Working Class Movement Library

Library displays
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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.

Venue Type:

Library, Archive

Opening hours

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 charges

Admission to the library is free.

Additional info

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.

Collection details

Social History, Photography, Music, Literature, Industry, Film and Media, Archives

Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.

Mini-film festival

  • 18 May — 1 June 2016 *on now

Wednesday 18 May 6.30pm
In the Company of Joan
Wendy Richardson’s documentary about Joan Littlewood’s legacy in opening a door in theatre to the working classes.

Wednesday 25 May 6.30pm
Watford's quiet heroes: resisting the Great War
A film made by members of the Quaker Meeting in Watford, one of whom is a retired professional film-maker. It tells the stories of three local conscientious objectors but aims to frame them within an explanation of the national context and to generate interest in the legacy and relevance of war resistance today.

Wednesday 1 June 6.30pm
To begin the world over again: the life of Thomas Paine
This film of Ian Ruskin’s one-man play addresses a multitude of contemporary issues that challenge us today. The story of Paine, ‘a man who changed the world with his pen’, also inspires us to always speak the truth as one sees it, no matter the consequences’.


John Conolly

Fishing in the Dustbowl

  • 5 June 2016 2-4pm

The Working Class Movement Library in conjunction with the University of Salford is extremely pleased to invite you to its second musical fundraising concert. It features Will Kaufman, performing and talking about some of his Woody Guthrie songs, and John Conolly performing and talking about his own songs about life and work in the east coast fishing industry. We are promised some Ewan MacColl’s songs as well...

A singer, multi-instrumentalist and Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Central Lancashire, Will is the author of the first political biography of Guthrie, Woody Guthrie, American radical (Univ. of Illinois Press, 2011). He has two further books on Guthrie forthcoming in 2017. Most recently, Will unearthed Guthrie's previously unpublished lyrics condemning the racism of his landlord, Fred C. Trump - Donald Trump's father.

John Conolly is an internationally-respected singer-songwriter, whose compositions have been performed and recorded by many well-known artists. Many of his songs, like the classic “Fiddler‘s Green” and “The Trawling Trade”, have a tang of the sea, and a particular flavour of the east coast of England where his grandfather and great-grandfather were shipwrights on the banks of the River Humber. Several of his songs have so passed into the folk legend that they appear as “Trad” in some albums - much to the annoyance of John’s accountant (and wife) Vere.


Peel Hall, University of Salford


Tickets at £10 (£8 concessions) will be available from the University online shop


Working Class Movement Library
51 The Crescent
Greater Manchester
M5 4WX




0161 736 3601


0161 737 4115

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.