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

Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
Engels and Marx giving a speech

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.


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.
Invisible Hostories logo

Bruce Wilkinson - talk on three Lancastrian poets of the '60s

  • 5 July 2017 2-3pm

Bruce Wilkinson's new book 'Hidden culture, forgotten history: a northern poetic underground and its countercultural impact' (Penniless Press) looks at the 1960s publishing and political activities of three working class Lancastrian poets. It assesses the literary influence of Jim Burns, Dave Cunliffe and Tina Morris and traces the impact of their activism on the development of an underground still in evidence today.

The work places the trio within a long history of northern radicalism and as part of the post-war 'little poetry magazine' explosion which transmitted a wave of US experimental literature alongside British avant-garde poetry that together transformed the modern literary canon.

Original research connects the poets with the development of alternative bookshops, anti-racist associations, environmental campaigns, collectives, communes and numerous leftist organisations from the late 1960s through to the early 1990s. More broadly it highlights how a wealth of non-metropolitan, British working-class culture has previously been undervalued.

This talk is part of the Invisible Histories series - all welcome, admission free, light refreshments afterwards.


'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."


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.