Rochdale school explore their idea of representation


Falinge Park High School artwork for Represent! Voices 100 Years On exhibition at PHM

Liz Thorpe, Learning Officer at People’s History Museum (PHM), discusses a recent project with Falinge Park High School in Rochdale.

As part of our year long programme exploring the past, present and future of representation, marking 100 years since the passing of the Representation of the People Act (1918) and since all men and some women won the right to vote in Britain, we have been encouraging people to discuss, discover and reflect upon one of the great milestones for equality, and what representation means to them 100 years on.

I would like to share with you PHM’s recent project with Falinge Park High School (Falinge Park) in Rochdale, who have been working with the museum to explore their own ideas of representation.

Rochdale is an area with a long social history and is the birthplace of the co-operative movement.  It is home to many different communities and this is reflected in Falinge Park High School where over 50 languages are spoken.  Their head teacher, Janice Allen, was keen to promote a sense of shared history amongst different communities at a time of divisions in society and against the backdrop of a recent rise in far right groups in Britain.

Over the course of the last year, 15 students have discussed some of the issues facing Rochdale, learnt about its history and thought about how they could promote a more positive and harmonious place to live.

The project included a visit to PHM to watch one of the museum’s popular Living History performances, Moving Stories – Migration & Identity, which looks at the life of a young girl who was born in Manchester and whose parents came from India.  Moving Stories explores the themes of both migration and identity.  Also at the museum, the students debated issues that mattered to them in a Have Your Say workshop, where current issues, linked to the museum’s collection are explored.  In addition to all this the students set up and ran a stall at Bury Market to find out from the general public what local attitudes were to their neighbouring multicultural town.

The project finished with a two day art session, facilitated by artist Alex Godwin aka Billy.

Billy and the students worked together to make a series of simple, bold and visually striking flags showing themes of equality, civil rights and the representation of people today.  The students raised questions about gender norms, diversity and representation using colourful and positive techniques demonstrated by Billy and her creative practice.  Following a series of collaborative workshops, the final artwork shows a visual language highlighting the notion that 100 years on from the Representation of the People Act (1918) we can be happy about achieving a certain equality amongst people in today’s society, but there is still a long way to go before everyone can feel equally and completely represented. See a film of the artwork being created on PHM Facebook.

The group’s large scale artwork proudly introduces visitors at the museum to the Represent! Voices 100 Years On exhibition, on display until Sunday 3 February 2019.

This Family Friendly, Heritage Lottery Fund supported exhibition features objects which help to paint a picture of what representation meant in 1918 alongside crowdsourced items telling the very personal stories of today’s movements and campaigns, giving a platform to those who are still fighting to make their voices heard today.

One Falinge Park student described their work, as showing “how we want to live in equality and diversity and peace” and labelled their artwork, Opposites Attract.

At PHM we offer an engaging Learning Programme for all ages, inspiring early years, schools, colleges, universities and community groups to find out why there are ideas worth fighting for.

Visit the Learn section of the museum’s website for all the information you need to arrange a visit, or  please contact the Learning Team on,uk or call 0161 838 9190.


Chester U3A’s visit to the PHM

A very lovely guest blog from Sue Proctor MBE, JP, DL who organises trips for Chester U3A.  We promise these are all Sue’s words! If you’d like to write a blog about your visit then please get in touch at

I want to share my experience of visiting the People’s History Museum in Manchester because it was so good. I organise trips for members of Chester University of the Third Age and took 28 people on 1st July. We enjoyed The Hard Way Up play about Hannah Mitchell which was extremely well done and gave us a good insight into one woman’s fight for Women’s Suffrage and the working conditions from that time. The short anti-war poem was particularly poignant.

Chester U3A @ People's History Museum 01.07.15  (7) Chester U3A @ People's History Museum 01.07.15  (9)The displays and exhibitions provided something of interest for everyone. From the Textile Conservation Studio, and the banners to the stories of apprenticeships and the rolls of honour from WWI. My husband was delighted to discover the names of some of his relatives on one roll, but it was hard to see as it was very high up. Trying to take a photograph from lower down wouldn’t have been possible but the staff were amazing. They offered to get a set of ladders at the end of the day, and turn the lights up to take a good picture if they didn’t have a copy on file. Before we got back home the photograph had already been emailed to me.

