Play Your Part – a festive update

Before I leave the office to eat, drink and be merry (well I’ve still got a week to go, but you get the gist!) I thought I’d share a bit of an ‘end of term’ update on what Play Your Part has been upto since the summer excitement of Work in Progress and share my plans for the last 3 months of the project.

Welcome Wall

We’re working with the lovely team at Fuzzy Duck to create three test designs for our ‘Welcome Wall’.  We call it our Welcome Wall because it used to have a big ‘welcome’ written across it, but we felt the design wasn’t working well within our foyer space so we want to give it a refresh.  We’re taking a very experimental ‘PYP’ approach, by trying out three designs in situ, and observing how our visitors interact with them and asking them what they think.  We’ll then crunch the numbers and feed all the responses into creating the finished design. Test Design 1 is currently installed until just after Christmas – watch this space for future designs.

The original design

The original design


Test Design 1

Test Design 1


14 November 2014, Democratic Dialogue @ People's History Museum (10)The big event of the autumn season was POLLfest, our politics festival for Parliament Week 2014.  You can find out more about what we got up to here.  In the pipeline for spring is a protest music event. I’m at the very early planning stages, but I’m hoping that we can explore the past, present and future of protest music through talks, performances and other surprises.

Our current Equality Case

Our current Equality Case


I’m delighted that the PHM is going to play a major role in the First National Festival of LGBT History by hosting the Sunday Festival Hub.  The festival team have programmed some brilliant speakers and performances and there’s going to be lots to do.  We’re going to be launching our LGBT History Tour at the festival, and I’m currently doing consultation with LGBT groups in Manchester to perfect the tour and to refresh our Equality Case in Main Gallery Two.

11 & 18 February 2015, Hands on History @ People's History MuseumObject Handling

I’m working closely with our Learning Manager Kirsty Mairs, Curatorial Assistant (Collections) Harriet Beeforth and Front of House Co-ordinator Mark Wilson to develop Hands on History object handling sessions.  We’re initially focussing on building up our World War I handling collection to link to the First World War Centenary and our Baddies Living History performance. Our brilliant volunteers are going to deliver the sessions and you’ll have a chance to get your hands on some real objects. We’ll be testing out the sessions in the new year, and you can get involved on 11 February 2015 and 18 February 2015.

Other bits and bobs

I shared learning from the project at the Museum Ideas Conference (speaking to over 200 delegates from 22 countries). I’ve also written up my paper for Museum-iD magazine.

I attended the very inspirational Forum for Radical Sharing organised by the Edge Fund and found out more about some brilliant grassroots activist groups.

I designed our PHM Christmas e-card, which made me very happy 🙂 PHM Christmas Card 2014 copy

Merry Christmas!

An Introduction to UK Youth Parliament

A guest post by Elisha Stephens, MYP for Salford

What is UK Youth Parliament and what does it do?

salford youth councilThe UK Youth Parliament is run by young people, for young people. It provides 11-18 year olds opportunities to bring about social change by using their voices in creative and inspiring ways.

UK Youth Parliament comes under the big umbrella of British Youth Council groups. As well as UKYP, this includes a Young Mayor network, the Local Youth Council Network, NHS England Youth Forum and much more.

What does a Member of Youth Parliament do and why are they important?

MYPs are in place to represent the young people of their area on a local, regional and national scale by consulting with them and voicing their opinions on a wide range of issues, youth-centred and general issues alike. It is important that MYPs exist as we live in a world where adults make decisions on behalf of young people without consulting them. By having a platform such as Youth Parliament for young people to communicate with decision-makers, this allows young people’s voices to be heard and can mean that the youth of today have a say in how politics and social changes affect their future.

ellie house of commonsMy name is Elisha Stephens, I’m 17 years old and I am Member of Youth Parliament for Salford. This means that I was elected by the young people of Salford to talk to them and represent their views concerning issues specific to Salford and across the whole of the UK. Being an MYP requires a lot of time but I do this because I am passionate about causing social change and making a stand for young people.

