Labour’s Voice in Europe, by James Darby, Project Archivist

I have just finished cataloguing four archive collections relating to the Labour Party in Europe. These include the papers of the European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP) and the personal papers of David Candler, Ron Leighton and Colin Beever; three politicians linked with the pro and anti Common Market wings of the party during the 1970s and 80s.

Labour Movement for Europe report

Funding for the cataloguing of these collections has been gratefully received from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives, a grant scheme made available by several funding trusts and administered by The National Archives. The project began in April 2016 and involved the box listing of 109 boxes from the EPLP collection, 18 from the Candler collection, 16 from Colin Beevor and 9 from Ron Leighton.

EPLP boxes

EPLP boxes in strongroom

Once box listed the collection had to be placed into suitable series and following this the rather long and arduous task of reboxing all the material in the correct order.

These collections include correspondence and reports of the British Labour Group in Europe and material relating to pro and anti-EEC organisations such as the Labour Movement for Europe and Common Market Safeguards Campaign. Researchers can view the catalogues on the museum’s website and use the collections by booking an appointment in the archive reading room.


A Foot in the Past a Foot in the Present

A guest post by Curator Chris Burgess

Election!19th century historian Sir John Seeley stated that: ‘History is past politics; and politics present history’. Seeley’s words reflected the narrow view of history as a discipline at the time; history could only be history if it was political and concerned with great men. Our view of history has happily moved on since Seeley’s day but for the contemporary museum worker Seeley’s statement has some traction.

Museum objects are in the main from the past, in being of another time what do they say about the now? For visitors to PHM, what do political objects of the past say about the politics of the present? Such questions are not the idle musings of an idle curator, but run through the core of any interpretation of exhibitions. What are objects for, how should they be used?

If you occasionally scan this blog you’ll see that we are currently working on our next changing exhibition Election! a three part missive on all things voting. There will be a section with an object from every General Election of the 20th and 21st century; a whirlwind of voting history. In another section we’ve commissioned artist Alex Gardner to make the archaic and complicated mechanisms of how elections work visible.

So far so easy. In the first section we might anticipate that visitors might wallow in the nostalgia of elections, or discover new stuff about contests they never saw or can’t remember. The second section won’t be too controversial, an info-graph into politics the vision of voting mechanisms.

The third and final section is where it gets messy, when the museum grapples with the controversial of the current. As the 2015 General Election campaign gets going we will track its every move. As a politician speaks so their words will go in the show. When a new poster is produced we’ll post it in the space. And we’ll invite visitors to comment. We’re going to invite parties, and campaign groups, and individuals, of all shapes and all persuasions and all sizes to come and occupy this space for a bit and have their say. And the public can come to listen and can agree and can disagree.

It is at this stage we will have reached the point of no return. The museum will become a space to discuss politics whatever those politics may be. Quite what will happen I’m not sure. But hopefully past politics and present history will come together as one; we aim to make elections live and breathe here at PHM.

Election! Britain Votes opens on 14 Feb 2015 

Playing Politics – full programme announced

14 June 2014, Playing Politics, Chile Solidarity Campaign banner @ People's History MuseumWe are excited to announce full details of Playing Politics our Politics in Sport festival on Saturday 14 June.

To commemorate the anniversary of ‘the match of shame’ between Chile and Scotland on 15 June 1977 and to celebrate the start of the World Cup in Brazil, we will investigate when the worlds of politics and sport have come together.  Join us for our day long festival of talks, displays, object handling and political fun and games.

All day

  • Enjoy some political fun and games, including Spin Doctors, Toppling Tyrants and Democratic Darts.
  • Our friends at the National Football Museum will be displaying some of their intriguing political collections.
  • Object handling table

Drop in, no booking required

1.00pm – 3.00pm

Use your head!

What happens when the worlds of sport and politics collide?  Find out in this interesting series of talks.

