Working Class Movement Library

Library displays
Guided tours icon Library icon Study area icon Visual disability facilities icon Wheelchair access icon

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.
Invisible Histories logo

Online talks by Mathew Crowther and Sherif Dhaimish covering 150 years of cartoons with a satirical bite

  • 9 December 2020 2-3:30pm

A double bill to finish our 2020 Invisible Histories live-streamed talks series, with Mathew Crowther speaking on CJ Grant's The Political Drama, a series of political satires, followed by Sherif Dhaimish talking about his father, Hasan 'Alsatoor' Dhaimish, a Libyan artist and satirist who spent most of his life in exile in the north west of England.

Mathew Crowther will be talking about the work of the artist CJ Grant, a political caricaturist active in London during the 1830s who increasingly became associated with the leading figures of the proto-Chartist movement. Mathew’s presentation will focus on the WCML’s collection of prints by Grant, including most notably The Political Drama (1831-1836), a series of 131 wood-engraved radical political satires which viciously lampooned the failings of British politics and society at the dawn of the industrial era.

Sherif tells us that he 'will share the unique story of his father, Hasan Dhaimish (1955-2016), who left the shores of Benghazi, Libya in 1975 and found himself in northwest England at age 20. His home country was under the tyrannical rule of Muammar Gaddafi, and many young Libyans were looking for a way out. Hasan took on the pseudonym ‘Alsatoor’ (The Cleaver), and began publishing cartoons criticising the Gaddafi regime. He grew infamous for his brutal honesty and fearlessness, but he had to sacrifice ever returning to Libya'.

This presentation will traverse Alsatoor’s life and works as a satirist in exile in the northwest. Through the years of Libya’s international terrorism including the murder of PC Yvonne Fletcher, to the digital age and 2011 revolution, Sherif will look at how his father’s new life in Pendle, Lancashire, provided him the perfect safe haven while he was operating as a satirist.

These talks will be live-streamed - sign-up details available on the day via


Ticket for the Society's first screening of Man With a Movie Camera

Happy 90th birthday to the Manchester & Salford Film Society

  • 16 December 2020 7:30-8:30pm

We are very excited to be part of the celebrations of the UK’s oldest film society, which began in the city of Salford. On 15 November 2020 the Manchester & Salford Film Society marked the 90th anniversary of its continuous activity. Our Web page marks this special birthday by digitally sharing some of the historic Film Society documents we hold.

On 16 December Andy Willis, Professor of Film Studies from the University of Salford, will facilitate a discussion on Dziga Vertov’s avant garde silent Soviet documentary Man With a Movie Camera.

Attendees are encouraged to watch the film on YouTube in the week running up to the event (with accompanying notes provided by the Film Society), and then join up live with others online on the evening of 16 December (the link will be provided on this Web page on the day) to discuss what they have seen. Given that it is a film often voted amongst the best ever made, with one critic calling it "an exuberant manifesto that celebrates the infinite possibilities of what cinema can be", we reckon there will be plenty to talk about….

Man With a Movie Camera was first screened by what was then the Manchester and Salford Workers’ Film Society on 24 October 1931, with Ewan MacColl in attendance along with many others.

The Society was set up by the local trades councils as the Salford Workers’ Film Society in 1930, showing mostly Russian films at the Prince’s Cinema, Liverpool Street. Less than a year later, Salford’s Watch Committee refused to allow a showing of Pudovkin’s classic, Storm over Asia. The Society moved to Manchester, where the film was allowed, changing its name in the process.

In 2005, the Society’s archives were lodged with the Library. Included are many annual prospectuses, programmes and other documents providing a fascinating insight into the workings of a unique organisation.

In happier times the Film Society has continued to screen the best of contemporary world cinema and classic movies, on Saturday evenings throughout the year, at the Altrincham Little Theatre. During recent restrictions the Society has still been going strong, organising for members virtual shared films each month with film notes and feedback, plus film quizzes. Many happy returns, and here's to the centenary in ten years' time!


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

logo: Heritage Open Days 2014 logo: Museums at Night




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.