Press release - Tony Benn launches new era for unique Salford library
Open weekend on 24th and 25th January 2009 offers first peek at new permanent displays of working people's personal and political past.
Cartoons conveying the public horror felt when workers were attacked by military cavalry in Manchester at the Peterloo massacre in 1819 and a badge presented to a suffragette to commemorate her time in prison for her cause a hundred years later are amongst the items in the Working Class Movement Library's new permanent displays that were declared open on 18th January by Tony Benn, former Labour MP and veteran campaigner.
Heritage Lottery funding is enabling the Library to open up its fascinating collection to more people than ever before. On the 24th and 25th January from 1-5pm the public will have their first chance to see the three new permanent displays. In addition the Library has launched a new Web site at www.wcml.org.uk and has new staff working to make the collection available to as many people as possible.
"This library is one of the greatest educational institutions in Britain" said Mr Benn at the opening ceremony. "Why does it matter? I've come to the conclusion that every generation has to fight the same battles again and again and the purpose of history is to learn from others what their struggles were like to help you to fight the battle today". The Working Class Movement Library records over 200 years of organising and campaigning by ordinary men and women.
The three new displays are:
• Voice Of The People - speaking up for change, from Chartism to the Suffragettes. The display includes a handbook for militant Chartists who wanted to take on the army in the 1840s - they held secret training camps on the moors between Yorkshire and Lancashire. There are also items relating to Benny Rothman, Mancunian rambler and campaigner who in April 1932 helped led hundreds of trespassers on to the Peak District moors of Kinder Scout. Benny was arrested, tried and imprisoned, but in time his actions led to new laws allowing better access to the countryside for all of us.
• To Fight Or Not To Fight? - the stories of First World War conscientious objectors, local volunteers who fought in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s and the long road to peace in Ireland. The display includes caps worn by British workers who fought in Spain as well as copies of letters smuggled out of Long Kesh Prison.
• Standing Together - It used to be illegal for UK workers to band together to press for shorter hours or more pay. Trade unions have battled to improve workers' rights and circumstances for over 200 years. The display includes memories of the miners' strikes in 1926 and 1984/5 and accounts of the Battle of Bexley Square when, in the last Great Depression, 10,000 unemployed Salfordians demonstrated against the hated Means Test on 1 October 1931.
There is also an exhibition to mark the centenary of the first payments of the state pension.
"I am overjoyed that we can now show off some of the fascinating items that tell such important stories," said Lindsey Carr, a new volunteer at the library who, along with other volunteers, will help to ensure the displays are regularly available to the public.
The Library will welcome visitors from 1-5pm on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th January. The library will also be regularly open to the public on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. At other times visitors are welcome to make appointments to view or use the collection. The new Web site also offers an exciting new way to find out more about this unique collection, see www.wcml.org.uk for details.
For more information contact Lynette Cawthra, Library Manager on 0161 736 3601 or email enquiries @ wcml.org.uk
PHOTOGRAPHS OF TONY BENN AT THE LIBRARY AND ITEMS FROM THE COLLECTION ARE AVAILABLE VIA EMAIL
Notes to editors
1. The Working Class Movement Library (WCML) is holding open afternoons on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th January 2009 from 1pm to 5pm. It will also be open on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons from 1-5pm. At other times visitors to the library need to make an appointment. Individual and group tours are also welcome by appointment. To book call 0161 736 3601 or email enquiries @ wcml.org.uk
2. The collection contains books, pamphlets, personal archives, photographs, plays, poetry, songs, banners, posters, badges, cartoons, journals, biographies, newspaper reports and more. They tell the story of Britain's working classes from the earliest days of industrialisation to the present day.
3. The library is based at 51, The Crescent, Salford M5 4WX. The Web site is www.wcml.org.uk
4. Admission to the library is free. It is a reference library, material cannot be borrowed but all material can be studied on site, and a photocopying/scanning service is available.
5. The WCML started life in the 1950s as the personal collection of Edmund and Ruth Frow. It became a Charitable Trust in 1971 and moved to its present home in 1987.
6. The WCML was awarded a grant of £313,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund in December 2007. The grant runs for three years and has helped to fund the new displays and Web site as well as staff posts. The aim is to open the library up to the local community.
7. The library's new Community Learning Coordinator is creating free teaching materials for schools, but wants to hear from any other groups that would like to understand more about any of the subjects in the collection. Please see the Learning section of the Web site for details.
8. The WCML is an independently-run educational charitable trust.
It receives an annual grant from Salford City Council, but relies heavily on donations from individuals, trade unions and other organisations. All support is welcome.
9. The WCML relies on practical support from volunteers (showing visitors round, cataloguing collections etc). New volunteers are always welcome.