ANNUAL REPORT 1 April 2014 - 31 March 2015
It is heartening to report once more that the year under review has been one of growth and achievement. The combined efforts of the Library’s staff, volunteers, friends and supporters ensured that the growth in numbers accessing the Library significantly increased in 2014 and have held up well in the winter months of 2015; that links with other organisations, in particular with the People’s History Museum and the network of local small heritage organisations (now called HIDDEN) were maintained and developed; that there was increased use of social and other media; that a good start was made on developing all aspects of the Library’s Strategy, and that key areas of the 2014 Development Plan were met.
It is also particularly pleasing in these difficult times to report that income from supporting labour movement organisations, our generous friends and fund-raising events is well above budget.
As reported above, income from secured and non-secured donations is ahead of budget due to the generosity of supporting labour movement organisations and our hundreds of individual friends. In addition, this year we had an innovative fund-raising event when three of our famous actor supporters gave their services free and the University of Salford provided the premises and organisational support. We plan another similar event in November.
We have benefitted from a significant bequest from Jonathan Carritt.
We would, in addition, express our gratitude to Salford City Council which has announced that it will continue its grant to the Library despite the Government’s horrendous cuts.
Working parties have been set up to examine and, if necessary, to make recommendations for action in five areas – Governance, Audience Development, Collection Development Policy, Conservation and Fundraising.
USAGE OF THE LIBRARY
The Library has had its busiest year. Totals for users of the Reading Room, drop-in visitors, people having tours, telephone enquiries, email enquiries and attendees at events were all higher in 2014 than the previous year. Numbers for the first three winter months of 2015 are a little down on the previous record year.
We have benefitted from the work on items previously hidden away which were identified by the ‘Unlocking Ideas Worth Fighting For’ project.
During the year, we were pleased to welcome amongst many other groups a party of Salford Labour councillors whom the Mayor encouraged to visit us, volunteers from the George Garrett Archive Project, members of Bury U3A, and students ranging from a large group of psychology of work students to a group from Salford University’s English, Drama, and Creative Writing MA course. Artists using our collections for inspiration have included Craig Oldham, who used some of our badges and posters in his book and Manchester/London exhibition about the miners’ strike in March, and Susan Jahoda and Emma Jahoda-Brown who used Greenham Common material in an exhibition in New York in December.
Our audience development group created a series of three evening talks, Fighting for a Better World, aimed at current activists to encourage them to explore the Library’s collections to find what they have in common with campaigners in the past.
ESMEE FAIRBAIRN COLLECTION FUND – ‘Unlocking Ideas Worth Fighting For’ Project
The project finished in July. Chris Burgess and Catherine Robins who took over from Chris in January did excellent work unearthing ‘hidden gems’ in the Library, the People’s History Museum and the Labour History Archive, undertaking projects with students, giving presentations, writing blogs and running open reading days.
The project ended with a 24-hour ‘Hackathon’ when campaigners, artists and techies worked non-stop at Islington Mill developing protest tools for the next generation of activists, and an exhibition at the Library recording the project.
We wish to record the Library’s gratitude for the excellent work done by Chris and Catherine.
THE FRONT ROOM – EXPLORE THE PAST, CHANGE THE FUTURE
Our welcoming drop-in room for visitors new to the Library was formally opened by members of the former T&GWU Chloride 6/153 Branch in July. The branch donated £7,000 to fit out the room with books representative of our collections, image boards produced by our graphic artist, Mike Carter, easy chairs and lamps. The room is well used.
HERITAGE LOTTERY FUND GRANTS
(a) Voting for Change – 150 years of radical movements, 1819 to 1969. In October the HLF awarded five-year funding of £95,000 towards new acquisitions (and accompanying audience engagement work) to the Library in partnership with the People’s History Museum/Labour History Archive. This aims to build on the complementary strengths of both collections to acquire material related to movements and campaigns for the franchise, from the build-up to the Peterloo protest in 1819 to the lowering of the voting age in 1969. This is from the ‘Collecting Cultures’ funding stream, and we are the first Library (as opposed to museums and archives) to receive such a grant. The Library’s first substantial purchase is an archive of 1835 election material for a Lincolnshire Tory candidate, detailing his expenses including amounts spent on alcohol, tobacco and wagons to get his voters to the hustings.
