A post by volunteer Amber Greenall-Heffernan
In the build up to the General Election on the 7th May, we have been asking visitors to share their voting memories in the Election! exhibition here at the People’s History Museum. We have had a variety of responses, and visitors have shared memories such as voting in the EEC referendum in 1975, students in university celebrating the election result in 1997 and even bumping into exes at the polling station!
A handful of people seem disillusioned, saying they have never voted and believe it doesn’t change anything, but overall the responses have been positive. Many visitors consider voting to be a democratic right and have written about the importance of having a vote in a democracy. One visitor believed that voting is a right we take for granted when others are risking their lives across the world to have a vote and another said that everyone has the right to be able to say how we live together in a society.
A common theme running through the responses is the sacrifices that groups such as the Chartists and Suffragettes made for the right to vote. Michael Carter, pictured, explains why he will be voting this year:
“Due to the suffragette movement and in particular Emily Davison, who stepped in front of King George V’s horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913 in favour of women receiving the vote, I consider it a privilege and a necessity to vote. One lady lost her life for the chance to have her say therefore in memory of her I must vote.”
In our exhibition, we have also been asking if people will be voting in the General Election this year and why. Again, a lot of people have responded with exercising the right to vote because of the historic struggle for voting rights. But what is also interesting is the overwhelming response from young people who are not old enough to vote but wish that they could, as well as the excitement from first-time voters.
What are your voting memories? Will you be voting in this year’s General Election and why?
Work experience student Sylvie Copley has analysed the first wave of responses to questions asked in our current changing exhibition Election! Britain Votes.
Election! Britain Votes opened on Saturday. As well finding out more about how elections work, visitors can share their opinion on our electoral system. We’ve already had 116 responses to our ballot paper questions.
- Would having an elected House of Lords make our democracy more representative, and therefore fairer?
- – 84% Yes and 16% No.
- In order to increase the number of female MPs should parties have to meet quotas for female candidates?
- – 52% Yes and 48% No.
- Should we lower the voting age to 16 years old?
- – 48% Yes and 52% No.
- Should we allow prisoners to vote?
- – 32% Yes, 30% Yes, but only some, dependent on their crime and 38% No.
- Should the UK adopt a different voting system?
- – 50% Yes, proportional representation, 23% Yes, alternative voting and 27% No, keep first past the post.
- Should the queen still play a part in the political process?
- – 39% Yes and 61% No.
Some visitors gave a dissenting opinion on the ballot papers such as ‘This is a protest vote, it’s all a load of rubbish’. One conspiracy theorist even went as far as saying the government are ‘trying to reduce population by poisoning us e.g. cancer.’
Others gave responses for their votes. ‘It’s patronising’ one respondent said, ‘to suggest women can only win if male competition is removed.’ Although as shown above, the rest of the voters did not see this as clear cut. The most surprising response was the majority vote opting for proportional representation instead of our current system – even though in 2010 when a referendum was held, the nation declined the change.
Come and have your say. Election! Britain Votes is on display until the 28 June 2015.
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!
Next February, the People’s History Museum will embark on a new type of exhibition. Election! Britain Votes, will be the most experimental and contemporary show PHM has ever programmed. It will explore historical elections using our wide collection; explain how and why a nation goes to vote and what the importance is to society today.
We will chart historical elections including all the memorable moments which represented a general election from 1900. As the home of democracy, the People’s History Museum is best placed to tell this history, and our collection will take our visitors on a whirlwind tour of posters, pamphlets and pipes (Harold Wilson’s pipe, to be specific) from 1900 to 2010. In each of these elections we’ll also chart key facts and issues including the winners, losers, male to female ratio of MPs and of course all the moments you may remember.
In the second part of the exhibition, we’ll also attempt to explain how the life of a vote works. Elections and all the rules and processes behind them can be confusing so this exhibition will break down the life of the election from it being called to the result being announced, explaining all the things which make a general election happen.
