A Land Fit For Heroes Learning Resources

A guest post by volunteer Matthew Hallsworth

As a qualified primary school teacher and volunteer in the Learning Department at the People’s History Museum I felt extremely privileged to be given the opportunity to create the self-guided resources for school groups for our World War I exhibition A Land Fit For Heroes.

A Land Fit For Heroes exhibitionI had seen the exhibition initially taking shape in the form of staff room discussion, floor plans and elevations but as the opening drew closer and the sections were constructed one by one the potential for the exhibition to be used by schools became even more apparent with every placard and banner that went up.

Conscription gameI was particularly excited to see the sections for conscientious objectors and conscription. As topics they provide such a good grounding for creative drama activities aimed at getting children to empathise with working class people and their experiences during World War I. What I had not anticipated, however, was the wonderful conscription game that had been made to go alongside the conscription display. The pinball-style contraption demonstrates the difficulty in being excused from conscription as players try to fire the ball into one of the exemption targets (as anyone who’s tried will testify!) and provides a context for discussion exploring the emotions of the men about to be sent to war. This was just one of many of the installations which help to engage learners in a unique and exciting way.

The sounds, videos and interactive sections of the exhibit all make for an inspiring learning experience and work really well in conjunction with the museum’s City Centre Trail and Living History Baddies sessions. For the self-guided materials I wanted to employ activities that fitted in with our Living History sessions, using drama techniques and creative writing methods to explore the thoughts and feelings of people at the time that could either be facilitated by any adult accompanying a group or be completed independently by the students.

School workshop in A Land Fit For HeroesAs a teacher I know firsthand how time-consuming planning and linking activities and trips to the curriculum can be, even more so with the imminent changes to the National Curriculum. As such, all the self-guided resources that have been produced contain floor plans, teacher’s notes with guidance on how to approach each section of the exhibition and links to the new National Curriculum from Key Stage 2 through to Key Stage 4 and A Level in History, English and Citizenship.

I hope you enjoy using them as much as I enjoyed producing them!

You can download the inspiring self-guided resources that Matt has created from the WWI resource page of our website. You can also find what WWI themed learning sessions are available for your group on this page.  To find out about our WWI learning offer please email learning@phm.org.uk or call 0161 838 9190

The exhibition is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.



St Paul’s Peel Primary School visit

A guest post by our Learning Assistant Liz Thorpe.

Build A Banner - ALFFH - St. Pauls PS 25.06 (3)On Wednesday 25 June St Paul’s Peel Primary School took up the opportunity to visit us for a free, World War I (WWI) themed, Build a Banner session as we commemorate the centenary of the start of WWI. The group explored our changing exhibition A Land Fit For Heroes: War and the Working Class 1914-1918  as part of the workshop. The group clearly enjoyed their workshop, where they learnt about symbols and their meanings, and also how and why banners are used. They then got to work creating their very own banner to take back to school.

St Paul Peels CofE PS @ People's History MuseumWe asked that they write a blog about their experience here but what we did not expect was a delivery of beautifully illustrated letters from each of the children, telling us about how much they enjoyed themselves!

Here are some of the things they shared with us …


 ‘I learned today that the eye meant ‘The eye of the God and the dove meant peace, the holding hands meant friendship and the bees meant workers.’


 ‘To make the all seeing eye of god I had to make a template of an eye on pink card and when I had done that I stuck the card of white sticky card. Then we had to put black sticky paper for the eye lashes. I also used the same black paper for the pupil. Then we covered the eye in blue card and the eye was finished.’


 ‘I had so much fun I wish I could go again I am going to ask my mum if I can go again.’


 ‘I never knew what the symbols meant before they were explained. The bee hive means working hard, the dove means peace, and the eye symbols god is watching over you.’


St Paul Peels CofE PS @ People's History Museum  (1) ‘Most of all we really enjoyed the banner workshop, we made a banner and decorated it with pictures of the eye of god, poppies and white doves.’


 ‘I am amazed that you have managed to keep the banners clean for all of those years.’


 ‘My favourite part was making our own banner with bees and poppies. I think I’d give it a ten star rating. The phrase “work together for peace” was a brilliant idea …’


 ‘Pauline was very kind and kind because she showed us all of the museum and explained what everything was about.’


If you would like to bring your class in for a free workshop in the next academic year we are offering pARTicipate: Build a Banner sessions for primary schools and Living History: Baddies – Conscience & Conflict during World War I for secondary schools.

One free session per Greater Manchester district.

Offered on a first come, first served basis. To find out more please email learning@phm.org.uk or call 0161 838 9190

The exhibition is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.