(b) Invisible Histories from World War One. The HLF awarded the Library just under £10,000 for a project to commence in March which focuses on stories from World War One which have been hidden until now. Volunteers will develop an exhibition later in the year with a focus on conscientious objectors, the anti-war movement and women’s peace efforts. The Library is also developing online learning resources for Key Stage 3 students and a ‘Living Histories’ performance about James Hudson, a Salford conscientious objector, which will tour local schools and also be staged in the Library.
The Library Office is now on the ground floor and the old one, now called the JS Room has been fitted out with shelving to the relevant archive quality standard. It is fast filling up with new acquisitions including one of our newest archives – from the Red Rope Socialist Walking and Climbing Club.
We have a full complement of volunteers and continue to have a waiting list of people seeking work experience. Volunteers undertake a wide range of tasks from welcoming visitors and creating exhibitions to digitising tapes, adding descriptive detail to photographs and hall display items, preparing Library publications for reprinting, and rebinding books
Sally Richardson, our third Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded student, did one day a week voluntary work in the Library until October including helping tend our garden. She is now concentrating on completing her thesis. Jen Morgan, our first student, has been awarded her PhD for her research into Shelley.
The monthly volunteers’ lunches followed by talks on aspects of the Library collections continue to be popular.
Lynette Cawthra and Jane Taylor, our Library Manager and Librarian continue to give excellent service. Lynette manages the Library building and what goes on within it, acts as first point of contact for enquiries, applies for grants and project money and represents the Library more widely, whilst Jane takes responsibility for cataloguing our growing collection and overseeing the work of volunteers, and is our IT trouble-shooter.
Sam Ziesler, our Library Assistant, left for a full-time job with Leeds Beckett University. He is a qualified librarian and needed to pursue his career. Sam was a much-appreciated member of staff whom we knew would be a hard act to follow. However, Lindsey Cole who joined us in February is proving to be an excellent replacement. She was previously a Library Resource Assistant in Bury College. She is rapidly learning to deal with readers’ requests and undertake the administration of the Friends and fundraising databases. Whilst wishing Sam well in his new post, we welcome Lindsey to the Library and hope she will continue to enjoy working with us for some time to come!
We have three other regular staff - Alain Kahan, our retired librarian who works two half days a week and continues to give us the benefit of his encyclopaedic knowledge of our collection, Jan Walker, our valued cleaner and Mike Carter our equally valued graphic artist.
RAISING THE PROFILE OF THE LIBRARY
Invitations to the Library to take part in events and projects across Greater Manchester continue to increase. The Library has been represented, for example, in the ‘No Glory in War’ campaign and conference, the Peace History Conference and the campaign to restore a Peace Garden in the City Centre. The Small Heritage Organisations Working Together (SHOWT) network formally launched itself as HIDDEN with a publicity campaign funded by Museums Development North West in March, bringing together eight ‘small heritage attractions in Manchester/Salford who otherwise have little in the way of funds for promotion. Our Standpoint visitor evaluation software provided via SHOWT also enables us to get visitor feedback about the Library and compare ourselves against the feedback being offered to the other seven institutions.
Volunteer Ken Whitaker was the WCML participant in Creative Tourist’s Cultural Concierge training programme in the autumn, which gave a lot of informal opportunities for spreading the word about the Library to staff and volunteers of other local ‘cultural institutions’ – Lynette also gave them all a formal presentation in December.
Our display space in the NALGO Room was full all year with a range of exhibitions which helped draw in our record number of drop-in visitors.
In April and May visitors had another chance to see ‘Knowledge, work and workers’, a fascinating exhibition on working people and science, highlighting hidden aspects of our collections.
In June and July, ‘Unlocking ideas worth fighting for’ featured the work of the Library’s joint project in unlocking both the Library’s and the People’s History Museum’s hidden collections.
In August, the first in our series of World War One exhibitions, ‘The Great War: myths and realities’ which probed behind the myths of war and its "glories", opened.
In January, the Irwell Valley Mining Project put on a comprehensive exhibition, ‘Salford’s last pit: Agecroft Colliery and the great miners’ strike, thirty years on’.
In March our excellent exhibition ‘The Great War: myths and realities’ returned.
The fifth Frow Lecture was given in May by John Hilary of War on Want on the theme ‘Taking the fight to global capitalism’. John gave an excellent analysis which would have been appreciated by our founders. Later in the month we held our second Film Festival which had a mining theme to mark the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike. This was followed by our third Museums at Night event which featured Jennifer Reid singing industrial ballads and Tayo Aluko celebrating the life of Paul Robeson with readings and songs.
