Manchester Histories Festival

MHF 2014

An event without barriers - topical or geographical - MHF was peerless in its scale in 2014.

                           City Life Awards 2014

                   Manchester Evening News

MHF 2014

in 2014, the festival ran for 10 days during March and doubled in size from 2012 with over 190 events and 100 partners who helped to make it such a great success, and nearly 25,000 visitors. We've picked out a range of the events below to give you a bit more of a flavour of what happens and how you could get involved. Simply click on one of the panels below for more information.

There were some key moments during the festival including the Belle Vue: Showground of the World exhibition and project, the success of the Celebration Day in Manchester Town Hall with even more organisations taking part, and Creative Threads, delivered by the Hidden network of small heritage venues, was a hugely popular day over the first weekend. It was great to have new partners involved such as Salford's Ordsall Hall, Manchester Tennis and Raquets Club and The Free Radicals musicians. We had events in Stockport too including a wonderful oral histories project about Strawberry Studios, the famous recording studios in the town set up by members of 10cc. From Peterloo to pints of real ale, food to famous families, mapping music to migration, the festival delves into the familiar and less well known stories of Greater Manchester's past.

If you're interested in finding out more about the whole festival, who took part and what people thought about it, you can also read our Evaluation Report produced by the University of Manchester. You can also see more events, not listed below, on our MHF 2014 Gallery page.

Colour photograph of sculpture Omi the tattooed man who appeared at Belle Vue Zoological Gardens. Copyright Manchester Histories. Image Sorrell Higgins

Belle Vue: Showground of the World Exhibition

Lead photograph for Big Saturday highlights

I <3 MCR Big Saturday at Manchester Museum

Lead photograph for Creative Threads event

Creative Threads & the Heritage Bus Tour

Lead photograph for Celebration Day panel

MHF Celebration Day in Manchester Town Hall

lead pod photograph for Victorian Pharmacy photos

A Victorian Pharmacy at Salford Museum

lead pod photo for MH at the Archives panel

Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre 

Black and white photo of Strawberry Studios 1987

Strawberry Studios, Stockport

lead pod photo for the Racquets Club photographs

Manchester Tennis & Racquets Club

a colourful digital projection on the Town Hall

Big Digital Project in Albert Square

lead pod photograph for Ordsall Hall photos

Ordsall Hall Gardening Re-Enactment

lead pod photograph for Peterloo photos

Peterloo 2019 Panel Discussion

Black and white photograph from 1967 shows a man stood out outside the twisted wheel nightclub. Photograph courtesy of Alex Mann -

Histonauts 3: Manchester Music Map

Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre Handling Session

four people share a new find from the Collection - making new friends at the archive!The newly opened Archives+ in Manchester Central Library was one of the focal venues for 2014's festival, with many people wanting to see inside the newly renovated Library and see impressive digital displays to showcase Manchester's histories and heritage.

Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre had moved into Archives+ from quite an inaccessible University of Manchester building on Sackville street, so its new home provided the opportunity for many people to engage with their archives for the first time.

The handling session was incredibly popular and all places were fully booked. One of the popular subjects collections in the archive was the Steve Cohen. Steve Cohen was a human rights lawyer and the Collection contains details of over 70 of Manchester's anti-deportation and immigration campaigns.

Archivists and members of the Centre were also on hand to answer all any questions, ensuring that people got the most from their visit. More images of the session can be seen in the MHF 2014 Gallery.

Full colour drawn front cover of a Belle Vue Guide featuring a tiger walking through bushes and the words The Showground of the World.Belle Vue: Showground of the World

Following a long period of consultation after MHF 2012, Manchester Histories developed our Belle Vue project in response to a huge demand from the people of Greater Manchester to recognise and celebrate the histories of Belle Vue Zoological Gardens that had featured as a major part in many people's lives both as a child and an adult.

Belle Vue was based in Gorton from 1836 until its closure in 1980, and at its peak attracted two million visitors a year. Its hugely varied attractions included a fairground, circus, zoo, speedway track, two lakes, music concerts, political conferences, sports events, huge firework displays and ballrooms.