Members of Youth Parliament, in addition to faithful Deputy MYPs and other young people involved with UKYP, are presented with lots of opportunities to help affect social change for young people. However, one particularly important opportunity that is exclusive to MYPs, and is usually considered the highlight of an MYP’s term, is the annual big debate at the House of Commons in London. This takes place after Make Your Mark, the UK’s largest youth consultation, which runs from August to October. Make Your Mark is used to consult with the youth about what issues matter the most to them and what should be focused on by UKYP. The results of Make Your Mark determine which 5 out of the 10 original issues are to be debated at the House of Commons. Thanks to dedicated youth workers, MYPs, DMYPs and Youth Councils, Make Your Mark received over 865,000 responses.

ukyp hoc 14 group pictureThe debate at House of Commons this year was held on Friday 14th November and consisted of debates on the topics of:

  • Votes at 16- Give 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote in elections and referendums.
  • Everyone should be paid at least the Living Wage of £7.65 per hour (£8.80 in London). Anyone who works, regardless of age, should have a decent standard of living.
  • Mental health services should be improved with our help. We should all learn about common mental health issues at school and negative stereotypes should be challenged.
  • Work Experience. We should have the chance to do at least a week’s placement, at a place of our choosing. We should have access to professionals who inspire us.
  • Bring back exam resits in Maths and English in English schools, and help us achieve our potential.

After a day of spirited and passionate debates, the MYPs cast their votes and the two topics that came out on top have now become the UK Youth Parliament’s campaigns for the following year. These are Mental heath services should be improved with our help and Everyone should be paid at least the Living Wage! (The current UKYP campaigns, which were voted in last year, are Votes at 16 and A Curriculum to Prepare Us for Life)

The entire process was, and is, one that requires a lot of passion and takes a lot of time and work but it is an exciting and rewarding journey to say the least!

For more information on UK Youth Parliament and the work that they do you can visit

POLLfest – our politics festival to celebrate Parliament Week 2014

After the success of POLLfest last year, we wanted to make POLLfest 2 bigger and better! We teamed up with some fantastic partners to deliver a week of events for Parliament Week 2014 to celebrate democracy at the home of ideas worth fighting for.

14 November 2014, Democratic Dialogue @ People's History Museum (10)We kicked off on Friday 14 November with Democratic Dialogue: How young people would like to communicate with Parliament.  We worked with the brilliant Democratic Society and welcomed over 60 young people, 3 MPs, 2 MEPs and 6 democratic experts to the museum. They sat down and discussed 4 topics that had been pre-selected by the young people: How do young people and politicians view one another?; E-petitions; Political and Democratic Education; and votes at 16. The very intense discussions threw up some really interesting points and we’re busy collating all the feedback. We’ll create a list of ways that will help improve the relationship between young people, politicians and parliament and publish it here.


17 November 2014, The Power of Parliament schools workshop @ People's History Museum (50)On Monday 17 November we welcomed pupils from Queensgate Primary, Brimrod Primary School and Roundthorn Primary Academy to The Power of Parliament. Wendy Lavin from Parliament’s Education Service gave a brilliant interactive Introduction to Parliament Talk (fact of the day: Michael Jackson wanted to buy the Queen’s gold throne in the House of Lords). The pupils then took part in three workshops –exploring our galleries to find out about the history of democracy, debating House of Commons-style and doing some creative consultation for our forthcoming Election! exhibition. The groups clearly had a great time making politicians!

On Wednesday 19 November Gary Hart from the Parliamentary Outreach Team came to do a free workshop for adults and young people to explain how to Get Involved with Parliament. We learned how the House of Commons and the House of Lords work, and ways that you can help to influence policy, such as contacting your MP or submitting evidence to a select committee. A personal highlight was getting 10/10 in the Parliament quiz – working at the PHM definitely pays off sometimes!

We wrapped up the week with a Pecha Kucha night on the theme of Politics and the North. Five brilliant speakers each had 20 slides (with only 20 seconds for each slide) to whizz us through their specialist subjects:


We’d like to thank everybody who got involved in POLLfest including:

  • Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central
  • John Leech, MP for Manchester Withington
  • Mike Kane, MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East
  • Julie Ward, MEP for North West England
  • Afzal Khan, MEP for North West England
  • Helen Milner, CEO Tinder Foundation & Member of the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy
  • Rachael Farrington, Creator of
  • Rachel Gibson, Manchester University
  • Charlotte Mulcare, Democratic Society
  • Oliver Sidorczuk, Policy Coordinator, Bite the Ballot
  • Harriet Andrews, Uprising
  • Manchester Enterprise Academy
  • Mount St Joseph Business & Ent College
  • National Children’s Bureau
  • St Paul’s Catholic High School
  • Upton Hall School
  • William Hulme’s Grammar School
  • Starting Point Community Learning Partnership
  • Reclaim
  • Wendy Lavin, Parliament’s Education Service
  • Queensgate Primary
  • Brimrod Primary School
  • Roundthorn Primary Academy
  • Gary Hart, Parlimentary Outreach Service
  • Pecha Kucha Manchester and all the speakers

Videobooth – Scottish Referendum

A guest post by volunteer Sarah Taylor

The videobooth at the People’s History Museum allows our visitors to give their opinions on a variety of different matters. However, these videos don’t just disappear off into the PHM atmosphere once recorded – it’s my job to go through them and make sure the rest of the world can hear the wonderful ideas and views of our visitors.

