ANNUAL REPORT 1 April 2015 - 31 March 2016
We are, once again, able to report an increase in many of the Library's activities compared with 2014-15. Due to the outstanding efforts of staff, volunteers, friends and supporters, there has been growth in the numbers of people accessing the Library in most areas; in the development and strengthening of links with other organisations, such as the People's History Museum, HIDDEN (the network of small heritage organisations) and groups planning to mark significant centenaries, in development and application of the Library's Strategy, and, also, in successfully meeting the key areas of the 2015 Development Plan.
It is particularly pleasing to report that the combined income from Salford City Council, supporting Labour Movement organisations, generous friends and fundraising events was above budget.
As reported above, income from secured and non-secured donations was ahead of budget due to the increased support of our many generous friends and Labour Movement Organisations in response to the Library's Fundraising appeals. Salford City Council continued its grant for 2015-16 despite the Government's savage cuts.
The University of Salford gave the use of Peel Hall and the services of support staff for a fundraising event in May to celebrate Ewan MacColl's centenary which raised £2,000.
The Library received a donation of £3,000 in memory of Sally Mitchell, a lifelong campaigner for peace, justice and African Liberation, and a grant of £1,500 from the Edgar E Lawley Foundation.
The working groups on Governance, Collection Development, Conservation, Audience Development and Fundraising have continued to develop and implement the Library's Strategy. For example two volunteers have now been elected to the Library's Organising Committee, and we have purchased equipment for the regular recording and monitoring of the environmental conditions in the archive storage areas.
USAGE OF THE LIBRARY
Another big increase in drop-in visitors means that the Library has been even more well-used than last year, which itself had been a record-breaking one. Drop-in visitors totalled 612 over the period, up from 414 in 2014 (and by way of further comparison to 207 in 2012).
Totals for users of the Reading Room, people having tours and email enquiries were all higher than in the period April 2014-March 2015 - emails totalled over 1000 for the first time. Phone enquiries showed a decline, possibly showing people's increasing preference for email as a means of communication? The total of participants at the events noted below showed a slight decrease (1313 as against 1568) but the previous year had included 800 attendees at the Radical Readings fundraiser.
We were also pleased to welcome a range of diverse groups including: young boxers looking at the story of Len Johnson and, a few months later, a 'Young Roots' project doing the same; the Manchester and Merseyside Morning Star Supporters' Cycling Group; Merseyside Pensioners' Association; participants in two 'Love on the Dole' walks which took place as part of the Manchester Literature Festival; 18 activists from the UpRising Leadership Programme for young people from Greater Manchester; and a group of Salford University occupational psychology students. Our meeting spaces have been well used including by trade union groups, Michael Herbert's radical history courses, Independent Working Class Education, Salford Community Theatre, and Digital Women's Archive North for a one-day pop-up exhibition.
HERITAGE LOTTERY FUND GRANTS
The 'Collecting Cultures' HLF funding which is shared with the People's History Museum has enabled several purchases to be made. The most significant was an archive of the 1835 election material of a Lincolnshire Tory candidate detailing the complete range of his expenses which was displayed in the Ceramics Room. Other purchases include: a copy of the 1832 Reform Act; a letter by Chartist Ernest Jones about prison conditions; several collections of cartoons; an article about women's suffrage from Charles Kingsley, and a full run of the radical journal Figaro in Chesterfield from 1832 to 1835 with a hand-coloured frontispiece.
The award of just under £10,000 which commenced in March last year has been successfully completed. The remarkable events consisted of: an exhibition, To End All Wars, focussed on previously hidden north-west conscientious objectors, anti-war movements and women's peace campaigns; a thirty minute monologue 'No Power on Earth' written by Sue Reddish and performed by Joel Parry based on experiences of Salford conscientious objector, James Hudson, which raised questions for the audience to consider; and an accompanying learning resource booklet for Key Stage 3 students. The play was performed in late February at the Salford Museum and Art Gallery, seven times in Salford secondary schools and once for history teaching students at Edge Hill University. Snippets of the performance were filmed by Salford University School of Arts and Media students, and they also went on to film the entire performance in front of an audience during one of the two early March performances in the Library where it was also filmed and later featured by BBC North West news. The total 'live' audience was about 370 in total.
Cataloguing - The closed and restricted access material that was locked away has now been catalogued and included into the main collections where appropriate. This includes material about the Grunwick and Silentnight disputes, most of which is now available for readers to access. Work is all but complete on subject indexing the books and journals in the Paine Room.
