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Last updated:04 July 2018

Annual report 2017-2018

ANNUAL REPORT 1 April 2017 - 31 March 2018

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During the year under review, the Trustees have used a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Resilient Heritage Grant - Skills for the Future - to have an independent assessment of the Library’s current personnel and structures to identify actions that need to be taken to ensure that both its ongoing commitments and the changes essential for its future growth and development are met.   The Trustees have developed a new governance structure to meet present and future challenges and are pursuing the possibility of extending and improving our current premises.

The combined efforts of staff, volunteers, friends and supporters have ensured growth in Library activities and links with similar organisations, such as the People’s History Museum and members of HiDDEN (the network of small heritage organisations) have been maintained together with participation in groups planning to mark significant radical anniversaries.


Become a friend leaflet

Warning lights are starting to appear as the level of donations have, for the first time ever, fallen behind those anticipated in the budget.  Donations are over £5,000 short of budget.  It is clear attention needs to be given to fundraising in the coming year.

We are grateful for the continuing generosity of our stalwart individual and labour movement supporters in these difficult times.  Our gratitude also goes to Salford City Council which has maintained its grant for the current year despite cuts in its funding.


Trustees’ meetings are now held quarterly in the evening to decide strategic planning and development.  The operation of the Library building and activities is undertaken in line with strategy by a management group with the Library Manager and a number of Action Groups consisting of trustees and volunteers. The Groups are: Jubilee House; Working Class Education; Fundraising; Volunteer Development; Conservation; Events and Exhibitions; and Accessions and Collection Development.


Compared with last year, there was an increase in the numbers of drop-in visitors, which virtually doubled.  The numbers of email enquiries continued to increase, and numbers using the Reading Room, going on a tour or making an enquiry by phone remained pretty much the same as last year. Attendance at events fell slightly, but in comparison to 2017 which included an attendance of 800 at our fundraiser.  

We were pleased to host events such as the Connolly Association marking the 150th anniversary of the Manchester Martyrs, and the launch of a project on Lancashire Cotton Famine poetry.  Our wide range of visitors over the year included women from Lancaster Occupy who presented us with a range of archive materials, a group from ReelMcr researching Sam Bamford, several drop-in groups on guided walks, two people from Interference Archive in Brooklyn, a group of young women involved in an Enjoy Arts project, and last but certainly not least Che Guevara’s daughter Aleida Guevara March who was in the north west as a guest of UNISON.


James Bloomfield plates

The Arts Council-funded project with Salford Museum and Art Gallery and artist James Bloomfield on World War 1 was completed in July.  An event featuring James Bloomfield’s ceramics and Professor Paul Rogers was held at the Library.  We continue to feature James’s work.

We were also a partner in the Oxford University Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project Feminism, Culture and Women’s Lives in Britain, c1945-c2015, and played host to a workshop and a play reading as well as welcoming Charlotte Delaney and Selina Todd to a round table event on working class women’s writing.

March saw the start of an exciting pilot digitisation project, working on our Spanish Civil War collection in partnership with Salford University and funded by the Salford University Advantage Fund.

We regularly attend meetings of HIDDEN and the North West TUC Labour History Group as well as ad hoc groupings  e.g. planning for the TUC 150th anniversary and the Peterloo Bicentenary.  We also go to the monthly acquisitions meetings at the People’s History Museum as part of our joint Voting for Change project.


(a)    Voting for Change – 150 years of radical movements, 1819-1969
Suffragette badgeThe ‘Collecting Cultures’ HLF funding which is shared with the People’s History Museum continues to enable us to make purchases and to fund events like a Living History performance about Peterloo in August.  Particularly exciting purchases during the year have been a Votes for Women sash, a Women’s Social and Political Union ‘Joan of Arc’ badge, and a first edition of Shelley’s Masque of anarchy.  A group of volunteers and staff made a research trip to Glasgow in October, visiting the Glasgow Women’s Library and People’s Palace.

(b)    Resilient Heritage Grant - ‘Skills for the Future’
The recommendations made by the consultants appointed to consider options for sustaining the Library’s collection and to appraise the skills of current trustees and make recommendations for appointments and structures to ensure the future of our remarkable organisation were presented to trustees.  The trustees agreed to pursue the possibility of extending and improving our current premises, developed and are currently implementing a new governance structure to meet present and future challenges.  They expressed their thanks to the consultants, Claire Turner and Malcolm Williams, and the Heritage Lottery Fund for providing the finance.


Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

PublicationsKarl Marx & Friedrich Engels and Voices of the revolution are the first two Voices of the Revolutionpublications based on the Library’s exhibitions.  An agreement with publishers Lawrence & Wishart about the use of their illustrations has enabled these excellent small publications using the words on the exhibition boards to be published at the affordable price of just £2.   


Cataloguing – Our large collection of textile trade union material has now been fully catalogued thanks in no small part to the efforts of Eleanor Lewington in undertaking the original sorting and de-duplication phase.  Details of the collection have been added to the National Archives Discovery site and the Archives Hub.  

