Visit by Britannia English Academy

Britannia English AcademyA guest blog by Richard Skillander, Director of Studies at Britannia English Academy 

When someone arrives in Manchester they often have an idea about the city that is completely wrong. They’ve heard so many comments about the bad weather, the darkness of the city or about a city where you can’t do anything else except drink beer in a pub while it’s raining outside. But, at Britannia English Academy, we try to change their opinion, offering a great social event programme to our students. And one of the best places to change their opinion about Manchester is the People’s History Museum which we’ve visited recently.

Last Thursday 9th July, Britannia English Academy organised a visit to the People’s History Museum with a group of eleven students from all over the world. They discovered so much about Manchester’s history that no one had ever told them before. The museum focuses on the fight for human rights from its beginning two centuries ago, with its politics, demonstrations and banners.

The People’s History Museum is well worth a visit. Its exhibitions are amazing and our students enjoyed their afternoon enormously, asking about every poster, exhibit and artefact they saw. They were especially impressed by the display of all the banners used in political marches. Students were astounded by their size and couldn’t imagine the scale of such protests. Another great story for them was the Peterloo Massacre, the story of brave Mancunians and their fate at St Peter’s Field against the cavalry charge really grabbed their attention. They felt they’d had an excellent history lesson about Manchester and its brave people.

We really enjoyed our day in the People’s History Museum and it will be included in our future social events programmes. Because we don’t only teach English. We want our students to leave with great memories about the city. That is our aim. Learning English is more fun if you have a range of different activities to do, and visiting Manchester’s museums should be one of them. We will be back again.

Get involved in our Fun Palace

A guest post from our fab volunteer Sarah Taylor who is busy organising our PHM Fun Palace.

fun-palace-illustration1We are holding a Fun Palace on Saturday 4 October! Over that weekend, Fun Palaces are going to be popping up all over the country, celebrating arts, sciences and everyday cultures. Our Fun Palace will be all about Manchester’s history.

Come down and join us for a chance to learn all about our wonderful city. They’ll be opportunities to ask questions about things you’ve always wanted to know, share your favourite Manchester memories and even make your own ice cream cone (unfortunately not edible!) – did you know that the twist ice cream cone was invented in Manchester?!

As part of the Fun Palace we want to know about your Manchester histories. We’re inviting everyone to tweet in photos of themselves, family and friends in Manchester, young and old, past and present! The photos will be displayed on the day along with visitors’ written memories of the city. Tweet us @PHMMcr with #PHMFunPalace

So don’t hesitate to get involved via twitter and come and visit our Fun Palace on Saturday 4 October!

PHM Fun Palace

Have your say with our Fun Palaces boxesAs part of our Work in Progress exhibition, we’re starting to get some ideas for our Fun Palace which we’re organising in October.

On the 4 and 5 October, Fun Palaces are going to be popping up all over the country. They’re all about celebrating arts, sciences and everyday cultures. Although they’re part of a national network, each Fun Palace is based on the needs and wants of the local community.

At the People’s History Museum, our Fun Palace will take place on Saturday 4 October and is going to be about Manchester’s history. This is where we need your help. We want to know your Manchester memories, the facts and anecdotes you already know and find out what you’ve always wondered about the history of your city.

Come down to our Work in Progress exhibition and have your say! Make your own mini placard to answer our questions and we’ll use them to develop our Fun Palace.

If you can’t make it to the exhibition, then please use the comments box below to tell us any interesting facts you know about Manchester, if you’ve got any questions about Manchester’s history and what your favourite Manchester memory is…


American and Aussie Travel Writers Reflect on the Importance of the People’s History Museum

A guest post from two People’s History Museum visitors…

The fight for human rights is a timeless struggle that is chronicled beautifully at the People’s History Museum. We thoroughly enjoyed gaining a deeper understanding of the Machester7achievements of British workers over the last few centuries, particularly since the Industrial Revolution brought greater concentrated wealth to the United Kingdom.

Along with being a great history lesson, we loved that the museum is a colourful and hands on place. Even as 30-somethings with no children, we enjoyed playing dress up with Victorian era garments and hats. And it was fun to be allowed to pick up old telephones and handle antique cash registers. This is not your ordinary stuffy museum!

As American and Australian husband and wife travel writers, we visited the museum with different cultural backgrounds, but whose nation’s origins both stem from the United Kingdom. It’s interesting to learn and compare the plight of our British cousins to those of our own.

We particularly enjoyed learning about the founding of the National Health Service in 1948 because it’s our personal belief that a similar system should have been implemented in the United States. Unfortunately health care in the USA did not evolve to be based on human rights, but rather privilege. Americans are constantly bombarded with propaganda that we have the best health care system in the world, and people wish to climb our walls and swim across seas to access it. On this issue, the voices of the powerful have been winning, and the USA has lagged significantly behind the UK in this area of human rights.

A common theme at the People’s History Museum is propaganda, and many forms of it are displayed prominently. It’s important that the masses are able to decipher the propaganda of the powerful if we are to continue to achieve victories in terms of access to a fair share of the wealth that our nations produce.

We honestly believe that the People’s History Museum is one of the most interesting and important museums we’ve visited on our travels that have spanned 45 countries, on every continent of our planet. The history and messages displayed at the museum are pertinent far beyond the shores of the United Kingdom and truly do extend to every corner of the globe.


Alex Kallimanis is the American half of the husband and wife team who have lived in Europe for 6 years, between Amsterdam and Dublin. They write about travel and expat life for their website They met in a hostel dorm room in Brugge, Belgium 12 years ago and have each lived in their home countries of Australia and the United States with one another. They got married in Melbourne, Australia 9 years ago.

