We met this week for Lawrence Cassidy’s local history group at the Working Class Movement Library at the same time as the Conservative party were meeting for their annual conference at the Manchester Central convention centre. How many lobbyists, researchers and Conservative activists made a pilgrimage to the WCML this week I wonder? [The Library Manager responds: the answer is – two!]. It was a week when the Conservatives tried to appeal to working class voters by trying to position themselves as champions of the poor, perhaps challenging traditional notions in British politics.
Here at the WCML we were treated to an array of new photographs, books, and images. There were also a whole host of new faces sharing their Salford stories of working lives, old industries, memories, forgotten neighbourhoods, and characters from the past. Lawrence was as usual on hand to listen to people’s experiences and develop ideas and concepts for the forthcoming exhibition at the WCML.
For me the sessions have become a weekly odyssey through the history of one of Lancashire’s most interesting cities. From the enigmatic figure of Friedrich Engels to the mysterious Mary Burns.
Local historian Alice treated us to a talk on her recent book about Kersal Moor. The area in the north of Salford is interesting from both a historical and environmental point of view. In 1838 one of the largest ever Chartist meetings was held there. Lately it has become a site of special scientific interest as well as being a welcome site for recreation in the heart of the second city.
As usual the group seems to attract a regular stream of students and academics. This week I met Bob a sociology PhD student from Salford University. He was researching (if I remember correctly) access to transport amongst inner city residents. He told me he did a bit of sociology, human geography and economics.
He had taken a break from teaching to catch up with the sessions.
In my last blog entry I touched on the ‘controversial’ issue of socialism and there were a few crossed wires at today’s meeting when one participant was enthusing about the benefits of union membership. Some it seemed were happier sticking to the nostalgia and historical aspects of the group rather than debating more contentious political issues.