The highlight of the project was our Belle Vue exhibition that ran during the festival in the Northern Quarter's Flat Iron building showcasing items from Belle Vue over the last few decades of the site. The exhibition was curated by our partner the National Fairground Archive at the University of Sheffield, and we worked with a range of partners across Manchester including Belle Vue Speedway, Chetham's Library, Gorton Monastery, Gorton Philharmonic Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra, and Manchester City Council Regeneration Team. Over 2,000 people saw the exhibition and enjoyed remembering and sharing their memories. It won Best Exhibition of the Year in the City Life Awards 2014 for the Manchester Evening News.Colour photograph of people looking at Belle Vue archives and photos during the Belle Vue Roadshow in Gorton Monastery during MHF 2014. Photographer Joseph Price

Also included in the project was the collection and sharing of oral histories aiming to retain the incredible memories and stories from people who had visited and/or worked at Belle Vue. Some of this collection was done during the Belle Vue Roadshow where we hosted a day of activities at Gorton Monastery with films, talks, the chance to look at archives and listen to music that would have been played at Belle Vue. Photographs from that day can be seen in our Gallery.

There was an online game about Belle Vue that could be played during the festival and individuals from east Manchester performed in a new walking tour about the site with Blue Badge Guide Emma Fox. This linked with a pilot digital project to start linking all of the locations of Belle Vue artifacts in heritage venues across Greater Manchester, and also provided the opportunity for people to add the own items they had at home and include their favourite stories and memories too. Items can still be added to the site and work is still being done to develop it as a useful resource for the public. For more information and to add details, visit Belle Vue: Showground of the Year and submit your own details too.

The project was only possible through a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and we're delighted that we are still delivering involved with developing activities about Belle Vue with the partners we established.

Visit the MHF 2014 Gallery to see more images from the project.

The Big Digital Project

Colour photograph of projected images on Manchester Town Hall extension from the Big Digital project, part of MHF 2014 Celebration Day event. Photographer: Drew ForsythThe Big Digital Project provided a spectacular finale to the Celebration Day with an outdoor sound and light show projected onto the walls of Manchester Town Hall and the Town Hall extension building.

It was the end of a project produced by Let's Go Global and gave local people the chance to make and stage their own light show about where they live. Participants were asked the simple question ‘What do you want to say about where you live?', and created their own digital responses.

It sparked imaginations and allowed for the discovery of hidden stories about Greater Manchester, its past and present and provided the opportunity to let people have their say. 

Their stories will be showcased locally and in a spectacular finale in Central Manchester in 2014 - a large-scale, live sound & light event performed by the people that created it.

Big Digital Project is a community-led project produced by Lets Go Global, working with artists Andy Mckeown, Peter Walker & David Harper from externalGalleries.

The Big Digital Project was a partnership project supported by Greater Manchester Strategic Arts Fund, funded by AGMA and Arts Council England.

Visit the MHF 2014 Gallery to see more images from the project.

Creative Threads

theatre performers the Lost Luggage Porters strike a pose in their black and white costumes, make-up and period dress People had a great day out taking part in Creative Threads, watching  and enjoying new arts performances at seven of Manchester and Salford's small heritage venues and enjoying a free heritage bus ride between venues.

Visitors could explore the buildings, archives and exhibitions and sample entertainment provided by Klezmer musicians; LipService Theatre Company and their imaginary meeting between Eliszabeth Gaskell and Emmeline Pankhurst; watch street performers at the Museum of Transport; listen to Jennifer Reid sing the Manchester Ballads; and take a musical tour of Victoria Baths with musician Black Jack Barnet; and listen to new songs of working people with the Bailey Sisters.

The venues involved included Chetham's Library; Manchester Jewish Museum; Museum of Transport Greater Manchester; the Pankhurst Centre and Elizabeth Gaskell House; Victoria Baths; and the Working Class Movement Library. All seven, along with Manchester Police Museum, are now part of the HiDDEN network that is working together to provide joint activities for visitors and to celebrate the less well known histories of Manchester and Salford.

You can see more images from Creative Threads in our Gallery.

Histonauts 3: Manchester Music Map

Black and white photo of the cover of the buzzcocks spiral scratch recordManchester Music Map was the 3rd generation of digital games that have been part of the festival. In 2012, the game had focused on the general histories of Greater Manchester and in 2014 it became all about the music.

Participants signed up online to take part in 10-day digital scavenger hunt during the festival. With fun, creative tasks to achieve, they helped to add new venues, bands, videos and other popular music memories to Manchester Music Map while engaging with the city in new and interesting ways through their personal connection to the music. The game took place online and offline using social media and mobile technologies with tasks and clues taking you around the city.