Updating online learning packs -  Work was undertaken linking our online learning packs to the current school curriculum.


Conservation in progress

We continue to have both a full complement of volunteers and a waiting list of people seeking work experience.  Tasks undertaken by volunteers extend from: front-of-house welcoming of visitors; cataloguing the range of the Library’s expanding collection; rebinding, repairing and recovering books and pamphlets; developing exhibitions for the NALGO Room, for loan and now for publication; and looking after the Library’s garden which has been in severe need of taming.  Several young and enthusiastic volunteers have been added to our front-of-house team.

The monthly volunteers’ lunches followed by talks on the Library’s collections, new acquisitions and cascading the skills for protecting and preserving books continue to be well attended.  They are a pleasant way to extend volunteers’ knowledge of the Library and develop their skills.  This year HiDDEN has also held two lunches for volunteers from the different organisations to share knowledge and skills.


Lynette Cawthra and Jane Taylor, our Library Manager and Librarian continue to give an excellent service.  Lynette manages the Library building and what goes on within it, acts as the first point of contact for enquiries, applies for grants and project monies and represents the Library widely, whilst Jane takes responsibility for cataloguing, overseeing the work of volunteers and acting as our IT trouble-shooter.  Lindsey Cole, our valued Library Assistant, deals with readers’ requests, is responsible for administering our Friends’ and fundraising databases and sets out the equipment for talks.

Our other regular staff continue – Alain Kahan works one day a week giving us the benefit of his comprehensive knowledge of the collection, Jan, our cleaner, keeps the premises to a high standard and Mike Carter, our graphic artist, ensures all our printed matter conforms to an impressive ‘house style’.


Invitations to the Library to take part in events and join projects across Greater Manchester have increased as a number of significant anniversaries approach.  The Library continues to benefit from its membership of HIDDEN which promotes eight small heritage attractions in Manchester and Salford.  

Spotty the Bear

We took part in the History of Lancashire in 70 Objects project, highlighting our Lancashire Women Against Pit Closures archive and in particular their beautiful banner – and thereby featuring in Lancashire Life!

We displayed relevant Voting for Change purchases at a conference on the 1867 Reform Act at the People’s History Museum.

In April the James Connolly exhibition was brought back for a few weeks prior to the opening of The life and works of Marx and Engels exhibition which continued throughout the summer.

We welcomed Southern Voices’ touring exhibition 'Out of the shadows: 1914-18 perspectives of colonised people' in October. This explored the role and experiences of peoples of the British West Indies, Nigeria, India and German and British East Africa during World War I.  

Our exhibition ‘Voices of revolution’, a century on from the Russian Revolution, focused on the voices of the women and men who witnessed the events of 1917.  

Tolpuddle exhibition pop-upsWe then hosted two travelling exhibitions, 'The Tolpuddle Martyrs in print' from the Marx Memorial Library, followed the TUC Library’s 'Labour’s special relationship: connections between the British and American labour movements from the 19th century until today'. In both cases the exhibition boards were complemented by material from our own collections in our display cases.


In April the spring/summer series of Invisible Histories continued with the launch of Robert Turnbull’s book on Noah Ablett, and Ruth Cohen talking on Margaret Llewelyn Davies, socialist, feminist and co-operator.

In May, the 8th Frow Lecture celebrated the lives of Eddie and Ruth Frow and the making of the Working Class Movement Library.  Invisible Histories dealt with women’s campaigns with a film on the 1917 Women’s Peace Crusade and a talk on the struggle to be heard in Blatchford’s Woman Worker.  Singer-songwriter Alun Parry gave a rousing performance of songs exploring workers’ history.

The 70th anniversary of the nationalisation of the coal industry was marked by Granville Williams with a talk and a selection of NCB films in June.  Invisible Histories talks covered local engineering strikes and occupations, and life in the 19th century Manchester slum, Angel Meadow.

The series of Invisible Histories concluded with a talk on the poems and political activities of three Lancastrian working class poets.  Artist James Bloomfield marked the end of his residency with an illustrated outline of his approach to the project, ‘Fighting resistance’ followed by a talk on ’New wars and how to prevent them’ by Professor Paul Rogers.

Peterloo living history performance

There was a much-appreciated Living History performance about Peterloo in August followed by the Library welcoming visitors as part of the annual Heritage Open Days in early September.  A new series of Invisible Histories opened with Jennifer Reid comparing and singing traditional Lancashire and Bangladeshi songs, and a round table discussion about the opportunities and difficulties facing working class creative writers led by Shelagh Delaney’s daughter, Charlotte, and her biographer, Selina Todd.  At the end of the month, Ian Parks launched his book Citizens.

In October we welcomed back Townsend Theatre Productions for two performances of their play We are the lions, Mr Manager, the remarkable story of Jayaben Desai, the inspirational leader of the 1976-78 Grunwick strike.  Sheila Cohen also gave an Invisible Histories talk on the strike.