Hall Displays - A dramatic new banner made by Ed Hall for our talented volunteer ballad singer,
Jennifer Reid, based on an 1840 Wigan National Charter Association one, now hangs in the hall. The labels with quotes from Eddie and Ruth Frow which have hung for several years in the stairwell were temporarily replaced by an installation 'Personal Effects' by artist Hannah Hiett for this year's Flow Salford Festival consisting of a suitcase and its contents in free fall.
Al Johnson's 'Protect' installations celebrating the struggle and fortitude of the miners and their families in 1984-85 were also on display for several months in the hall and reading and ceramic rooms.
In May, volunteers elected two representatives, Jenny Powell and Mike Luft, to the Organising Committee. Both have proved to be lively and valuable contributors to the committee.
We continue to have a full complement of volunteers and a waiting list of people seeking work experience. Volunteers undertake a wide range of tasks from welcoming visitors and creating exhibitions to fundraising, adding indexing terms to catalogue records to help readers in finding material, writing for the blog and Web site, and cleaning and rebinding books.
Sally Richardson, our third Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded student has continued to contribute to Library life whilst completing her thesis. Jen Morgan, our first student, created a mini-exhibition about a new 'Collecting Cultures' acquisition, an 1835 election archive, and continues to make a significant contribution to editing work prior to publication.
The monthly volunteers' lunches followed by talks on aspects of the Library collections continue to be popular.
The first Annual Meeting of Friends was held in May with officers reporting to a small, lively group of local friends.
Lynette Cawthra and Jane Taylor, our Library Manager and Librarian continue to give excellent service. Lynette manages the Library building and what goes on within it, acts as first point of contact for enquiries, applies for grants and project monies and represents the Library widely, whilst Jane takes responsibility for cataloguing our growing collection, overseeing the work of volunteers and acting as our IT trouble-shooter. Lindsey Cole, our Library Assistant joined the Library in February 2015 and has proved to be an enthusiastic and valuable addition. She deals with readers' requests, sets up the equipment for talks and undertakes the administration of the Friends' and fundraising databases.
Our other regular staff continue - Alain Kahan works one day a week and gives us the benefit of his comprehensive knowledge of the collection, Jan our valued cleaner keeps the premises to a high standard and Mike Carter our graphic artist creates all our printed matter in an impressive 'house style'.
RAISING THE PROFILE OF THE LIBRARY
Invitations to the Library to take part in events and join projects across Greater Manchester and beyond continue to increase. Outside talks were given to a range of groups from the Manchester Geographical Society to the International Association of Labour History Institutions. The Library benefits from its membership of HiDDEN which promotes eight small heritage attractions in Manchester and Salford. The Standpoint visitor evaluation software it provides enables us to get visitor feedback for ourselves and the other seven institutions.
The first in our series of World War I exhibitions which critically assessed the 'glories' of the war continued throughout April.
From May until late September, Spirit of '45: from Warfare to Welfare celebrated the achievements of the Labour Government in the difficult post-war years and explored what remains of its radical reforms.
In October, local artist Tim Dunbar exhibited Guernica in Manchester Re-Representation, a drawing project based on an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the exhibition of Picasso's Guernica in a car showroom in Manchester in 1939.
From early December, the expanded exhibition team mounted the HLF-funded exhibition To End All Wars.
In April the spring series of 'Invisible Histories' talks continued with Selina Todd on the working class 1910-2010 and Sheila Cohen on the struggles of the T&G Union branch at Fords of Dagenham.
The sixth Annual Frow Lecture was given in May by Frances O'Grady, TUC General Secretary on 'The Future of the Left' at the Mechanics Institute. Ewan MacColl's centenary was celebrated with songs and readings at Peel Hall, University of Salford. The Bailey Sisters performed 'Songs from Cottonopolis' as part of this year's Museums at Night and Sharon Ruston spoke on Mary Woolstonecraft and natural history.
In June, there was a fundraising event of songs and readings in the Library by Jennifer Reid and Michael Sanders, an evening of film and music, 'No Redemption Songs', by songwriter Brenda Heslop and her band featuring the photographs of Keith Pattison taken at Easington during the Miners' Strike, and three 'Invisible Histories' events - talks by Francis Beckett on Clem Attlee, a critical view of 1945 by Keith Flett and a co-operative film, 'Song of the People'.
In September, an autumn series of 'Invisible Histories' started with Pat Thane assessing the post-war welfare reforms and Andrew Bibby talking on the history of Hebden Bridge Co-operative Fustian Mill 1870-1960. A successful day conference celebrating Keir Hardie's centenary was organised by Deborah Mutch.
