‘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!