Tuesday 9 December 2014

The People's History Museum - Citizens

The People's History Museum, Manchester. Main Gallery Two - Citizens
The displays in this gallery looked at Britain after the vote had been secured for all, and at politics and protest post-1945.
The question that is posed in the exhibition in this gallery is this: rather than being revolutionaries, reformers, workers or voters, have we become citizens?
 (Go here for Main Gallery One on Revolution)


The implementation of the Welfare State by the Labour Government after the 1945 election reshaped British society and the tone was set for the next 34 years.

'We have been the dreamers, we have been the sufferers, now we are the builders', Aneurin Bevan. 

This section was a strong reminder of how fresh, radical and revolutionary Labour was back then 

and inevitably, one could not but make comparisons with today's Labour Party. 
*   *   * 
Things started changing during the 1970s which were beset by recession, strikes, an oil crisis and the Winter of Discontent.

In August 1976 the workers at Grunwick's film processing plant went on strike demanding higher pay (they were paid £28  per week when the national average wage was £72), and better working conditions. The strike lasted two years and had overwhelming support from the trade union movement. It was unfortunately unsuccessful and was abandoned in July 1978.
As the recession grew, power switched between the Tories and Labour. In 1979 Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives won the general election. This was a time of regression and Britain started changing again. Union activity was restricted, government spending was controlled and Labour was seen as ineffective.


Politics moved  to being more issue based rather than about political parties. Issues such as:

Northern Ireland


Women's liberation

Gay rights

the disability movement




campaigning for peace
Those were the years of the badge. People wore badges which became a symbol of identity


Margaret Thatcher changed the face of Britain and divided the country

the country became most polarised during the miners' strike which was a defining moment in British industrial relations, had an immense symbolic significance, and the miners' defeat significantly weakened the British trade union movement.


The museum's collection of banners is very impressive.

At the end of our visit we went to the music room and listened to Ewan MacColl:

I'm a rambler, I'm a rambler from Manchester way
I get all my pleasure the hard moorland way
I may be a wage slave on Monday
But I am a free man on Sunday.



  1. Replies
    1. I guess it is, Olga. I hadn't thought about it in those terms, but it was a very uplifting experience, so yes. Life-affirming.