Community Campaigns Notice Board & Protests on our Doorstep

An element of our Play Your Part project is to ‘inspire direct action’.  We realise that visitors might get fired up from finding out about the story we tell and want to play their part in campaigns they feel passionate about.  Which is why we’re going to set up a ‘Community Campaigns’ notice board at the museum for you to shout about your causes.  Are you organising a demo or publicising a petition?  Do you have an idea worth fighting for?  Send in your flyers for upcoming events, either in the post, at our info desk or email them to  It goes without saying that we won’t display anything that may be offensive to some people (e.g. anything we deem to be racist or sexist etc.).

To inspire you we’re starting a series of occasional blogs about ‘Protests on our Doorstep’.  As the home of ideas worth fighting for we are conveniently placed in the historically radical city of Manchester (come see our displays on the Peterloo Massacre and the Suffragettes to name just two examples).  Manchester in 2013 lives up to its radical roots and there are many protests taking place across the city on practically a daily basis (well if you include us moaning about the weather!).  Neighbouring the courts we can see a lot of them out of our window!

In recent weeks we’ve witnessed the following protests:

A protest against blacklisting, 12 July 2013

Blacklist demo, 12 July 2013, Manchester (4)

No Bedroom Tax, 27 July 2013


Bedroom Tax demo, 27 July 2013, Bridge St, Manchester (8)

64 years of Legal Aid a celebration and a protest, 30 July 2013


Legal Aid Rally 30 July 2013, Crown Court Square, Manchester (2)


The topic of the month at Culture Themes is museum badges, something that we are very lucky to have in abundance! We hold badges, brooches, pins and tokens from the French Revolution right up our own very fabulous PHM badges.IMG_1181

On a recent trip to our stores, I took a few images of a selection of badges I thought were topical/ interesting/ amusing! Some badges still have a certain resonance with issues and problems very relevant to contemporary society.

With the NHS very much in the headlines this week, this badge illustrates that it has been under fire before, and some groups have been keen to defend it. NHS

Our recent blog post looked at the NUT March in Manchester at the end of June this year, this badge shows that similar problems still face schools today as they did in the 1980s. Save our schools

The popular campaign for the release of Nelson Mandela from prison gathered pace in 1988 – the year of his 70th birthday – under the slogan ‘Free Nelson Mandela’.

Free Nelson Mandela

The late 1970s saw Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League fight racism and all kinds of oppression. The ANL looked to appeal to as many different people as possible such as football fans, students, skateboarders and vegetarians- as this badge illustrates! Patrons of a pub in Rusholme, Manchester, even set up their own group, ‘The Albert Against the Nazis’, with a badge and banner.


The 1980s resurgent anti-nuclear movement took this sentiment and used humour to appeal to an even greater number of people. Cat Lovers against the Bomb represents a number of such CND badges, including ‘Morris Dancers against the Bomb’, and ‘Gardeners for a Nuclear Free Fuchsia!’

Cat Lovers

These badges certainly point out the fact that there have ‘always been ideas worth fighting for’. What badge would you wear with pride? Have you got any images or memories of badges you have worn in the past? If you are sadly badge-less you can come and make one on our badge maker in Main Gallery Two!

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!