From the Factory to the Field: The story of Dick, Kerr Ladies FC

Peter Marsden, trade unionist and activist

Dick, Kerr Ladies FC attracted over 900,000 paying spectators to 67 charity games during 1921. How did a team of working class women from a Preston munition’s factory spring to national and international prominence? Why later that year did the FA ban them from playing on any affiliated ground? Peter Marsden explores a unique story and a sexist decision which stymied the development of women’s football in Britain for almost half a century.


“Carriers of the Dream” – Tennis Radicals of the 1960s and 1970s

Peter Marsden, trade unionist and activist

How did the radical politics of the 1960s – the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam demonstrations, the Paris and Prague uprisings and the Women’s Liberation Movement – influence sport, particularly a conservative one like tennis? Peter Marsden focuses on two key sporting heroes and their lasting legacies; Arthur Ashe and his opposition to apartheid and Billie Jean King and her campaign for women’s equality.


“Football without the fans is nothing” The Green Brigade at Celtic: An example of left-wing football fandom?

Michael Lavalette, Liverpool Hope University

The Green Brigade (GB) fan group are a vibrant presence at Celtic matches. Their displays are entertaining and political. Their politics are explicitly republican and socialist but this has brought them into conflict with the authorities and increasingly the club. This talk with pictures will look at the GB and explore what it tells us about modern fandom.


Passion and Transformation, Order and Progress – The essence of Rio 2016

Chris Parkes and David Hindley, Nottingham Trent University

‘A pre-match’ analysis into how Brazil and the Rio De Janeiro 2016 Organising Committee aims to frame and use the Olympics to advance their political aspirations. The presentation, which is underpinned by primary research, will explore the messages and language that intends to prove they are an emerging nation ready for a more influential position on a global stage.


Pirates, Punks & Politics: FC St. Pauli – football’s radical club.

Nick Davidson, author of Pirates, Punks & Politics

FC St. Pauli is based in a working class district of Hamburg only a few hundred yards from the infamous Reeperbahn. In the mid-1980s punks and anarchists began to watch games. In the years that followed, the number of fans with left-leaning political ideals swelled. Join Nick Davidson as he looks back over 25 years of politics in the stadium and describes how fans of the club continue to battle against fascism, racism, sexism, homophobia and the creep of commercialism in modern football.


Chile Fights: The Match of Shame and Pinochet’s Regime

Josh Butt, People’s History Museum

In 1973 General Pinochet led a military coup in Chile.  Foreigners, trade unionists and anti-Pinochet protesters were rounded up and taken to detention camps.  One such camp was the National Stadium in Santiago, where several detainees were tortured and executed. Four years later, with Pinochet’s regime in place, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) arranged a friendly against Chile, which took place in the National Stadium on 15 June 1977.  Josh Butt will look back at the events and display images from our collection.

Booking required for our Use Your Head! programme of talks via Eventbrite –

Ask Our Visitors: Should the voting age be lowered to sixteen?

Following on from our experiment in the galleries with post-its (which admittedly wasn’t an overwhelming success…), we decided to bring the testing out of the gallery space and into the landing outside Gallery One. The blackboard directly next to the lift seemed the perfect place to phrase questions to our visitors relating to current affairs and issues thatIMG_3516 might mean something to them.

Last month, to coincide with a debate in the House of Lords, we asked our visitors whether they thought the voting age should be lowered to sixteen. It seemed this stirred up some really passionate responses in our visitors and the blackboard filled up with answers in only a few hours!

The most popular answer was ‘no’, views were along the line of sixteen being too young and, as one visitor wrote, “the children will follow the ideas of parents”. There were only a few ‘yes’ votes- one visitor stating that “it is fair to let them have a vote”.  What do you think? Is sixteen too young to make an informed decision about voting or will lowering the voting age mean that more young people will become engaged in politics and the political process?

In November, we held a Q&A with Manchester MP Lucy Powell as part of Parliament Week. Lucy supports the idea of lowering the voting age and believes that it will force MPs into to schools, thereby having a positive effect on young people’s engagement in politics. You can hear more from Lucy on this subject and watch the whole Q&A on our Youtube page.