In September, we asked: ‘What are your thoughts on the Scottish Referendum?’. Generally our visitors were happy with the results of the Referendum and felt that the two nations were stronger together. They also saw the Scottish Referendum as a good example of democracy with an excellent turnout.

However, most felt that the result had provided the best of both worlds as although it kept us together, it has also opened up a lot of other issues and unanswered questions that now need to be discussed. These include lowering the voting age to 16 and the introduction of an English parliament – maybe even devolution for Greater Manchester!

So all in all, last month’s Videobooth has shown that although our visitors seem to be in agreement on the result of the Scottish Referendum, everyone has their own opinions and ideas on where we should go next. To watch to the videos for yourself have a look at the playlist on our YouTube channel.

We are now asking visitors about the issues on political parties’ manifestos that are most important to them, so come along, have your say and see if you get chosen for YouTube fame as part of next month’s YouTube playlist!

Our Fun Palace

A guest post by volunteer Sarah Taylor

On 4 October, we turned into a Fun Palace!

Fun Palaces were happening across the country that weekend in a variety of different venues. They could be anything you wanted them to be, as long as they were free, local, innovative, transformative and engaging. Fun Palaces are all about having fun and learning together and being places where arts and sciences meet. I’ve been a volunteer here at the museum since July and was given the job of creating our Fun Palace. It was a daunting task at first, but in the end I was extremely happy with the results and learnt a lot along the way.

Questions about Manchester's historyI decided that our Fun Palace should focus on Manchester’s history. I carried out some visitor consultation during our Work in Progress exhibition to try and find out what people already knew about Manchester and what they wanted to find out. I used the results to create the displays for the day that explained the origins of the name Manchester and a timeline highlighting some key dates and events. Someone told us (as did the Great British Bake Off!) that the twist ice cream cone was invented in Manchester, so this became the inspiration for our family friendly craft activity! I’d also asked visitors to tell us their favourite Manchester memory and the responses became part of our Manchester memory wall on the day.


4 October 2014, Fun Palace @ People's History Museum (6)4 October 2014, Fun Palace @ People's History Museum (22)

The day itself was lots of fun! I made some gallery trails and quizzes for visitors to do which highlighted the Manchester objects in our collections and we had local historian Steve Little on hand to tell people all the wonderful things he knows about the history of the Pump House and answer questions about Manchester. The day was full of people finding out things they didn’t know about the history of the city and we even had some visitors all the way from America who seemed fascinated by all the things we had to tell them. The highlight of the day for me was definitely all the paper ice creams we had made by visitors young and old – they looked good enough to eat!4 October 2014, Fun Palace @ People's History Museum (23)

All in all I felt we had a really successful day. All the visitors seemed to enjoy themselves and I loved seeing all my hard work paying off. I learnt so much from organising our Fun Palace and although it was stressful at times, now all I want to do is plan another one! If we did one next year it could be even bigger and better and I’ve already been taking inspiration from all the wonderful things happening at the other Fun Palaces up and down the country!

I guess I’ll just have to find something else to keep me busy until October 2015…

Work in Progress – reflections and lessons learned

work in progressNow that Work in Progress has been packed away, the dust has settled and I’m back in the office after a few days off to recover I’ve had a chance to reflect on the 9 weeks of experimentation.  We crammed a massive amount of activity into the programme, with three Microresidencies, 18 events and lots of meetings, conversations and impromptu lunch dates.

Without going into the nitty gritty of individual events, my reflections on the project as a whole are (in no particular order):

