Manchester Histories Festival

Cosgrove Hall Films Exhibition

Sunday 15 October 2017

Ahead of the opening of the Cosgrove Hall Films Exhibition at the Waterside Arts Centre, we invited the exhibitors curator, Georgia Taylor Aguilar to write a guest post for the Manchester Histories blog.

 Danger Mouse

This exhibition celebrates animations created by Cosgrove Hall Films by delving into their archive, which has recently relocated to Waterside Arts Centre in Sale, Manchester. Curating this exhibition has been a wonderful opportunity to reveal the hidden workings and methods behind popular animated television programs such as Dangermouse, Wind in the Willows, Truckers, and many more. Selecting from hundreds of individual items has been a challenging process because everyone has favourites; the exhibition contains items from animations spanning the life of Cosgrove Hall Films. The animation process has been just as important to exhibit, with developmental drawings to puppets, and moulds to armatures. This exhibition highlights hidden processes of a significant British animation studio, with favourite characters seen by four generations of viewers.

During the 1960s, Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall worked in the graphics department for Granada Television. The pair were keen to set up their own animation company working with both drawn (cel) animation and stop-motion puppetry, so while Brian continued work at Granada around 1970, Mark spent a year establishing their company – Stop Frame Animations.Due to the success of Rainbow films, which Stop Frame Animations worked on in partnership with Thames Television, a subsidiary studio was created. With Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall as the new directors and lead animators, Cosgrove Hall Films was created.The studios opened in May 1976 in a converted tobacco warehouse in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. This location bore the name of their first successful series Chorlton and the Wheelies (ITV 1976-79).

Since the creation of Cosgrove Hall Films, they have created many popular favourites spanning four generations of audiences. Danger Mouse aired from 1981 to 1987, and was an early success, so much so that a spin-off was created following Count Duckula (a vegetarian vampire duck). Through syndication in the United States on the Nickelodeon network during the 1980s and 90s, Danger Mouse became an international hit. Westley Wood, former development producer of Cosgrove Hall Films, feels that in relation to Manchester - “Danger Mouse should be our Mickey Mouse, an icon of the city. People don’t realise the significance of Cosgrove Hall, yet it actually came before Aardman and is arguably the crown jewel of UK animation.”[1] After spending much time with the nostalgic Cosgrove Hall films archive during the curation process, it has been impossible not to fall in love with these wonderful characters.

Stiletto, Dangermouse cartoon

Stiletto, Dangermouse cartoon - Cosgrove Hall Films Archive, Waterside Arts Centre

Wind in the Willows has been another popular favourite, with many tuning in to watch the weekly instalment of Toad, Badger, Ratty and Mole and their encounters with the cunning Weasels. I have been stunned at the detail in which the props, costumes, and figures have been fabricated. For example, in a side pocket of Toad’s backpack exists is a miniature bottle of champagne filled with an iridescent liquid to mimic an infinite stream of bubbles. In an interview with Barry Purves, who was the steady hand behind Toad, notes the joys of animators is the detail – to make every single thing mean something. He comments that animation is a performance through the hands, for example – how do you get a toad to listen when he has no ears?

Engie Benjy set - Cosgrove Hall Films Archive, Waterside Arts Centre

As well as original content, Engie Benjy setCosgrove Hall Films were part of several re-makes such as Postman Pat, Noddy in Toyland, and Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men. Thirty years at the Chorlton studios came to an end in 2008, when only four members of staff remained and moved ‘in house’ to Granada Television (ITV). The studios were sold and demolished between 2010 and 2012.

Bill and Ben Bill and Ben - Cosgrove Hall Films Archive, Waterside Arts Centre Photo: Jason Lock

Their spectacular skills and attention to detail combined with creative problem solving at its best ensured nothing less than living characters in the Cosgrove Hall kingdom. It seems incredible that for earlier works, they had one shot using 16mm film to get it right, compared with the liberty of current editing and post-production processes. Despite exponential advances in animation during and since the work of Cosgrove Hall films, this particular studio was crucial in paving the way for the development of animations, methods and individuals; whose talent has graced our screens for further years.

