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Archive for the ‘Libraries’ Category

On Saturday 17th September, between 9:30am and 4pm, The Working Class Movement Library in Salford will be hosting a conference on the subject of  Radical Women 1880 – 1914.

As their newsletter puts it:

This one-day conference will celebrate the battles and achievements of working-class women in the drive to achieve a fairer and more balanced society. The decades spanning the turn of the twentieth century saw an upsurge in female activism as women began to organise themselves into trade unions, take part in the socialist debates on social and economic change, and demand the vote.

Radical women not only battled against the gender-conservative males within their family or community but also those who claimed to be fighting for equality.

Speakers include Professor Sheila Rowbotham, University of Manchester and Professor Karen Hunt, Keele University.

Whereas:

Papers include the Cabin Restaurant waitresses strike of 1908; the life of Crewe tailoress, campaigner, activitist and author Ada Neild Chew; the forgotten history of domestic servants in women’s suffrage; radical women and the bicycle; suffragette Constance Lytton and the cause of prison reform; plus many more.

Full programme details can be found on the WCML webpages

Tickets are £20 (£7.50 unwaged) and include lunch and refreshments.

Book in advance from trustees@wcml.org.uk

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On Saturday I ventured out into the tropical Manchester heat.

There was a slight hitch at the bus stop when the notable lack of 192’s heading up or down the A6 became noticeable. Eventually a bus homed into view, bearing the legend designed to crush every commuter’s heart ‘Sorry, Not In Service’

The bus, surprisingly, pulled up at the bus stop, despite some baffled ‘WTF?!’ shoulder and face expressions from me. The driver got out of the cab. ‘Stockport Carnival’ He explained, ‘The parade’s just set off’

Of course. Stockport Carnival is always (at least, I think always) one week after Hazel Grove Carnival, which tends to occur just after Marple Carnival. Entire families have been known to plan their Saturday shop and library run around Hazel Grove carnival, we even moved a birthday party because of it once. But I feel sad this year because Hazel Grove carnival has become a victim of budget cuts at Stockport Council, so this is the last one.

Another bus turned up a few minutes later, and I climbed aboard.

I headed over to Central Library as I haven’t been since it re-opened in March, and I’ve really wanted to see it. It’s very nice but they do still seem to be finishing it off. There are glass lifts and a strong focus on whiteness and large minimalistic spaces. In some ways, it reminds me of the British Library in St Pancras, London, which if it’s intentional, was a good choice of role model. The hand of modern architecture has left imprints akin to those seen at the Library of Birmingham and both Sheffield and Manchester Learning Commons’. It’s not as easy to find your way around Central Library as it was in its previous incarnation.

There’s a lot of new innovations to make room for, such as a media centre, and I’m not mad keen on the lending section being in the basement while things like BFI film booths, performance areas and the café are on the ground floor but it does reflect the way peoples priorities are going on a day to day basis. I’m sure there is stuff going on above the ground floor, but I couldn’t find a way up there.

So, having had a good look, I headed off back down Moseley Street and then over to Market Street to go to Whittard. For once all the various smaller groups of buskers, charity people and religious evangelists had been drowned out by a single voice: There was a Gaza protest going on. I think it was probably the SWP as they regularly pitch up outside Marks and Spencers on Market Street. Anyway, they were very vocally compelling, and were getting a good enough reception for me to be a bit uneasy about it getting out of hand. Not in a 2011 riots sense, but in a mild ruckus in an already far too crowded street sense.

So I decided to take a diversion on the way back to Piccadilly and go back via the Town Hall and Albert Square. In doing so I passed the march that was assembling, this group were a young, mainly Asian group, as angry as the contingent on Market Street, with the same slogans. We reached Piccadilly at roughly the same time, albeit via slightly different routes. The group marching was quite small but seemed to be being policed appropriately and not aggressively or disproportionately. They made up for their number by sheer volume and passion but, even so, the musicians and street market in Piccadilly, including a rather saccharine rendition of ‘Jesus loves the children of the world’ by the gospel choir, soon drowned them out.

 

 

 

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The Working Class Movement Library, Salford

The Working Class Movement Library, Salford

I’ve been spending a lot of this week at the Working Class Movement Library on Salford Crescent. There are buses and trains, but I generally get the 192 to Piccadilly and walk it the rest of the way. This takes you through the bustling sensory overload of Piccadilly and Market Street, out the other side and over the bridge into Salford, past the rise of development and regeneration on Chapel Street and Salford Crescent. While the sight of yet another block of yuppie flats being built within screaming distance of Manchester city centre does depress me, the idea of them becoming the ‘Vimto flats’ does amuse me and take the edge off the depression somewhat.