Finally, we hope to create a space which will reflect the changing contemporary landscape and will chart the 2015 general election as it unfolds. This area will be fluid; it will evolve with the debate and will provide an interactive space in which to connect with politics today. We are looking for people to come and use this space to debate, chat, hold a public meeting or run a session. The space will display posters and leaflets as they are distributed throughout the UK and will work as a space to reflect as well as engage. If you would be interested in using this exhibition to evoke debate and conversation amongst a group, discuss how to get issues you care about on the agenda, or talk about the election may affect your life, get in touch with the museum at email@example.com .
A guest blog from artists Kate Dunstone and Chloe Hamill
Over the past few months we’ve been exploring the museum, meeting visitors and learning more about the collections as we work with community groups to create their own guides to the must-see sights at PHM.
Working with groups from Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester Youth Council and Manchester Aid to Kosovo (so far!) we’ve seen the museum from a whole lot of different perspectives, and discovered some hidden gems embedded in the collection.
Speaking with a Yemeni student from MMU opened our eyes to the relevance of the museum’s ‘history of democracy’ to the modern world, where free speech and the right to vote are still being fought for. Manchester Youth Council’s enthusiasm and engagement gave us hope for Britain’s political future, as we learned about the issues they feel strongly about, and how they’re working to change them. A Sunday morning with Manchester Aid to Kosovo gave us an opportunity to have some in depth discussion about the importance of the museum in the modern political landscape.
It’s been a difficult, but hugely enjoyable, task to bring together all these perspectives into easy to follow guides for museum visitors, but I think we’ve achieved it. Keep a look out for the People’s Guides at PHM’s reception in the coming weeks!
We’re really excited to share all the recommendations and ideas we’ve gathered with PHM’s visitors, and encourage everyone to share their own favourite exhibits with us and the museum at thepeoplesguideproject.wordpress.com.
The summer holidays are here and to celebrate we have a brilliant family friendly basket in The Left Bank cafe bar.
Filled to the brim with exciting things including copies of our museum book Mr Ordinary’s Prize, bee finger puppets, colouring sheets, crayons, jigsaws, and game sheets!
Also on at the museum this summer is a free Stag & Lion treasure hunt, free family explorer bee bags and free craft table.
We also have story sessions and pARTicipate art sessions for a small donation. These events are bookable via Eventbrite. See our what’s on for details.
With free museum entry and free picnic spaces there is no excuse not to come along and join in the PHM summer family fun!
Next month will begin our exciting experimental exhibition Work in Progress (12 July – 14 September 2014). This exhibition will be a true work in progress, allowing you to see behind the scenes of our Play Your Part project. Help us test out ideas for our new Welcome Wall, debate topical issues and get creative with a series of exciting workshops.
The exhibition will start from nothing and evolve over time as we invite community groups, activists and you to experiment, contribute and create. Three artists will base their studios in the gallery space in our Microresidencies project and staff will be on hand for regular office hours to discuss anything about the project.
We don’t yet know what will happen, but we’re excited to find out!
- Are you an activist group wanting to share your campaign with a wider audience? Or are you just looking for a city centre venue to hold a meeting?
- Are you a community group or artist thinking about submitting a proposal for our community gallery, and you’d like to test out your ideas on our visitors?
- Are you passionate about an issue and want a platform to air your views?
- Are you an academic wanting to share your research?
- Have you always fancied going behind the scenes of a museum and putting together a display of objects that tell your story?
- Is there anything else you’d like to do with a blank canvas and a museum of ideas worth fighting for?
Sound like you? Come and Play Your Part!
If you’re interested in using the space for a meeting, workshop, display, debate or anything else then please get in touch with Catherine O’Donnell on 0161 838 9190 or Catherine.firstname.lastname@example.org.
It goes without saying that we won’t accept any proposals that are in any way offensive (eg racist, sexist, homophobic, etc). Proposals should link in some way with our story of ‘people’s history’ and ideas worth fighting for and should include an element of participation. Unfortunately we can’t offer any fee to groups or individuals – just a free space for you to experiment, engage and enjoy!