[1] Westley Wood, ‘Remember Danger Mouse? Help save the archive of Cosgrove Hall’ [accessed 10th October 2017]

Animation City presents The Cosgrove Hall Films Exhibition at the Waterside Arts Centre, 1 Waterside Plaza, Sale, M33 7ZF from at Saturday 21 October 2017 to Saturday 17 February 2018.




Guest Blog by Georgia Taylor Aguilar @georgiataylora

CHFA logo

Bring Manchester’s Suffragette Banner Home

Sunday 27 August 2017

The People’s History Museum is calling on supporters to help it bring home to Manchester a significant and rare suffragette banner that was created over 100 years ago at the height of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) campaign led by Emmeline Pankhurst.  Our Crowdfunder campaign to bring Manchester’s suffragette banner home will help save, lovingly conserve and display the banner for all to see. The People’s History Museum has already secured grants from the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme. We are now seeking to raise the final £5,000 with our Crowdfunder campaign to bring the banner home to Manchester.

If the campaign is successful, the banner will form the centrepiece of our 2018 programme marking the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 that afforded all men and some women the right to vote. Synonymous with many groups’ mass demonstrations throughout history, banners of all kinds are one of the iconic sights at mass protests. The WSPU were no different and banners like this one were ever present at their trailblazing campaigns but sadly very few have survived and today they are very rare.Suffrage Banner

Having been unearthed from a Leeds charity shop cupboard, where it spent the last ten years hidden away, the Manchester suffragette banner has finally made its way into the public eye. Its journey to Leeds began in the 1930s when its then owner, Edna White, moved to the city and after her death it was donated to the charity shop. Leading with the words ‘First in the Fight’ under the headline of ‘Manchester’, the banner represents a truly unique piece of Mancunian history. Indeed, the banner still has an original label displaying the name of Thomas Brown & Sons, a renowned regalia manufacturer based here in its rightful home of Manchester.

The People’s History Museum houses one of the largest collections of trade union and political banners in the world. Its expertise includes an in-house Textile Conservation Studio which is dedicated to looking after the museum’s collection. If successful, the campaign will ensure that the banner not only becomes part of the People’s History Museum collection, but will also make sure that it can be enjoyed by visitors for generations to come.

Please help us reach our target by visiting our Crowdfunder page, pledging and sharing as far and wide as you can. The campaign runs until Monday 18 September 2017 and there are opportunities at all levels for supporters to become involved with the People’s History Museum’s plans for 2018.

Guest Blog by People's History Museum. @PHMMcr

Hidden Histories, Hidden Historians: Visit to Manchester Central Library

Wednesday 7 June 2017

In the latest edition of our Hidden Histories, Hidden Historians Blog project, M13 Youth Project have written a guest post for us:

Our first session of the hidden histories projects involved us visiting M13 Youth Project at Central Library the library and seeing how and where the hidden histories project will be portrayed. This allowed us to get as creative as possible and set free our imagination on how we show our audience about M13’s history. We were able to see how other groups showed videos, objects, audio clips and pictures of the story they were telling.

We were also able to visit the physical archives, gaining VIP access to view very old books in the library. It was very interesting to look through the books, with some of them being from as early as 15th and 16th century. One young person mentioned how: “keeping historical records gives people from the now and future a glimpse to understanding how life was like back then, and maybe in 100yrs time people will look at the history and great stuff M13 have done.”

From the day, our young people expressed their enthusiasm to begin finding, creating images and videos that accurately illustrate M13 youth project and its history over the years.

Hidden Histories, Hidden Historians is a Manchester Histories project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project will see Manchester Histories working with communities across Greater Manchester with the aim of revealing less familiar histories and heritage; that is to say, the histories of the people, buildings, families, communities and places that make up our lives. These histories can become ‘hidden’ because they are not always recorded, nevertheless, these important social histories often shape us and the places we live, and Manchester Histories are thrilled to be supporting people across Greater Manchester to uncover their own histories. Over the coming months we'll be working with five community groups, plus, with the help of experts, we're developing an informative series of toolkits that will to equip anybody with the skills they need to begin researching and creating their own archives.

Hidden Histories, Hidden Historians: History starts to take shape

Monday 5 June 2017

In our second blog on our Hidden Histories, Hidden Historians project, professional archivist, Heather Emily Roberts tells us more about the five community groups we're working with, and gives a taster of what you can expect from their exhibition at the fabulous Archives+ opening later in the year.  

