Working Class Movement Library

A blog from the Working Class Movement Library in Salford

Archive for the ‘Exhibitions’ Category

Exhibitions at, or curated by WCML

‘Darn that Picasso’ – a Manchester Weekender event to remember

Posted by wcmlibrary on October 18, 2013

On 26 April this year, the anniversary of the aerial bombing of the town of Gernika in 1937 which led Picasso to paint his sombrely magnificent Guernica, we published a blog posting introducing the Re-Making Guernica project, the inspiration of a group of academics, artists and makers at the University of Brighton who invited activists to join them in creating an art of protest against fascism.  The Library played its part in their initial research about the painting coming to England. Now read on…

It was with great excitement that we looked forward to the arrival of Maude Casey, with the banner she and other artist activists have been working on, for our Manchester Weekender event Darn That Picasso last Saturday.

With trepidation too of course. Would anyone come?  Would anyone join the walk Suzanne Hindle was leading up the Crescent, following the yarn trail which’d sneakily appeared overnight thanks to guerilla activity by the King’s Arms knitters? Guerilla knitting outside the Library

We needn’t have worried.  Well before our official opening time of 2pm people were starting to come in, and Suzanne brought an influx of 17 walkers.  Maude gave the group an impassioned talk about the political background to the project, as well as about Picasso’s own starting point for creating the painting, and Dora Maar’s often unacknowledged part in its development.

Sewing the Guernica bannerAnd then people set to sewing!  Some were skilled, some less confident but still eager to play their part in such a lovely collaborative venture.

Sewing the Guernica bannerMuch tea was drunk, many stories were shared – including Adrine Middleton’s tale of how she’d seen the original Guernica when the vast painting travelled, extraordinarily, to Manchester in 1939.

Comments included:

‘A fantastic idea and a truly beautiful object. Thank you’

‘An excellent way of getting people together to remember the horrors of war’

‘Great. Friendly, comradely atmosphere and a cracking project’.

It’s been mooted that we should build on the afternoon to create a banner of our own. Thoughts?

In the meantime many many thanks to Maude for travelling up from Brighton to share the banner and its stories with us.  And to everyone who contributed.

Lynette Cawthra, Library Manager (I’ll try and do a Storify account of the event soon…)

Sewing the Guernica banner

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‘Money Money Money’ – two artists’ use of the WCML collections

Posted by wcmlibrary on December 17, 2012

It’s always great to see our material being used in imaginative and unusual ways.  Recently two artists, Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck, have used some of our books and pamphlets in an exhibition in London’s Jerwood Space, ‘Money Money Money’.

Photo by Hydar Dewachi

Photo by Hydar Dewachi

Alongside the exhibition they ran study groups, with the aims:

To think about money – what it means and how it works

To examine both historical precedents and contemporary experience  

To promote independent and non-hierarchical learning

To think about how we might engage and intervene with capitalism.

Participants included William Kherbek, who taught an Economic Literacy course at the Bank of Ideas, part of Occupy London.

Photo by Hydar Dewachi

Photo by Hydar Dewachi

Amy and Ruth also ran a skill swap bazaar, creating an alternative, moneyless economy within the space inspired by Robert Owen’s Equitable Labour Exchange.  Swaps offered included street dance and bicycle repairs.






The final work made a result of doing the show was The Alternative School of Economics, which was launched at an event during the last week of the exhibition.  We look forward to hearing more about this, and about Ruth and Amy’s future plans, in the New Year.  More info about the exhibition is at

stall final event

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Musings on Parliament Week and history…

Posted by wcmlibrary on November 20, 2012

Library volunteer Marjorie, with her musings as she has cleaned books in the Library’s Thomas Paine Room – comparing things she’s read about there with current events –  has inspired us to mark Parliament Week with an object of the month from that room.

The item is William Hone’s 1819 pamphlet ‘The political house that Jack built’.

