Working Class Movement Library
Working people have always struggled to get their voices heard. The Working Class Movement Library records over 200 years of organising and campaigning by ordinary men and women. Our collection provides a rich insight into working people's daily lives as well as their thoughts, hopes, fears and the roles they played in the significant events of their time.
We have information on:
• The trades and lives of people who worked in the past - brushmakers, silk workers, tailors, boilermakers and others
• Trade unions, where people have banded together to improve their working conditions
• Politics and campaigns, from Chartism to the General Strike and more recent protests
• Creativity and culture - drama, literature, music, art and leisure
• Important people who have led activist lives
• International events such as the Spanish Civil War, and aspects of Irish history
Much of this information is held in books, pamphlets or leaflets. Many more stories are told by our photos, banners and tape recordings.
Our collection captures many points of view to tell the story of Britain's working classes from the beginning of industrialisation to the present day.
Our oldest items date from the 1760s. From the 1820s we have some of the earliest trade union documents to have survived.
We have material on politics of all shades and come right up to date with the archive of Jim Allen, the Manchester-born screenwriter who worked on Coronation Street and collaborated with film director Ken Loach.
Tuesday 10.00a.m. until 5.00p.m.
Wednesday 10.00a.m. until 5.00p.m.
Thursday 10.00a.m. until 5.00p.m.
Friday 10.00a.m. until 5.00p.m.
Saturday 10.00a.m. until 4.00p.m - third Sat of each month only, and by appointment
Closed: Sundays, Mondays
Admission to the library is free.
Everyone is welcome to drop by to view our ground floor displays. To use the reading room to study, please contact us in advance to make an appointment.
There are important collections on Thomas Paine, Peterloo, Chartism, rise of trade unionism, Socialism, Labour Party, Communist Party of Great Britain, Ireland, Spanish Civil War, General Strike, CND, suffragettes and suffragists, Co-operative movement.
Social History, Photography, Music, Literature, Industry, Film and Media, Archives
The life and work of Marx and Engels - an exhibition
- 28 April — 29 September 2017 *on now
This exhibition celebrates the truly creative partnership between Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, and the body of revolutionary, philosophical and economic writings that their collaboration produced.
Engels claimed that he was happy to be “second fiddle” to “so splendid a first fiddle as Marx” but it is hard to imagine how his brilliant colleague could have “discovered the law of development of human history” without Engels's unstinting support.
For over a century and a half their work has inspired radicals, terrified the privileged and given rise to a wide variety of regimes conducted in the name of Marxism - but has never been ignored. Arguably in the globalised world of the 21st century with its increasing de-regulation of workers’ rights, cycles of famine and glut, and escalating gulf between the richest and the poorest, their works have never been more relevant.
Exhibition open Wednesdays to Fridays 1-5pm, and the first Saturday of the month 10am-4pm. Admission free.
Out of the shadows: 1914-18 perspectives of colonised people
- 4 — 20 October 2017
In 2015 Southern Voices, a Manchester-based community group, received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop this exhibition exploring the role and experiences of colonised peoples of the British West Indies, Nigeria, India and German and British East Africa during World War I. We are delighted to welcome them to the Library.
The exhibition is open Wednesdays to Fridays 1-5pm, and on Saturday 7 October 10am-4pm.
This exhibition is part of the Library's celebration of Black History Month, as well as continuing our theme of commemoration of World War One hidden histories.
'Fighting Resistance' - James Bloomfield with Paul Rogers
- 27 July 2017 6:30-8:30pm
Fighting Resistance is an Arts Council-funded artist residency project placing contemporary artist James Bloomfield in Salford Museum and Art Gallery and at WCML, exploring themes surrounding the WW1 centenary and using the collections of both institutions to create new work.
For the launch event of this project James has invited Paul Rogers to talk on ‘New wars and how to prevent them’. Paul Rogers is Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University. He worked originally in the biological and environmental sciences, including lecturing at Imperial College and working in East Africa, but has worked for the past 35 years on international security.
Paul says: "The three core issues facing the world are a widening wealth/poverty divide leading to more anger, resentment and revolts from the margins, the potentially disastrous impact of climate disruption and the all-too-ready recourse to military action as the appropriate response. To avoid a deeply unstable and unjust world it is imperative to rethink our approaches to all three issues. Much good work is now being done on alternative security thinking and there are grounds for cautious optimism, even now."
Book launch - Citizens by Ian Parks
- 21 September 2017 7-9pm
Ian Parks is the only poet to have his work published in The Morning Star and the Times Literary Supplement on the same day, and his new collection 'Citizens' explores the tensions between poetry and politics, the spoken and the unspoken, the private and the public. Accompanied by the ghosts of the Chartist poets he listens to 'the voices of the lost and dispossessed' while visiting places of painful historical memory such as Orgreave, Cable Street, and Blackstone Edge.
Ian Parks was born in 1959 and is the author of eight collections of poems, the most recent of which was a Poetry Book Society Choice. He was writer in residence at Gladstone's Library in 2012 and Writing Fellow at De Montfort University Leicester from 2012-14. He currently runs the Read to Write Project in Doncaster.
Could Salford produce another Shelagh Delaney? Round table discussion
- 27 September 2017 2-4pm
In anticipation of this year's Shelagh Delaney Day, join Shelagh's daughter Charlotte Delaney, her biographer Selina Todd and MaD Theatre Company to discuss whether opportunities exist for young working class women to find a voice and an audience almost 60 years after A Taste of Honey first appeared.
'We are the lions, Mr Manager'
- 20 — 21 October 2017 7:30-9:30pm
Townsend Theatre Productions' new play, written by Neil Gore, is premiering at the Working Class Movement Library.
We Are The Lions, Mr. Manager! is the remarkable story of Jayaben Desai, the inspirational leader of the 1976-78 Grunwick Strike. She not only stood up for workers’ rights and against oppression with selfless dedication, but with her steadfast resolve she turned the dispute into a national movement for human rights and dignity inspiring future generations.
Tickets should be booked in advance from https://lineupnow.com/event/we-are-the-lions-mr-manager, price £12.50 (£9.50 early bird, £10.50 concessions).
Working Class Movement Library
51 The Crescent
0161 736 3601
0161 737 4115