'Invisible Histories' continued in October with talks on researching a Spanish Civil War photograph and on the story behind the exhibition Guernica in Manchester Re-Representation. Black History Month was marked with a talk by Marika Sherwood, 'The Forgotten War: World War 1 in Africa'
Sadly the second 'Radical Readings' had to be cancelled due to commitments by two of the actors which had a marked effect on our overall numbers attending events. On the brighter side, Royston Futter has the script ready for a future event! The Autumn 'Invisible Histories' finished with a talk by Michael Herbert on the career and politics of the Dr. Who writer, Malcolm Hulke.
In February we celebrated LGBT History Month with a fascinating talk, 'It's Queer Up North? Working class men and same-sex desire in the North of England' given by Helen Smith with readings by Mike Joyce.
Credit: Sue Reddish
March was a very busy month. There were two performances of 'No Power on Earth' in the Hall. The International Women's Day event had a talk 'Remembering Mary Barbour - social reformer, rent strike leader, women's peace crusader and pioneering woman councillor' by Catriona Burness and an update 'The Struggle Continues' on the disastrous effects on women workers of the Government's Trade Union Bill by Karen Bosson, of the CWU and co-chair of the NWTUC Women's Committee. The Spring Invisible Histories series commenced with three talks: 'Rapper Dance - its creation and what it meant to working communities' by Tom Besford; 'Justice for Alice Wheeldon!', a socialist, feminist and anti-war activist who was sentenced with members of her family on flimsy evidence in 1917, was given by Chloe Mason, her great-grandaughter, followed at the end of the month by 'Communities of resistance - patterns of dissent in Britain during the First World War' by Cyril Pearce who continues to assemble data on men and women who bravely resisted the war.
Library stalls staffed by volunteers were held at the South Yorkshire Festival in August at Wortley Hall, at the NWTUC Equalities Day in December at the Mechanics Institute, Manchester, at USDAW NW Division Conference in Southport in December and at the CWU 'Women of Today' event in January in the Mechanics Institute, Manchester.
The Library's Facebook page has nearly 3,600 'likes' and our Twitter feed has nearly 3,300 followers. In February we set up an Instagram account to be able to share photos of Library events, starting with the preparations for Joel Parry's Living History performance. The e-bulletin publicising our activities goes about once a fortnight to 2,000 people.
There were thirty posts written for the Library online blog www.wcml.org.uk/blog during the year, many of them highlighting items bought under the HLF Voting for Change project including the 1835 election expenses archive and two items from a bitterly fought election in Northumberland in 1826. Other blog posts have included: a plaque in memory of members of the Bolton and District Operative Cotton Spinners who died in the First World War that was listed as lost by the Imperial War Museum; and a contribution to the 100th anniversary of the birth of Harold Wilson.
We launched our new Web site on 1 May - one crucial effect is that it is now much easier to search our online catalogue from a mobile device. A lot of effort has gone into creating new content for the site. As an example, we realised that our 'activists' section largely featured men - the lives of twelve female activists have now been researched and put up on the site, and we are now at the time of writing almost at parity (16/15)!
The Library issued sixteen press releases during the year. The one which caused most attention was the one which pointed out the link between our 1835 election expenses archive and Samantha Cameron, the great-great-granddaughter of the MP in question. This got us into the Daily Mirror and The Times as well as the Manchester Evening News, just before the general election. The Library featured several more times in the Evening News, most curiously in a feature on 14 August about where to take your kids during the summer holidays....
The Library featured as part of the Hidden network in the summer 2015 issue of MCR: Manchester City Region Magazine, produced by Marketing Manchester.
The Guernica exhibition featured in the October/November issue of Red Pepper.
An interview with Maxine Peake strongly featured the Library in the autumn 2015 issue of the Blue Badge Guide magazine The Guide. Thanks to Maxine we got various other media name checks including in a piece on Ewan MacColl in The Guardian on 5 November.
The year ended on a publicity high, firstly with a feature on BBC1 North West news, repeated three times during the day, about our WW1 conscientious objector performance and exhibition, and then with Stuart Maconie publicising the Library on peaktime BBC1 as he won Pointless Celebrities (providing us as his nominated charity with a cheque for £1,250 into the bargain).
The Trustees wish to record their gratitude to the staff, volunteers, friends and supporters for their invaluable contributions to the Library which enable it to be run to both high professional standards and to retain its unique, informal, welcoming atmosphere.
We are grateful to all those who enable the Library to remain independent with open, free access by supporting us financially either through their organisations or individually.
We wish to restate our determination to do everything in our power to ensure the long-term future and continuing development of the priceless collection we hold in trust which will ensure that the establishment's attempt to rewrite our history is thwarted.