Anyway, to the WCML. I can’t think of another library or museum where you would encounter the Manchester post punk fanzine City Fun, trade union history and Oliver Postgate. I am re-reading Oliver Postgate’s memoir at the moment, so was particularly pleased to encounter the Postgate exhibtion in the entrance hall in its display case. Like Postgate and Firmin’s films, it is small but perfectly formed. Bagpuss sits in the middle and, amongst other things, it is revealed that the folk singer Sandra Kerr provided the voice of Madeleine the rag doll and that Professor Yaffle was based on Bertrand Russell.

I originally started trawling through the collection of City Fun about two or three years ago when I’d first decided to develop the punk women series I wrote for The F-Word into a book, and I’ve been meaning to finish the trawl ever since. Like a lot of fanzines that went on for a long time, City Fun clearly started to believe their own hype after a bit, and to develop their own personal shorthand/language. But I think that they were very quick to spot when they were disappearing up their own arses, and to take steps to correct that. I think that showed a good dose of self awareness and maturity on their part.

City Fun, which (amongst others) featured writing, artwork and input from Martin X, Andy Zero, Liz Naylor, Cath Carroll, Bob Dickinson, Linder Sterling and a certain Stephan Patrick Morrissey, has, over time, proved itself to be a really good social document of the 1979-1982 period, particularly from a punk/post punk and mancunian history point of view. It’s also been digitised now, a sure sign of its historical and cultural importance.

Last night was film festival night at the WCML, so I stayed until 7pm in order to watch the Lindsey Anderson/Shelagh Delaney project The White Bus from 1967. It’s described as being “A prelude” to If, and revolves around a series of small adventurous journeys undertaken by an anonymous young woman around Manchester and Salford. At one point she is on a civic bus tour on the aforementioned white bus, which is dominated by the excessively forthright and jolly Mayor, played with gusto by Arthur Lowe. I liked the bits in Central Library: “You have some filthy books in here!” and the sly double meaning inferred by the juxtaposition of the new towerblocks in Salford, and the march of progress they represented, with the rather more picturesque houses of the famous and wealthy in the suburbs. It’s an odd film, but an interesting and enjoyable one.

Anderson, while probably most famous for If, also directed the video to Carmel’s ‘More, more, more’ in 1984. It was also filmed around Manchester.

The film festival continues tonight with Luke Fowler’s The Poor Stockinger, the Luddite Cropper and the Deluded Followers of Joanna Southcott. Which mixes archive footage and newly shot material

“in an evocative video essay that reflects on the life and times of critic, historian and activist EP Thompson. It captures a moment of optimism, in which Thompson’s ideas for progressive education came together with political resistance and activism.”

There’s also a benefit in aid of the WCML, which has been hard hit by cuts to Salford Council, on 9th June at Islington Mill, at 3pm.

Photo of the Working Class Movement Library by pandrcutts. Used thanks to a flickr creative commons licence

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At the end of January I went to see a colleague of mine at the John Rylands Library on Deansgate. I’d been meaning to for a while, but it’s too far away from where I work to be doable in a lunch hour so I waited until I had a week off instead.

I got the bus into Piccadilly and felt rather depressed as the bus turned off down Whitworth Street and went past Legends, now boarded up and poised for either demolition or partial restructure. Then I walked through Piccadilly Gardens to Mosley Street (honoured by John Cooper Clarke in one of his more lugubrious works) towards Saint Peter’s Square. I feel quite bleak about the redevelopment going on there too – the Library, Library Theatre, Peace Gardens, Metrolink…

Library Walk by cantwont used via a flickr creative commons licence.

Library Walk by cantwont used via a flickr creative commons licence.

When it’s redone the council are glassing over Library Walk, one of the most architecturally beautiful walkways in Manchester. Not only do the architect’s and the council appear to be deliberately blighting a really nice bit of Victorian architecture, but the council also intend to put a new Peterloo memorial plaque on the gate. It will be the 200 year anniversary of Peterloo in August 2019, and to mark this event with a plaque honouring the death of 17 people and the severe injury of 700 more for demanding the right to vote, on a gate obstructing a public right of way adds insult to injury. Not only have Manchester City Council for years had an extremely euphemistic blue plaque marking the massacre, they’re also now revealing a massive irony deficit.

Despite its reputation and Victorian gothic splendour, the only time I’ve previously visited the Rylands was for a staff meeting about three years ago. Though, as I discovered when I was making my way there, I’ve a pretty good idea of how to find it because it’s been on at least one of the protest march routes I went on in 2011.

The Rylands Library has the misfortune to be situated next to Emporio Armani, which is itself next to RBS. Old meets new… They have  a combination of old and new within the Rylands itself, but they’ve preserved as much of it as possible so there’s lots of old glass and a lot of the old gothic building. I really enjoyed my visit, and I take my hat off to Enriqueta Rylands for founding such a long lasting legacy both to her husband, John, and for the people of Manchester.

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