Our coach driver had complained about problems finding a place to park up and keep cool – it was the hottest day of the year – and again the staff quickly responded by printing off details of possible locations. In fact every member of staff or volunteer we met was very helpful, friendly and knowledgeable. Must be a Manc thing!

The design of the building is superb, the café was very pleasant, especially the terrace overlooking the Irwell, the toilets were very good, access was excellent throughout the building and the quality and range of merchandise in the shop was impressive, in fact I couldn’t resist it.

My group is  diverse in age, interests, mobility and backgrounds. We all found something special at PHM. I knew that there would be lots of information about the Labour Movement but as a Lib Dem I was not put off! I would encourage anyone with an interest in the history of working people to visit Manchester’s People’s History Museum. You won’t regret it.

People Make Their Own History

The museum is delighted to be hosting more WEA courses in the spring of 2015. You can find out more about the People Make Their Own History course, in this guest blog from WEA tutor Mark Krantz, who is leading the course.

Peterloo image from Ed Hall RMT banner exhibited at PHMHalf the population of Manchester took to the streets in August 1819. They were joined by protesters from the towns of Oldham, Middleton, Stockport and beyond. Sixty thousand people came to hear the greatest ‘orator’ in the land, Henry Hunt.

Their demands were that towns like Manchester should have a representative in parliament – and that working people should have the vote. They were brutally attacked. Peaceful protesters were cut down by the Yeomanry Guard, armed with sharpened sabres. 18 were killed and over six hundred injured. What became known across the world as the Peterloo Massacre was the first protest movement, the dawn of the working class movement. Those that marched that day ‘made their own history’.Henry Hunt jug displayed at  PHM gallery

Protesters today stand in a long tradition of struggle that started at Peterloo.

The ten week course People Make Their Own History is a learning experience from Workers’ Educational Association in association with the People’s History Museum. Actors perform as Living History characters in the PHM galleries to bring people like the Chartist William Cuffay and the Suffragette Hannah Mitchell to life.

Examine the archives at the PHM  (2)Visits to the Labour History Archive & Study Centre enable students to examine original documents and artefacts. We will cover Peterloo and the Chartists; the struggles over jobs, against Fascism, and for access the countryside in the 1930s; fighting Section 28 and for LGBT rights in the 1980s; to Stop the War, and the struggle against the Bedroom Tax today. You can find more details about the WEA course on the People’s History Museum’s website. To enrol go to the WEA website. This course runs for ten weeks, starting Thursday 15 January 2015, 1.00pm – 3.00pm.Print

Brooklands Primary School visit

Brooklands Primary School visited the museum in September 2013 for our pARTicipate  Print Power sessions and our Living History performance Strike a Light!- A Match Girl’s Story. The children enjoyed the experience so much that they have written to us to tell us about their favourite parts of the day and a little bit about what they learnt to create our first primary school blog post!

Patrick  – Symbols on Trade Union Banners

National Federation of Women Workers badge“Some banners were carried to support the workers when they were asking for shorter working hours, changes in labour law, closures and cuts in pay and public service. Banners became popular in Britain when Trade Unions started. Images were taken from Protestant and Catholic images as well as Freemasons. It became popular in London when Tutills started to manufacture large scale banners in the 1840s.

“The badge depicts Unity (togetherness), illustrated by the bundle of sticks bound together and the handshake, the symbol of trade union unity. The object of the union is written on the banner, ‘to fight, to struggle, to right the wrong’.”

Lulu visited the museum again after her school visit

“After tap and ballet we went back to the People’s History Museum. We made a badge and I had another look at all the symbols and their meanings.”

Charlie – Print Power

“I also enjoyed my lunch with my friends and teachers. The best part was when we got to work together and push the wooden holder to get the picture. We took it back to school! The fun took the time away, at least we had fun, that’s all that matters.”

