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



130 Years of the Fabian Society


Sidney and Beatrice Webb


Beatrice Webb’s desk

Today marks the 130th anniversary of the Fabian Society, which was founded in London in 1884. The Fabian society was set up in order to advance socialist principles by gradualist means- they did not believe in revolution to bring about change and first untied as a debating group. The membership was mainly middle class and attracted celebrities such as George Bernard Shaw, H.G Wells and Annie Besant, who you can read more about in our galleries due to her work on the Bryant and May Match Girls Strike of 1888.

We exhibit a Fabian display in our main galleries set up on Beatrice Webb’s desk. Along with her husband, Sidney, the Webb’s were among the early founding members of the Fabian Society. They pioneered social research and wrote many pamphlets and books on social improvement and history- some presumably from this desk. We hold a number of Fabian pamphlets and posters in our collection, some of which are displayed on Webb’s desk, including ‘The Necessary Basis of Society’ by Sidney Webb, a pamphlet produced for Fabian Women and a poster for a discussion in 1906 expressing sympathy with the Russian Revolutionists at which a Fabian member was speaking.IMG_4734

Over the next decade, the society continued to grow and went on to establish the London School for Economics which was founded in 1895 in order to, as Sidney Webb pointed out “teach political economy on more modern and more socialist lines than those on which it had been taught hitherto”.

Many Fabians participated in the formation of the Labour Representation Committee in 1900 (later the Labour Party), claiming 861 members and the group’s constitution, written by Sidney Webb, borrowed heavily from the founding documents of the Fabian Society. The society continued to provide much of the intellectual stimulus for the Labour Party and its popularity grew accordingly, tripling its membership to nearly 2500 by the end of 1908.

IMG_4735Throughout the course of the twentieth century, the group has stayed influential in left circles- every Labour Prime Minister has been a Fabian. Today, the society is affiliated to the Labour Party as a socialist society and exists mainly as a think-tank for developing political ideas. The Fabian’s publish a wealth of material such as reviews, essays, comment pieces, pamphlets and books as well as providing a space for open minded debate.

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 http://www.phm.org.uk/learning/. Alternatively you can contact the Learning Team on 0161 838 9190 or by emailing learning@phm.org.uk

‘The Plague!’ and other sketches

Another blog post from our Exhibitions Assistant Josh Butt.

The PlagueAs part of the Hidden exhibition we are asking visitors which hidden history you would like to see re-imaged. So far we have had several interesting sketches drawn on our blackboard including the above image which looks like it was inspired by the grisly bits in the Peasants’ Revolt scene!
Despite this sketch being basic in nature it is very similar to Red Saunders’ initial sketching process which is also fairly basic. The image below is an example of a sketch that features in the Evidence Room section of the exhibition. You can see how Red is starting to think about clothing, poses and props for the Peasants’ Revolt scene.


Match Girls StrikeWe have had several other imaginative sketches drawn on our blackboard including the inevitable dinosaur scene. It seems that every young child’s fantasy is for a T-Rex to come back to life! One of the better (and more relevant) sketches is pictured below, entitled “The Match Girls’ Strike”. The sketch is in reference to the strike at the Bryant & May match factory in 1888. Women and girls working at the factory were inspired by Annie Besant to go on strike after being treated horrendously by their employers with poor wages, unfair fines, 14 hour days and the health risk of working with Phosphorous. The strike was successful and was a great early triumph in the fight for the rights of women workers. Follow this link to learn more about the Match Girls’ Strike. The museum hosted an event to remember the 125th anniversary of the Match Girls’ Strike on the 6th July.

To browse the works on display in the exhibition visit www.hiddenphm.wordpress.com. As well as collecting people’s sketches we are also asking visitors which historical events or figures they would like to see re-created so you can add add your vote here.

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 learning@phm.org.uk 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!