People’s History Museum Work Experience

Anna Stephen, a student on work placement, tells us about her time at PHM in this guest post

IMG_7632My favourite object in the museum is the docker’s pineapple in his lunch box. It shows how ordinary the worker’s diet of the time was (a massive pie!), and that a piece of fruit we now consider part of our regular shop was now available for ordinary people- but still thought of as an exotic and exciting treat, not the commonplace object we know of today. Plus it is big and plastic and looks dangerous.
As part of my work experience placement at the People’s History Museum, I’ve done dribs and drabs of all sorts of interesting work to give a full perspective IMG_7631on employment opportunities at the museum. I’ve made dizzying use of the spinny chairs taking care of reception, and even been taught how to wield a gun by the front-of-house staff (a price-tag gun, that is)!
I’ve sat in on incredible schools living history performances- historical figures such as suffragette Hannah Mitchell and chartist William Cuffay are portrayed with great élan by professional actors who reenergise history, imbuing it with a sense of dynamism and urgency as they show children the perspective of someone actually living at the time. There’s also a Q&A session with the historical figures afterwards, so you can ask all the questions you would never be able to without a time machine!

I’ve also designed a superhero postcard for children to design their own inspiring figure and describe what they’d do to change the world.

Brooklands Primary School visit

Brooklands Primary School visited the museum in September 2013 for our pARTicipate  Print Power sessions and our Living History performance Strike a Light!- A Match Girl’s Story. The children enjoyed the experience so much that they have written to us to tell us about their favourite parts of the day and a little bit about what they learnt to create our first primary school blog post!

Patrick  – Symbols on Trade Union Banners

National Federation of Women Workers badge“Some banners were carried to support the workers when they were asking for shorter working hours, changes in labour law, closures and cuts in pay and public service. Banners became popular in Britain when Trade Unions started. Images were taken from Protestant and Catholic images as well as Freemasons. It became popular in London when Tutills started to manufacture large scale banners in the 1840s.

“The badge depicts Unity (togetherness), illustrated by the bundle of sticks bound together and the handshake, the symbol of trade union unity. The object of the union is written on the banner, ‘to fight, to struggle, to right the wrong’.”

Lulu visited the museum again after her school visit

“After tap and ballet we went back to the People’s History Museum. We made a badge and I had another look at all the symbols and their meanings.”

Charlie – Print Power

“I also enjoyed my lunch with my friends and teachers. The best part was when we got to work together and push the wooden holder to get the picture. We took it back to school! The fun took the time away, at least we had fun, that’s all that matters.”

Millie  – why you should visit

Brooklands PS drawing

Dyu Strike a Light!

“5M and I enjoyed the fascinating trip to the People’s History Museum. We like making match sticks and bundling them into packs so they can be sold. After that my team and I went to different room to create freeze frame of sweaty work. The poor people used to do this sort of work at home and then selling them for a living. At end of the trip I felt People’s History Museum rocks!”

Josh  – A Great Day Out Whether You Are 9 or 90

“Very interesting and great acting. Reminds me of the powerful perseverance of the amazing suffragettes.

“As well, there are always new events and every bank and school holiday there is screen printing and banner making with professional artist, Dave. A recommended family day out. A whole section of the top floor is old but interesting banners heaven for Dave, I’d imagine!!!!

“A great day out for all friends and family. New things to learn whether you are 9 or 90.”

Luca – My visit to the PHM

“The best part was the screen printing because you could choose the colours, the pictures and the type of meaning. I loved it. It is better than all the rest. I would rate it 5 out of 5. I am definitely going again.”

 Eliza  – Screen Printing

“In the afternoon of our visit to the museum, we tried screen printing. We printed symbols onto coloured paper. Our team printed a dove, which represents peace. We printed with an object called a … Squizzle? Squeazle? – never mind. The staff were brilliant, helping in every way possible. We had so much fun we are all going back as soon as possible. It was the best school trip ever – no competition.”

Ella  – Screen Printing

Brooklands PS drawing 2

Sophie – Strike a Light!

“The People’s History Museum is very interesting because we go as far back as 200 years ago!! Me and my classmates discovered a lot of new words, new facts and basically new EVERYTHING! First of all we did a work shop of making matches, we had to get into groups or 6 and each and every one of us had a job. One job was to make sure no one was talking, cheating and helping each other with their jobs!! There were five other jobs and they were also very important. I really enjoyed the work shop. My group got the most money!! We got 4p and in these days wasn’t a lot but 200 years ago it is quite a lot.

“Come on let’s get down to the People’s History Museum it is great!! It is in Spinningfields a place in Manchester. The best part is that it is FREE!!! It is an absolutely 5 star recommendation! Hope you come and have a visit.”

You can find out more details about our Learning Programme on our website http://www.phm.org.uk/learning/. Alternatively you can contact the Learning Team on 0161 838 9190 or by emailing learning@phm.org.uk

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!