  • Office spaceWhilst I still stand by my idea of having total transparency and ‘behind the scenes’ access to the project, I don’t think that having my office in the exhibition space worked particularly well. I’d anticipated having lots of in depth conversations with visitors about the project and encourage greater engagement with the themes covered. In reality, I probably had about 4 significant interactions with visitors over the course of the exhibition. The majority of questions I got were people asking me directions to the galleries and the toilets! I also think my presence confused some visitors as I had an email from someone who had visited the exhibition, wasn’t sure what was going on, and had seen me looking ‘very busy’ so didn’t want to interrupt me. I think perhaps a neon sign with ‘please speak to me!’ might have helped (but maybe would have looked a little desperate!) I also think that my being there put off visitors. Initially I had placed a suggestions box in the office space, which only seemed to fill up with responses on the days I wasn’t in the office. I therefore moved the box to the debate space, which increased responses. On a professional level, being away from our open plan office meant I was limited in informal interactions with colleagues which led to me feeling ‘out of the loop’. Now I’m back I can appreciate being able to chip into conversations and contribute to the cross-fertilisation of ideas.
  • Even the title of the exhibition put off some visitors who didn’t realise it was an exhibition title and thought it was a sign meaning you couldn’t come in!
  • The Microresidencies project was a massive highlight. I’m thrilled that the three projects were all so different, yet all encouraged participation, engaged visitors and were high quality. Using artists as mediators led to greater participation and seeing collections in a different way. I would love to be able to run this project again in the future, maybe with longer more in-depth residencies to provide a platform for early career artists who really engage with social issues.
  • Work in Progress photomontageHaving an evolving events programme was good as we could be responsive to contacts we made during the exhibition, but logistically it was difficult to have to constantly update our website, posters and interactive calendar and we found some events that didn’t have a long lead-in time weren’t very well attended.
  • I wish I’d programmed more in the debate space and invited provocateurs to come in and ignite debate – perhaps with groups of young people.
  • Having a broad brief asking people to play their part meant that we could engage with lots of groups and individuals that we may not have put together as part of our regular events programme.
  • The space was used regularly by repeat visitors – I often came across people having impromptu meetings and one man came in every day to read the headlines. It makes me consider the role of museums in providing free spaces for reflection and whether we have a social responsibility to provide that kind of space?
  • The space was also used regularly by other museum staff to have meetings outside of the ones we’d programmed for Play Your Part. (I think they appreciated the sofa!)
  • The WiFi in the space had a terrible connection which meant that my planned Twitterfall had to be ditched in the first week. I also struggled with things like livetweeting events and posting photos on Flickr when the wifi failed.
  • I need to remind myself that I’m just one person and I can’t do everything! In the latter stages of the exhibition I was definitely feeling fatigued from trying to cram in too many events and not having enough days off. The key to the project as a whole is getting everyone in the organisation on board so they think more ‘PYP’ so that there’s a lasting legacy once the project has ended. This will definitely be my focus for the final 6 months of Play Your Part.

Better together or going it alone? Scottish Referendum display at the PHM.


Today Scotland votes to decide on whether they will be an independent country.  Last year Harriet Richardson wrote this blog post about our collections related to this issue.  Please note that this was originally published on 19 September 2013.  You can see how our visitors voted here.

Yesterday marked one year to go until Scotland will vote to decide the future of their country…are they better staying within the UK or will they decide to become independent and go it alone? In honour of this momentous question, which will inevitably affect all living in the UK today and most people have an opinion on, we decided to search through our collections and review the history of this debate, while presenting material from both contemporary campaigns; Better Together and YES Scotland.

The first stop was our very own Archive and Study Centre to look at material surrounding the history of this story. Since the Act of Union in 1707, groups within Scotland have advocated for a separate Scottish Parliament, known as devolution, or complete independence from the United Kingdom. The first vote on devolution was held in 1979. Despite a majority of people voting ‘yes’ the act required 40% of all people in Scotland to do so, as this did not occur nothing changed. The second vote for devolution took place in 1997and this time Scotland did vote yes. Devolution brought a Scottish parliament with powers to legislate over health, education and housing, but not economic policy, defence or foreign affairs.

We were able to piece together pamphlets, leaflets and photographs from the archive and theIMG_2933 Working Class Movement Library and create a case which charted the long history which will result in the referendum next year.  My personal favourite is this photograph of a lady campaigning for a Scottish Assembly in 1987- she looks to be there for the long haul, despite the bad weather!

To bring the display right up to the present day, the very helpful people at both YES Scotland and Better Together sent us some campaign material including badges, posters, balloons, pens, leaflets and even a bottle opener/ key IMG_2927ring- always something to keep handy! These items were displayed in a separate case and the posters were stuck up on the wall bringing contemporary debate inside our museum setting.

The ‘Yes’ Scotland campaign argues that a future under a social union will result in a much more equal society, because Scotland will be able to prioritise on matters most important to them. While the ‘Better Together’ campaign argue that were Scotland to become independent the country would be worse off economically, politically and socially.

Unless you live in Scotland, you won’t get to vote in the 2014 referendum, although a ‘yes’ voteIMG_2923 would radically alter what it means to be British. We thought therefore that it would be a great idea to use one of our new perspex ballot boxes, and offer our visitors the chance to ‘play their part’ and cast their vote. Visitors are asked the question which will be used next year; ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ and are asked to tick a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ box. So far we have had loads of votes, and the display has only been up one day! We’ll tweet what the majority of our visitors have decided to vote for in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for our very own PHM poll.