Since this experiment with the blackboard, we’ve been asking our visitors more questions based on current affairs and we’ve had some really interesting responses- stay tuned for the next update!

PHM presents POLLfest!

PW Partner logo web versionAs part of this year’s Parliament Week, the People’s History Museum are holding our very own politics festival- POLLfest- an exciting series of events all based around this year’s theme, women in democracy. Parliament Week is a government initiative which aims to inspire, engage and connect people with parliamentary democracy. Running from Friday 15 November to Thursday 21 November, PHM will hold discussions, debates, displays, comedy and much more!

Friday 15 will see visitors come and learn more about women’s contribution to democratic life in a specialised gallery tour and those who would like to stick around will be treated to some unique material from our Labour History and Archive Centre as well as the chance to go behind the scenes in an archive tour.  Booking is advised- call the museum on 01618389190 or email

We will be holding two events on Saturday 16 November, a debate in the afternoon, and a Pecha Kucha event in the evening. The debate will look at the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, as a whole, and more specifically her legacy to women in senior political roles. We are still in the process of confirming speakers for this debate, so stay tuned for more exciting announcements! Pecha Kucha will be held from 6pm in our Engine Hall, and will feature 6 speakers talking for 20 seconds on 20 slides. Themes for the speakers will be on a whole host of topics including politics, social revolts and art. Our cafe bar will also be open for drinks, what more reason do you need to book! Tickets are free and can be claimed via Eventbrite.

On Sunday 17 November, we will be hosting our very own comedy spectacular from 4pm in the museum. We will have performances from Do Not Adjust Your Stage who will provide us with improvised fun based on scenes and stories in the People’s History Museum. Stand-up comedian Grainne Maguire will headline the evening with her ‘One Hour All Night Election Special’ show. Both acts have received rave reviews from past performances, and we are very much looking forward to welcoming them to PHM! Tickets are free but donations would be gratefully received- book them via Eventbrite.

Check back for more POLLfest announcements, and get booking your tickets- it’s set to be an amazing few days!

Why posters are better than jukeboxes

NMLH 1995.35.8Today is a post from Chris Burgess, our Collections Access Officer and resident posterphile

Regular readers of PHM’s blog will be aware that visitors to the museum voted the jukebox their favourite object. I kind of understand why. The shiny lights, the opportunity to listen to a few tunes after a trip round the museum where you’ve be bombarded by words and objects; it’s enough to lull anyone into voting for it.

Third in the vote came posters, this is where my vote went. If you close your eyes and think about elections, what do you see: men in grey suits, rosettes, maybe a battle bus, but what’s on the wall of that vision? Posters I’d warrant. Watch any fictional depiction of an election and posters appear in the background. If sound bites push politics through the ear, then posters provide the focus for the eye.

At this stage a confession is needed. I love posters. I’m currently in the process of trying to finish a PhD on them; posters haunt my dreams and occupy my waking moments. Yet it remains an affliction to which more people should be affected.

The billboard is the political battle for the street. The mass outside rally may be over, the political meeting dead. Politics has slowly retreated from something we consume publically to something we consume in our home, on the radio, the television and increasingly online. But – in marginal constituencies at least – posters remind us that politics is ultimately and should be a public concern.

Electioneering and politics can be a brutal game, yet posters provide elections with moments of artistry. Who cannot be moved of Gerald Spencer Pryse’s haunting, spiritual image of a mother in a bleak industrial landscape, or simply wonder at the advertising brilliance of Saatchi and Saatchi’s iconic Labour Isn’t Working?

Admittedly posters aren’t as sexy as protest music, I get that. But by studying the history of the billboard we can learn better about how politicians speak to us and why. Posters let us know what politicians think about each other and what they think about us. If we understand posters we understand so much about our democratic past and democratic present; you may be able to say a lot about Bono, but I’m not sure whether you can say that.