In May and June a summer series of ‘Invisible Histories’ talks, including ones on Shelagh Delaney and on British-Chinese relations, took place.
In July, Kevin Morgan gave a fascinating talk on A.A. Purcell, the subject of his book Bolshevism, syndicalism and the general strike and Sue McCormick led a rehearsed reading of her play Small acts of courage.
An autumn series of ‘Invisible Histories’ talks commenced in September with a challenging presentation on what has happened to political theatre and also included a series of talks on the first World War. The Library took part in the Heritage Open Days weekend with 26 people taking tours, most of whom had not visited us before. We also provided space for Façade Theatre’s The Quiet Bath, an immersive sound and visual installation, as part of the first Flow Salford Arts Festival. In late October, Rob Turnbull launched his book on the independent working class education movement in the North East, Left for the Rising Sun, right for Swan Hunter: the Plebs League in the North East of England 1908-1926.
In November our fundraising event ‘Radical Readings and Salford Stories’, devised by Royston Futter and hosted by the University of Salford, sold out in a matter of days despite the University trading up from Peel Hall to the 800-seater Maxwell Hall. Very many people encountered the Library for the first time as a result of their eagerness to see our actor-supporters Sheila Hancock, Mike Joyce and Maxine Peake, to whom we extend our grateful thanks.
Also in November we hosted a screening of Shut Out the Light’s documentary about The ragged trousered philanthropists, Robert Tressell’s life and the impact of the book over the last 100 years
In February we celebrated LGBT History Month with a talk, ‘Unity is strength: Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, and their lasting links of comradeship with mining communities’ with Mike Jackson of LGSM and Dai Donovan of South Wales NUM sharing their experiences with a packed audience in the Annexe. In March we marked both International Women’s Day and the Wonder Women series of events across Greater Manchester with a talk by Tansy Hoskins on her book Stitched up: the anti-capitalist book of fashion and Jennifer Reid singing from the Library’s extensive collection of radical songs. A new series of ‘Invisible Histories’ talks started with talks on Basque child refugees in Bolton and CLR James in Nelson in the 1930s.
Library stalls staffed by volunteers were held at the Political Studies Association Annual Conference in April, the University and College Union Conference in May, the South Yorkshire Festival in August, the Peace History Lecture in September and the TUC Equality Conference in January.
The Library blog continues to highlight various aspects of our collections including interesting new acquisitions.
The Library was featured in The Observer and the Manchester Evening News in May and the Historic Libraries Forum Bulletin in June in the wake of the Salford Tory controversy, and in the summer issue of Marketing Manchester’s quarterly magazine MCR.
Our Radical Readings event received a wide range of publicity, in national (Daily Mirror, Observer) and local print and Web-based media and via social media.
The donation of a minute book from the Rochdale Women’s Social and Political Union was widely publicised in local papers and Web sites.
The Library’s Peterloo kerchief has featured twice on television – in the documentary The Real Mill on Channel 4 and in Amanda Vickery’s Suffragettes Forever on BBC2.
The WW1 exhibition was reviewed on the Creative Tourist Web site which also recommended the Library in its ‘Socialists’ Guide to Manchester’ put together for the Labour Party Conference. Other online publicity was included in the Salford Star and Salford Online.
Michael Herbert wrote an article about the Library for the November issue of the ASLEF Journal, and the Library featured in a piece about the 1842 General Strike in Stalybridge in an FC United of Manchester programme in January.
The Agecroft exhibition had a full-page feature in the Morning Star in January, and in the same month Lynette spoke at University College London about the Library’s Spanish Civil War collections alongside artist Amy Feneck whose artistic response to some of our photographs has just been added to UCL Art Museum’s collections.
The International Women’s Day event was featured on Salford City Radio, with interviews with Tansy Hoskins, Jennifer Reid and participants, and there was a feature about Tansy in the Manchester Evening News ‘City Life’ supplement.
Alain Kahan spoke about the Library at a workshop prior to Bangor University’s labour history conference ‘Shaping the Labour Party’ in March.
The Trustees wish to record their gratitude to the staff, volunteers, friends and all our active supporters for their invaluable personal contributions to the Library which enable it to be run to both high professional standards and to retain its unique atmosphere.
We are grateful to all those who support us financially either individually or through their organisations.
We wish to repeat our determination to do everything in our power to ensure the long-term future and continuing development of the priceless collection we hold in trust which gives a lie to the establishment’s attempt to rewrite our history to suit its own ends.