From 19 to 25 November is Parliament Week, which aims to raise people’s awareness of and engagement with parliamentary democracy. Given that so much of the collection here at the WCML is given to charting the fight for recognition by parliament, the object of the month which we have chosen is a pamphlet from 1819 which satirises the lack of parliamentary democracy. The aim is to show that voting, now seen as a right, was not so long ago a distant dream for the majority of people.

The radical printer William Hone published The Political House that Jack Built in 1819, just after the Peterloo Massacre. The pamphlet is a combination of Hone’s pithy rhyming couplets and illustrations by George Cruikshank, who rose to fame on the back of working for Hone. The pamphlet attacks the power and corruption of privilege. For instance Cruikshank drew the then Prince Regent as a fat, bloated dullard, a cork-screw hanging from his pocket to point towards the volume of his majesty’s drinking. The lines Hone included with the image were some of the pamphlet’s most biting:

‘The Dandy of Sixty,
who bows with a grace,
and has taste in wigs, collars,
cuirasses and lace,
Who, to tricksters, and fools,
leaves the state and its treasure,
And, when Britain’s in tears,
sails about at his pleasure’.

Towards the end of the pamphlet there is an image of ‘The People all tattered and torn’. In the background of Cruikshank’s image of despair you can see yeomen attacking the people at Peterloo.

These were people described by Hone as
‘Who, peaceably Meeting
to ask for Reform,
Were sabred by Yeomanry Cavalry,
Were thank’d by THE MAN,
all shaven and shorn’

Later still Cruikshank drew a banner with the slogan ‘Reform’ written upon it. Underneath Hone described this as ‘the watchword, the talisman word’, which during the period it was. Very few people had the vote, and the majority were denied access to their democratic rights. People fought and died for the right to vote. Hone suffered too. In 1817 he was tried for the inflammatory nature of his publications, although he was acquitted.

It was not until 1929 that universal adult suffrage arrived in Britain. With the recent expenses scandal and the apparent apathy of many towards voting, parliamentary democracy may not seem something with which many people are keen to engage. As Parliament Week seeks to celebrate democracy it is worth remembering, however, those who gave up their liberty, and in some cases their lives, to fight for it.

On the final page of The House that Jack Built is a remarkable drawing of a cap of liberty, from which rays emanate (the sun being a historic symbol for political rebirth). Underneath this image are words from William Cowper’s epic poem Task which are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them in 1785, or when Hone used them again in 1819.

‘Tis Liberty alone, that gives the flow’r
Of fleeting life its lustre and perfume;
And we are weeds without it’.

Chris Burgess, Collections Access Officer with the new Esmee Fairbairn Foundation-funded joint project betwen the Library and the People`s History Museum

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Reflections on ‘Jubilee’

Posted by wcmlibrary on September 24, 2012

Jen Morgan reflects on the exhibition ‘Jubilee: the radical tradition’ which she has just taken down at the Library:

Inspired by Malcolm Chase’s article on the radical use of ‘jubilee’ in late 18th century / early 19th century culture, I set out to see what the library had in its collections that would illuminate this period, and possibly beyond. It turns out there was quite a lot.

The exhibition covered all of the jubilees from George III’s Golden Jubilee in 1809 to Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. It displays work by Thomas Spence, William Morris, Walter Greenwood, the Sex Pistols, Angel Tuckett, ‘Lucy Toothpaste’, and the newspapers the Clarion, the Nelson Gazette, the Daily Worker, and the Commonweal. It was interesting to take up this thread that led me through the entire collection, and I bet most people wouldn’t expect the library to have a collection of feminist punk zines, and original ‘Stuff the Jubilee’ badges from ’77.

A favourite of mine was a cartoon from the Daily Worker, mainly because of the strange insult that one London Busman slings at another: tortoise legs?!

Although Chase was right to note that the radical use of the term ‘jubilee’ – referencing the passage from the Bible on social justice and land redistribution – did not survive the mid-19th century, it did survive in the memory of the left. I found a few references around the time of George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935 to the passage from Leviticus, but more in the vein of ‘wasn’t the jubilee originally from the Bible…?’