Why Bureaucracy Broke our Hearts on 14 February 2014

Guest blog by Ian Morgan (Manchester Centre President of the Association of Revenue & Customs)

Hello – I’m Ian and I’m a committed trade union campaigner.  The members of my union (Association of Revenue & Customs or “ARC”) are all senior professionals working in HM Revenue & Customs.  We’re not faceless bureaucrats but real people striving every day to secure the funds which build schools, hospitals, libraries and playgrounds.  Our work knits the social fabric of the UK and delivers for the nation.

#ARC14FebOn February 14 2014, with sterling support from our sister unions, we took our first independent strike action against HMRC in an effort to do our jobs free from the tangle of bureaucracy.  Our dispute stemmed from the Civil Service Reform plan, specifically our new performance appraisal system, and review of our employee terms and conditions.  Both elements were imposed by our employer, refusing arbitration by ACAS, and despite our serious concerns about issues like:

  • link to pay and dismissal
  • no independent appeal process
  • cost and level of bureaucracy when resources are limited
  • greater risk for staff with protected characteristics
  • longer working hours in London, and less sick pay and annual leave nationally, for all new staff and (bizarrely) when existing staff are promoted.

Just under 2300 eligible ARC members were balloted between Dec 2013 -Jan 2014, commanding a respectable turnout of 48%.  This reflected a comprehensive campaign by trade union activists, both nationally and at local branch level.  Of those members exercising their ballot vote, 58% were in favour of strike action and 78% voted for work to rule.

#ARC14Feb 2ARC chose February 14 to launch our strike action, with a strong “broken heart” theme branded across placards, stickers and Valentine’s Day postcards.  They illustrated our sadness and frustration, not just that the new systems are unfair and unjustified for HMRC employees, but because they are also a massive distraction from our work in closing the UK tax gap and helping defeat the deficit – so vital to the UK in these times of austerity.  Last year we delivered an extra £20.7 billion into Exchequer coffers, enough to fund the cost of primary healthcare for the whole of the UK, and the lion’s share of that came from ARC members.  That’s why we think we deserve a fair performance system and a fair deal.

Like our fellow members throughout the UK, on February 14s Day of action.  ARC received some fantastic coverage in the national press, including sympathetic articles in tax publications, and members of the public up and down the country stopped to chat with the pickets or went on their way sporting our broken heart stickers!

Many more ARC members supported the strike quietly at home or with their families.  Each and every one of them were stars – we all know that industrial action is never easy but is proof positive of our commitment, both to our union and to our duties as public servants.  As a union we are small in number, but we do have a voice and hopefully a strong one.

The Manchester picketers were pleased to reconvene later in the day on 14 February in the much warmer surroundings of the Left Bank cafe bar at the People’s History Museum, always our preferred planning HQ.  Our Twitter photo was taken on its doorstep and I’m now proud to post my guest blog here, as a more detailed record of our campaign.  I hope that readers agree it connects with the museum’s story of ideas worth fighting for, during its Play Your Part project.

Exciting times in Manchester in 2014!

A guest post from our Director, Katy Archer

People's History Museum, copyright KIPPA MATTHEWS I can’t quite believe that it’s now 4 years since the People’s History Museum reopened following our capital redevelopment – time really has flown by since 2010!

Having been out this week with the Manchester Museums Consortium Directors Group for a site visit to Home – the new space that will house both the Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre – I’ve been reflecting on all the developments that are taking place in the city – and on our own experiences since reopening 4 years ago.

Home site visitHome is going to be the new space for both the Cornerhouse and Library Theatre Company

With the new purpose-built centre for international contemporary art, theatre, film and books opening in March 2015, it’s already looking very impressive from our site visit this
morning. Dave Moutrey, Chief Executive and Director, gave us a tour of the space which will include two theatre spaces and five cinemas, along with a brilliant gallery space for visual and digital arts. There will also be a restaurant and café offer in keeping with the excellent food and drink that you can currently get at the Cornerhouse.

HomeHome is part of the First Street North development – and simultaneously there is a hotel, car park, restaurants and retail spaces being built to create a real destination in this part of the city.

The tour was great (if a bit cold and wet) and you could already visualize how amazing the finished spaces will be by early next year.

And Home is only one of a number of cultural capital projects underway in Manchester right now…

The new Central Library is opening next month and I can’t wait to see inside.

The Whitworth Art Gallery is undergoing a major transformation which is going to be stunning when that re-opens later this year.

And Elizabeth Gaskell’s House is also due to reopen this Autumn.

And there may be more… it’s definitely an amazing year for culture in Manchester with new buildings being built and some of our best cultural attractions being redeveloped. This can only be a good thing for us all – attracting media coverage and press to Manchester over the coming two years – providing an even bigger and better cultural offer for our existing and future visitors – attracting people to the City who may otherwise not visit and giving us another opportunity to shout about Manchester as a major cultural destination for our residents and tourists.

The People’s History Museum has benefitted from the investment made in Manchester and since 2010 when we reopened we have seen our visitor numbers increase from 25,000 to 100,000. Half of our visitors continue to be Greater Manchester residents and the other half come from further afield (national and international tourists) who are attracted to the city by the museum and the wider cultural offer. As the national museum of democracy and the home of ideas worth fighting for, we are the only museum dedicated to telling this story and our stories and collections are so relevant to the world in which all live in today. We have worked extremely hard over the past 4 years to increase our visitors and to secure the future of our museum – and we are really looking forward to working with new and old partners in the coming years, including Home, to bring more investment, more visitors and more profile to the city of Manchester while continuing to improve the lives of everyone who lives in Greater Manchester through the high quality services we all offer.

I’m looking forward to seeing all of our partner organisations open or re-open in 2014 and 2015!