From the legendary Sex Pistols gig that kicked off Joy Division and Factory Records to Morrissey and The Smiths to the birth of rave culture, the ‘Madchester’ scene and the indie swagger of the Stone Roses and Oasis: it all happened here, in the pubs, clubs, streets and houses of Manchester and there was still lots more to explore.

The game gave people to opportunity to explore their passion of music and also engaged with a younger audience who are more familiar with social media and digital sourcing of music.

You can see more about the Music Map and the items that were found by following this link.

I <3 MCR Big Saturday at Manchester Museum

Parents and children engage in arts and crafts I <3 MCR Big Saturday provided a wonderful opportunity for families to explore the many fascinating stories behind the objects at Manchester Museum. As well as looking at the exhibitions, there were lots of activities that children could take part in such as make their own elephant mask after seeing the skeleton of Maharajah the elephant who walked from Edinburgh to Manchester’s Belle Vue Zoo.

There were opportunities to investigate the Manchester Gallery and discover more about Roman histories and Manchester’s geological past, or find out the story behind the Peppered Moth and how, following a field study of the moth in Manchester, it was found that its wing markings changed had darkened in response to the then sooty and polluted city air.

Visit the MHF 2014 Gallery to see more images from I<3 MCR.

MHF 2014 Celebration Day

a packed house at the historic Town Hall visit the dozens of exhibitorsThe festival's Celebration Day serves as an important focal point, bringing together histories and heritage groups from across Greater Manchester and providing a wide range of activities to entertain, inform, challenge and engage all ages. Importantly, all activity that Manchester Histories delivers over the Celebration Day is entirely free, and we encourage all our partners to do the same too.

Excitingly, it was the first year of the festival since the reopening of Central Library and Archives+, and it was great to be able to link activity during the day betweenColour photograph of Moss Side born musician Barry Adamson being interviewed by Dave Haslam during the MHF 2014 Celebration Day. Photographer Drew Forsyth the two buildings.

Almost 90 exhibitors were at the Manchester Town Hall, including a number of new exhibitors: Community Arts North West’s Congolese Heritage Project, Friends of Clayton Park, Manchester Aid to Kosovo and the University of Bolton's Mass Observation Archive.

Throughout the day, there was a range of things to do including taking part in a treasure hunt around the Town Hall, listening to Dave Haslam’s interview with Moss Side born musician Barry Adamson, a Museum of Transport heritage bus at Albert Square, film screenings from North West Film Archive, and a Belle Vue-themed interactive game that was played by all ages.

Frank Sidebottom, the growth of Granada TV, the Mary Greg Collection and Jerome Caminada, Mcr's own real-life Sherlock Holmes, all featured in a series of talks. Live performance was provided by LipService Theatre and an imaginary meeting between Elizabeth Gaskell and Emmeline Pankhurst, Bill Cronshaw and his one-man play about MCFC's Maine Road and an outdoor performance called Passion Tree weaving Mcr legends into a medieval mystery play.

The day ended with a spectacular display from Let's Go Global and their Big Digital Project with a live sound and light event created by the people of Greater Manchester about their own stories.

You can see more images from the Celebration Day in our Gallery.

Manchester Tennis and Racquet Club

The Manchester Racquet Club was opened in May 1876 in Miller Street on the corner of Blackfriars Road. Unfortunately, the following year the London and North Western Railway Company obtained a compulsory purchase order on the new Club so that they could build the approach road to Exchange Station.

a confident visitor has a go at skittles while others look on!Undaunted, however, the clubs owners decided to build again and formed a limited company, the Manchester Racquet and Tennis Courts Ltd., who built the present club in Blackfriars Road with a real tennis court, racquets court and skittle alley. A squash court was added in 1926. The new Club opened in December 1880 and was let to the Manchester Tennis & Racquet Club in exchange for the net income of the Club.

MHF 2014 provided a special opportunity to see inside one of the most exclusive sporting clubs in the north of England. In addition to a tour of the club, visitors also received a talk about the history f the games of rackets and real tennis, the history of the Club and a description of how the games are played. They were also shown how the club professionals still made the tennis balls by hand and even got to have a go in skittle alley.

To see more of the behind the scenes pictures, visit our MHF 2014 Gallery.