Millie  – why you should visit

Brooklands PS drawing

Dyu Strike a Light!

“5M and I enjoyed the fascinating trip to the People’s History Museum. We like making match sticks and bundling them into packs so they can be sold. After that my team and I went to different room to create freeze frame of sweaty work. The poor people used to do this sort of work at home and then selling them for a living. At end of the trip I felt People’s History Museum rocks!”

Josh  – A Great Day Out Whether You Are 9 or 90

“Very interesting and great acting. Reminds me of the powerful perseverance of the amazing suffragettes.

“As well, there are always new events and every bank and school holiday there is screen printing and banner making with professional artist, Dave. A recommended family day out. A whole section of the top floor is old but interesting banners heaven for Dave, I’d imagine!!!!

“A great day out for all friends and family. New things to learn whether you are 9 or 90.”

Luca – My visit to the PHM

“The best part was the screen printing because you could choose the colours, the pictures and the type of meaning. I loved it. It is better than all the rest. I would rate it 5 out of 5. I am definitely going again.”

 Eliza  – Screen Printing

“In the afternoon of our visit to the museum, we tried screen printing. We printed symbols onto coloured paper. Our team printed a dove, which represents peace. We printed with an object called a … Squizzle? Squeazle? – never mind. The staff were brilliant, helping in every way possible. We had so much fun we are all going back as soon as possible. It was the best school trip ever – no competition.”

Ella  – Screen Printing

Brooklands PS drawing 2

Sophie – Strike a Light!

“The People’s History Museum is very interesting because we go as far back as 200 years ago!! Me and my classmates discovered a lot of new words, new facts and basically new EVERYTHING! First of all we did a work shop of making matches, we had to get into groups or 6 and each and every one of us had a job. One job was to make sure no one was talking, cheating and helping each other with their jobs!! There were five other jobs and they were also very important. I really enjoyed the work shop. My group got the most money!! We got 4p and in these days wasn’t a lot but 200 years ago it is quite a lot.

“Come on let’s get down to the People’s History Museum it is great!! It is in Spinningfields a place in Manchester. The best part is that it is FREE!!! It is an absolutely 5 star recommendation! Hope you come and have a visit.”

You can find out more details about our Learning Programme on our website Alternatively you can contact the Learning Team on 0161 838 9190 or by emailing

Ask a Curator: Why is the suffragette section so small?

A guest post from our new Curator, Chris Burgess

09 October 2013 (9)In a recent experiment to gather people’s thoughts and questions on PHM’s galleries, one visitor asked two questions. The first was Why is the suffragette section so small?  And the second Where is the info on the women who campaigned for the vote for all women, not just ‘educated’ women from the start? Here is my response.

Dear anonymous visitor,

I’m going to attempt to answer your query. But I should warn you that PHM is a museum of politics and debate. In this spirit I should state that don’t entirely agree with the premise of your question. Relative to the rest of the gallery I don’t agree that the suffrage display is that small. In terms of floor area its one of the largest, although I’ll admit it would be better if it were bigger (but I’d say that about much of the sections of the galleries).

To some extent all the displays reflects the size of the collection. As a museum our uniqueness, our USP, is the stuff.  Often it was objects that drove the decision making about the relative size of displays. The suffragette collection at PHM is probably one of the largest of its type in the UK (the Museum of London and obviously the Women’s Library also in London can count larger examples). Despite this, other collections at PHM dwarf it, the examples of posters and the banner collection spring to mind. Suffragette material is highly coveted by public institutions and private collectors alike, acquiring more of it is very difficult (though we would like too). Given the size then of the collection what with the objects and the recreation of leading peoples history museum ManchesterSuffragette Hannah Mitchell’s kitchen, I’d say the display is relatively large.

