tell.  Hilariously described by one youtube commenter as ‘Arab Spring meets Zoolander’, beautiful yet vacant models ‘protest’ for some unspecified cause.

Compare the video to this photograph in our collection.  The passion in the eyes of the protestors is strikingly missing in the Cavalli ad.

PHM About Us0004

However, it did get me thinking about the often complicated relationship between protest and fashion.  Designers have been inspired by protest movements, and there have been many high profile protests against the fashion world (anti-fur demos, protests against the use of sweatshops, tax avoidance, size zero models…).  But what is really interesting is how protestors have used clothing, accessories and their bodies to make their point.  How has protest ‘fashion’, for want of a better word, changed through the ages?

As someone that can’t resist the perfect pair of shoes, I can’t pass up an excuse to delve into our collections to explore…

The SuffragettesIMG_1703

The Suffragettes knew a thing or two about accessorising!  And colour schemes!  Their iconic purple, white and green represent dignity, purity, and hope. We have some lovely examples of sashes and badges in our collection, but this is one of my favourite examples of suffragette accessorising (and who can resist a picture of a cat!).



The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Blackpool CND Conference 1986001

We have a vast collection of photographs of anti-nuclear protests over the decades (you can come and see for yourself at our Snapshot on the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament event on 5 August), but this one stood out for me for the most creative use of knitwear I’ve ever seen.


Dressing upPetition on Adult education 1980001

Guess the year of this photo?  Victorian protest perhaps?  No, it’s a couple delivering a petition on adult education in 1980!  Reminds me of the fantastic use of dressing up in the campaign for women on banknotes last week.

Do you have a favourite protest outfit?  Can clothes help make a point?  ARE handbags worth fighting for?

Let us know!