Ordsall Hall Gardening Re-Enactment

Ordsall Hall is Salford's Grade 1 listed Tudor manor house first recorded in the history books in 1177. Ordsall Hall, Salford's Grade 1 listed Tudor manor house was first recorded in 1177. Since then, it has been home to medieval gentry, Tudor nobility, Catholics loyal to the crown, butchers, farmers, an Earl, an artist, priests, scout troops, mill workers, cows and several ghosts!

a young visitor carrying a shoulder yoke mucks in in the garden!Today, it is an engaging heritage site open to visitors 5 days a week throughout the year. Surrounded by landscaped grounds, it boasts hands on exhibitions, immersive room settings and a small cafe. The Hall re-opened in May 2011 following a two year £6.5 million restoration project.

During MHF 2014, visitors were invited to step back 500 years into the Hall’s Tudor heyday. Costumed gardeners were on hand to show people how to have a go at planting and gardening Tudor style! Visitors also got to learn about the many apothecary cures drawn from the Hall’s herb garden.

It was great for people to experience some outdoor histories and get their hands dirty with a bit of gardening.

Visit the MHF 2014 Gallery to see more gardening images.

Peterloo 2019 Panel Discussion

2019 is the 200th anniversary of the horrific events at the Peterloo Massacre when the working people of Greater Manchester's peaceful protest for universal suffrage was violently attacked by the people in power.

As the event that launched a new approach to universal suffrage and democracy, it is essential that any plans and activity provide the opportunity for people to share thoughts and ideas about the most effective way to commemorate this important moment in Manchester's histories.

A panel discussion was hosted at People's History Museum (PHM), including PHM's Director Katy Archer, DJ and author a shot from the back of the room as Robert Poole, Peterloo expert, raises his hand along with several audience membersDave Haslam, actress and socialist Maxine Peake, and Peterloo expert Robert Poole to discuss how Manchester should commemorate the Peterloo massacre leading up to and during this anniversary. Over 100 people attended and discussed a range of questions including: what should the city be saying about Peterloo? how should it be remembered? how can people's knowledge and understanding about the importance of Peterloo to national democracy be raised?

It was clear that there is a huge amount of interest and will to get involved with planning activities from work in schools to developing new cultural events, hosting debates and engaging with organisations not only in Greater Manchester but across the UK.

The event has led to the development of a quarterly consultation group that meets to discuss and plan towards 2019. People interested in taking part can get involved by emailing

Visit the MHF 2014 Gallery to see more gardening images.

Strawberry Studios, Stockport

Music in Greater Manchester has so often focused on the Manchester scene and neglected the incredible music production and creativity that came out of the other boroughs. Working with Stockport Council, Manchester Metropolitan University andColour photograph of the outside of Strawberry Studios showing the logo and the blue heritage placque installed.
Image courtesy of Manchester Histories Strawberry Studios expert Peter Wadsworth, Manchester Histories supported the development of a new oral histories project to explore the fascinating histories of the recording studios and celebrate its heritage by collecting the reminiscences of people who remember its heyday.

Interviews were conducted with a wide range of people from those who worked at the Studios, those who recorded there and those who simply had memorable moments walking past. An interactive element was also provided at each recording event showcasing existing photos, literature and memorabilia about the Studios between 1967 – 1993.

Stockport Council have since created a new Strawberry Studios exhibition space in the Stockport Story Museum utilising items collected during the project.

A Victorian Pharmacy

Salford Museum & Art Gallery's Victorian street is a treat to enter any day, but this special tour for MHF 2014 allowed visitors to sample the 1950s world of Lark Hill Place, including the pharmacist Mr Hamer and his pills and potions.

ssdkfhskajdhfkjashfkjhsajkfhSpecial attention to the medications of the Victorian time - both those sold by Mr. Hamer from his pharmacy, and the more homespun remedies used in the home. Also included is mention of Mrs Driver, Lark Hill Place's very own 'Bleeder with leeches'!

It was the first year that Salford Museum & Art Gallery had taken part in the festival and this was one of a number of events that they programmed including Women and the Great War with The History Wardrobe, and 1001 Ways to Die on Lark Hill about how you could die in Victorian Salford.

Salford Museum & Art Gallery is housed in the building of the UK's first 'free public library' opened in January 1850.

Visit the MHF 2014 Gallery to see more images from A Victorian Pharmacy.

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