November was an exceptionally busy month. It saw the conference 1917 at the Old Fire Station, a day presented by The Peace History Conference and the Library exploring the effect of the Russian Revolutions on the British labour and peace movements.  We then marked the 30th anniversary of the Library’s move into Jubilee House with an event celebrating our founders, Ruth and Eddie Frow, and their commitment both to working class history and to Communism.  In Censorship and the working class reader we celebrated the bicentenary of radical satirist and publisher William Hone’s acquittals on charges of blasphemous libel.  We moved from 1817 to modern times by spending a Sunday researching and editing Wikipedia entries online in a joint Voting for Change project event with the People's History Museum.

Our Invisible Histories talks ran to December with topics from the centenary of the Co-operative Party to the wave of Scottish factory occupations launched by women in the early ‘80s, and the National Federation of Women Workers 1906-21.  

We also planned events to run alongside our Russian Revolution exhibition - a talk by Neil Faulkner on his book on the topic, and a film screening of Red October, a documentary film from Marx Memorial Library.

As the new year began we celebrated the life and writings of Thomas Paine in a joint event with the Mary Quaile Club, “The world is my country”, which also gave us the change to put on display some of our treasures relating to Paine.

LGBT history month speakersWe marked LGBT History Month in February with a talk by Jane Traies on the impact the first lesbian newsletter, Arena 3, had when published in 1964.  The Manchester Lesbian Immigration Support Group also talked on their work with women from around the world who are seeking sanctuary in our area.  

This year’s International Women’s Day/Wonder Women event was Lynx Theatre’s one-woman play Sylvia, telling Sylvia Pankhurst’s story against a background of slides of her paintings, archive photographs, and locations in England and Europe.  March also saw a screening of the documentary The Acting Class, about the lack of working class representation on our stages and our screens.  March also saw the new series of Invisible Histories talks start up, with volunteer Paula Moorhouse speaking on Helen Macfarlane, who made the first translation of the Communist Manifesto, and Helen Crawfurd, suffragist, peace campaigner and organiser in the East End of Glasgow, and then Clare Debenham marking the centenary of Marie Stopes’s controversial Married love.  

We were also very pleased to host another joint event with the Mary Quaile Club to celebrate the deposit by the Club of the original handwritten minutes of the Manchester and Salford Women’s Trade Union Council at the Library. They are an invaluable record of the work done by Mary Quaile and others to organise low-paid women into trade unions in Manchester.

The year ended with the latest Library fundraiser, once again kindly hosted by the University of Salford. Radical readings 3: 'Suffer the little children' featured actor friends Andrew Ellis, Mike Joyce, Nico Mirallegro, Maxine Peake, Elle Pemberton and Molly Windsor bringing us the voices of children and young people who worked in mines, mills and factories in the 19th century.  

The Library had stalls at the May Day Festival at the Mechanics in Manchester, and both Salford Histories Day and the Salford University Freshers’ Fair in September, and at the local PCS Learning at Work Day in November.

Social Media:
The Library followers on Twitter have increased to 5,300, and ‘likes’ on our Facebook page have increased to 4,800.  Our Instagram account now has 470 followers – a big jump in numbers which have more than doubled since last year thanks to Lindsey’s good eye for images which people enjoy sharing.  We are just beginning to explore the possibilities of Pinterest to widen appreciation of the visual aspects of our collection – so far we have 23 Pinterest followers!

Lynette undertook free social media training as part of the History of Lancashire in 70 Objects project.
There have been 18 new posts on the library blog during the year on a variety of subjects, including the highlighting of items bought under the HLF Voting for Change project, a focus on William Hone alongside our event to mark the bicentenary of his  trial on charges of blasphemous libel, and a variety of book reviews.

The Library featured in the film which formed part of Manchester International Festival’s finale event, ‘Ceremony’ by Phil Collins.

We created a publicity leaflet about Marx/Engels for use particularly by visitors to Chetham’s Library.  

We also did an ‘object swap’ with Chetham’s as part of a wider HiDDEN publicity drive.

Thanks to pro bono assistance from PR professional Alison Bell, our Radical Readings event received a lot of publicity, including a full page in the Manchester Evening News City Life supplement.  Our most unexpected publicity came when a 1961 election address in our collection proved pertinent to the long-running question of Max Mosley’s involvement in his father Oswald’s Union Movement anti-immigration campaign.  The Library featured on Channel 4 News and in the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph
15 press releases were sent out during the period.


We are sad to report the death of Joyce Evans, a long-standing Trustee, who made a significant contribution to the development of the Library for nearly 30 years after its move to Jubilee House.
The Trustees wish to record their gratitude to the staff, volunteers, friends and supporters for their invaluable contributions to the Library.  They are also grateful to all who contribute either individually or through their organisations.

The Trustees wish to restate their determination to ensure the long-term future and continuing development of the Library in accordance with its values and principles and to spread the knowledge of working class struggle as an instrument of change.