Despite the waning of this specific tradition, whenever there was a royal jubilee it was accompanied by protest at the display of privilege at times of high unemployment and social inequality (this seems to shadow royal jubilees like a bad smell).  A cartoon from the Daily Worker, comparing the lavish meal at the celebration of George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935 and the allowance for the unemployed.

Full article by Jen, including photos from the exhibition, on her blog at

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Was that really a man on a penny farthing making his way up The Crescent yesterday?

Posted by wcmlibrary on February 27, 2012

Great event at the Library yesterday, with 50 cyclists arriving from Bolton and Stockport, via the People’s History Museum, to come and visit our Clarion exhibition and enjoy a splendid Clarion tea (aren’t we lucky to have a former professional caterer as one of our team of volunteers? Thanks Jean!  Also the Co-op for helping towards the cost of the ingredients).

You can see the cyclists arriving (one on a penny farthing), and interviews with some of the participants in the ride including actress Maxine Peake who’s a great friend of the Library, on YouTube at (thanks Richard!)

The exhibition runs until the end of March, and is part of the Manchester Histories Festival.

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‘Invisible Histories: Salford’s Working Lives’ launches at WCML

Posted by wcmlibrary on January 13, 2010

Today the Library launched the exhibition Invisible Histories: Salford’s Working Lives. Artist Lawrence Cassidy worked with a group of local people, discovering items from the Library that relate to Salford’s labour history.  Themes included Chartism, mining in Salford, the life of Friedrich Engels, the Battle of Bexley Square and Salford Docks.

Despite the snowy weather 40 people came along to eat cake and help celebrate the launch, including many of the people who’ve made it happen, plus Mayor of Salford Roger Lightup.  Local singer Albert Thompson made an already cheery occasion into something even more special by performing three Salford songs, two of his own plus ‘Dirty Old Town’ with an extra verse of Albert’s own devising.

It’s been brilliant to see this exhibition take shape, with people taking the trouble to keep coming along for so many weeks while it was being developed.  Many thanks are due to Lawrence for keeping the momentum going – it’s taken a lot of graft by him, alongside the creative side of producing the displays.  The exhibition is open until at lesat late summer – everyone is welcome to drop in any time Wednesdays to Fridays from 1pm to 5pm, or by appointment at other times.

Lawrence said ‘The Library has done an excellent job, retaining these archives for use by future generations. Projects of this kind connect local people to archives which directly relate to their lives’.

A series of talks on a Salford theme will take place alongside the exhibition, every second Wednesday at 2pm, starting on 27 January with ‘Salford in Love on the Dole: an illustrated guide to Walter Greenwood’s 1933 novel’.  The talks are free, and open to all.  Further details of the series of talks at

The exhibition was developed with the support of a grant from The Booth Charities.


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Salford Working Lives

Posted by wcmlibrary on November 26, 2009

Reflections from Lawrence on the final group session (Lawrence will now be working on putting together the library exhibition about Salford, based on what people from the group have found evocative/useful as they’ve explored the library holdings. The exhibition will open in January):

Open discussion, as a form of evaluation. The group were invited to reflect on the series of 14 sessions as a whole, outlining their preferences, favourite themes, talks and what subjects they thought were inportant to develop.

The role of the facilitator was mentioned, people seemed pleased that it had gone well and wanted a further programme of events and talks, which is currently being organised. The group stated that continuing to develop an informal, welcoming atmosphere at the library was a key factor in encouraging them to return. Offering tea, biscuits and allowing visitors space to conduct open ended research and discussion on personally inspired subjects relating to the library archives was important.

Caroline and Lawrence were present to take notes on what people wanted to see in the future and what they had enjoyed. This will be written up as a reflective analysis, informing further work.

In the morning, Paul viewed Jeremy Deller’s re-enactment of The Battle of Orgreave. Watching the film with an ex-miner (Paul) who had been  present at the actual event was a real eye opener. He mentioned that the film was a fairly sanitised version of actual events. Listening to Paul discuss his experiences brought back memories of the depth of working class  solidarity  shown to the miners by many working class communities and how our culture is passed on and revitalised through oral testimony.  During the Wednesday sessions the library has played a key role in allowing some of these  hidden voices to be heard, which is a really important issue.