I’d also like to say that I think the museum’s focus on the suffragettes goes beyond the story of ‘rich women’. As stated the kitchen is a recreation of Hannah Mitchell’s who was a working class woman from Derbyshire who lived in Bolton and Manchester. We also have the arrest warrant of Leeds suffragette Alice Noble a 17 year old working class woman arrested on a march in London and sent to Holloway. Moreover, the museum’s ‘displays’ move beyond the physical. We host a yearly festival called ‘Wonder Women’ which has events, conferences, art instillations etc which highlight women’s fight for the vote. The museum also has aLiving History - The Hard Way Up @ People's History Museum 021 ‘living history’ character which brings to life for school groups the story of afore mentioned working class suffragette Hannah Mitchell.

Does this sound defensive? It’s not meant to. Because I do think there are some problems with the display as it stands. That gap between 1918 when women aged 30 and over were included in the franchise (I’m avoiding the word given, far too patronising) and the equal franchise act in 1928 is almost entirely absent from the gallery. Bearing in mind this was a time when there a significant campaign to end the discriminatory age bar for women, we do need to say more. And to be honest, the act itself, that seminal moment when women and men could vote on equal terms is also not properly recognised. Every time I give a tour of the galleries, I emphasise that crucial point, and yet not everyone who visits can make the tour.

To finish I’d like to say that of course there is mention of the famous women of the suffrage movement; the Pankhursts and Emily Wilding Davison’s. Though I feel we’d get complaints if there were not. And we recognise that there were thousands of women (and men) who campaigned for suffrage. Of them nothing survives, not even a name. How then to recognise those women? I’d like to think that in some ways the museum is a memorial (is the right word?) to them, but perhaps we need more. When working on the new museum we had the same problem with the display on sweated labourers; women who worked horrendous hours for criminally low pay. The same for the account of match girls strike, of which there are no objects. There is a display to both and an interactive which (we hope) helps people empathise with their plight.

But ultimately the museum is one of the poor, the unrecognised, and the underrepresented. These people did not necessarily own much. At which point the obvious question arises: how do museums whose very foundation is built on objects of the past, tell the lifes of those whose history is not expressed through material possessions, but through ideas, through fights and above all through hope?

In part, I hope, it’s by having these discussions with our visitors.

Matchsticks, Maggie, and a mistake!

At 10.00am on a Friday morning 30 children file into the factory.  They’re late…. Very late.  The foreman barks the instructions at them – Mr Bryant and Mr May will not be happy if they talk, run, or work at someone else’s job.  They must make as many matches as possible and they will be fined if they break any of the rules.  Silence descends.  The counters count out 20 match sticks, the dippers dip them into the phosphorous, the fillers take them out again, and the packers tie them into small bundles.  They earn a mere 3d for each bundle of matches.  They don’t make many bundles. 

At the PHM the Learning Team faces the challenge of taking complex, challenging subject matter and making it accessible for children and adults of all ages and abilities.  Fortunately we have a team of brilliant and talented freelance actors, artists, writers and directors who we work with to bring our stories and collections to life.  The 30 children struggling to make matches were just a few of the thousands of learners each year who participate in our popular Living History workshops.  They were taking part in our Strike a Light! session and would go on to meet Maggie McCallow, a Victorian match girl involved in the strike of 1888.

Meet Maggie McCallow

Meet Maggie McCallow

125 years ago today a group of female workers at the Bryant and May match factory in London went on strike to demand better working conditions and pay.  The white phosphorous used in the production of the matches led to a horrific disease called ‘phossy jaw’, they worked 14 hour days and were fined excessively.  Social activist Annie Besant became involved and after three weeks the strike succeeded. 

Maggie tells the story better than I do!  Come along to our free public performance of Strike a Light! – A Match Girl’s Story tomorrow at 1.15pm to find out more.


If you can’t make the performance, then we have a permanent display dedicated to the Match Girls’ Strike in Main Gallery One.  See if you can spot the typo….

Life in a Box - find out more about the Match Girls' Strike in Main Gallery One

Life in a Box – find out more about the Match Girls’ Strike in Main Gallery One

Oops! Spot the typo

Oops! Spot the typo

Groups can book a performance of Strike a Light! or any of our Living History workshops by emailing or calling the Learning Team on 0161 838 9190. For full details see our Learning Programme.

Just in case anyone was about to report us to Health and Safety – our ‘phosphorous’ is actually plasticine!