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Salford Working Lives

Posted by wcmlibrary on November 19, 2009

Bob kindly let us listen to a taped recording of his elderly mother (recorded in the late 1980s). She recounted her life through two world wars. She recollected working in various factories including Worrals in Ordsall and the Bleaching works near Adelphi. One of the interesting things to emerge from her stories was  how she walked nearly everywhere. Apparently that is what kept her fit.

We also watched a DVD of bygone Salford. One part showed Peel Park before the construction of the University and boat races on the River Irwell.

Next week is the last public session. After that Lawrence will be working one to one with individuals to construct the forthcoming exhibition at the Library.


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Salford Working Lives

Posted by wcmlibrary on November 11, 2009

Today we settled down to watch some home movies donated by Salford people and transferred to DVD by the North West Film Archive. The first movie centred around a ‘Whit Walk’ from Broughton to Manchester City Centre sometime in the 1960s. It is amazing to think that the Whit Walks were an integral part of life up until the 60s/70s. Sadly the tradition is now very much on the wane. The recent Salford Mission exhibition at the nearby Salford Museum and Art Gallery also touched on this issue. One of the Salford residents in the group who remembered the Whit Walks descibed how the Catholics and Protestants marched on separate days. The decline of the Whit Walks may have had something to do with the programme of housing clearances and the re-organisation of the road network (for example around Regent Road). It may also have been related to the seeming decline in church attendance.

The second film was a home movie from the 60s into the 70s. It was interesting to note the change in men’s hairstyles. One scene showed children on Christmas morning opening presents. The abundance of gifts led some to comment about the relative affluence of workers in that period and the growth of consumer society (now in the credit crunch we are feeling some of the negative effects of that then nascent consumer boom).

The session today was quite personal with people bringing in their photo albums and family snaps. It was interesting to relate the private pictures and films with the official histories, maps and other resources in the library’s collection.


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A new blog contributor adds to yesterday’s account

Posted by wcmlibrary on November 5, 2009

Lawrence asked us to talk about what we had been doing over the last few years interviewing Salford people about their lives in the past.

We at Salford LIDS (mainly Mike Scantlebury and Jane Wood) have been working for Retracing Salford since its beginnings. We had however been recording in Salford since we moved here and Community Radio started in the city. I had got the Community Radio bug a few years before in Longsight, Manchester where the first programmes in the country started.

I have become quite passionate about the amazing stories that have emerged at exhibitions around Salford of Old Streets, family photos, films and lots more. I was born in the last century! in Levenshulme, Manchester but I had never come across stories like this before. The conditions that some folks from some parts of Salford (mainly S567) experienced even in the 60s were so deprived. Diphtheria, Bugs, Midwife, were some of the titles of the excerpts we played. A lot of people in the room recognised the pictures that the stories portrayed and had indeed done some recordings of their own.

The midwife never locked her new mini in the street where she attended regularly and she remembered the names of “her mothers” and often delivered babies by candlelight without any phones in the middle of the night, and regarded her families with respect and enjoyed them as characters. We heard the lady who was willing to share all her food and soap with great good humour. Hunger was common as were bed bugs, blackjacks, mice and rats, despite constant cleaning. These people often “described everyone being in the same boat” and “everyone helping each other” and I am convinced that we have a lot to learn about how to make the most of our resources.

All the people in the room joined in and I think there was an agreement that these stories are so valuable. We are going to the sound archive next week to see how the general public can gain greater access.

In the meantime…they are being acted out by Blueberry Youth Theatre at Salford Arts Theatre on Sat 14th November at 7p.m. Ring 07770 769424 for details.
There is a wide variety of our recordings for radio and otherwise including one on the Working Class Movement Library on

and there are some recordings on http://retracingsalford/


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