Manchester People First

Starting in 1992, this charity is run by and supports learning disabled adults who campaign for disability rights. Their archive is a huge visual resource of photographs and newsletters which tell its story from the very first day to happenings of the last month. They are designing an exhibition about the charity’s fantastic journey and development and what it has come to mean for those involved. I’m really excited about the content, it’s going to be a great exhibition!

M13 Youth Project

Just the simple act of talking to young people on the streets of Ardwick and Longsight led to M13 Youth Project being founded back in 1995. The project has since supported countless of individuals and it is their ethos of “love, think, create, reflect, enjoy, achieve and make a positive difference in their world” that they wish to share via their archive material in the exhibition. This digital display will be interesting not just for its story, but how it’s told. Much of their real work is conversation and much of their real presence is the atmosphere they create. It could make for a very interesting and mixed display.

Inspire Centre

This famous hub of Levenshulme life is set in a beautifully renovated United Reformed Church smack bang in the middle of the town’s busiest street. When you walk into the café you can see how diverse and community-driven the local area is. This is the story that Inspire wish tell with their exhibition: the story of Levenshulme as told from inside the walls of this building. From church community to transformation to the current diverse populous, it all happens in these old stone walls.

Oldham Youth Council

These young people act as a representative for their Hidden Histories, Oldham Youth Council generation within Oldham Council. They campaign for health, wellbeing and so much more. They are an extremely diverse group of people and they are using the exhibition to explore their own personal family histories, using them to showcase how their different backgrounds come together to make their organisation even stronger, full of understanding and acceptance. There are fascinating stories lined up to share with you in November.

FC United of Manchester

In 2005, fans of Manchester United protested the corporate take-over of the famous club and formed their own community football club. Its Sporting Memories Group members recall playing with the famous Nobby Stiles in the streets of Manchester. They are very proud of North Manchester and its innovations in industry and sport. Their premises are smack bang in the middle of a geographical treasure map of local history with memories and ghosts of landmarks in spitting distance from their grounds. Their exhibition is hoping to highlight some of these forgotten legacies of their area. I’m looking forward to learning a lot!

Next steps

We are at the second stage of our “collect, curate, create” process and are guiding the groups in putting the stories together within their own exhibition parameters. We’re certainly not short of content! Exhibitions should be ready by the end of summer to be showcased and launched in November.

About me

Heather Emily Roberts, professional archivist and owner of HerArchivist: Archive and Heritage Consultancy.


Twitter: @herArchivist

Delia Derbyshire: A look into her archive

Friday 2 June 2017

Born in Coventry, Delia Derbyshire (1937-2001) was one of the pioneering figures in the development of electronic music in Britain. She worked at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop from 1962 to 1973 producing a remarkable, evocative and distinctive body of work that explored, as she termed it, 'psycho-acoustics'. She is still best remembered for her extraordinary realisation of Ron Grainer's theme tune for Doctor Who (1963) - a piece of music that would become an iconic part of the soundscape of British popular culture.

The Delia Derbyshire archive is held at The John Rylands Library which is part of University of Manchester and with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund the Delia Derbyshire Day organisation have commissioned ‘For Interest Only’, a new film that gives people a glimpse of the wonderful archive.

A special event honouring her 80th birthday is being held on Saturday 10 June 2017at Band on the Wall.

Hidden Histories, Hidden Historians

Monday 15 May 2017

Inspire Group visit to Archives+Hidden Histories, Hidden Historians is a Manchester Histories project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project will see Manchester Histories working with communities across Greater Manchester with the aim of revealing less familiar histories and heritage; that is to say, the histories of the people, buildings, families, communities and places that make up our lives.

These histories can become ‘hidden’ because they are not always recorded, nevertheless, these important social histories often shape us and the places we live, and Manchester Histories are thrilled to be supporting people across Greater Manchester to uncover their own histories. Over the coming months we'll be working with five community groups (read more about them in our next blog), plus, with the help of experts, we're developing an informative series of toolkits that will to equip anybody with the skills they need to begin researching and creating their own archives.

In our first blog about the Hidden Histories, Hidden Historians project, professional archivist, Heather Emily Roberts tells us why it is so important to her:

Hidden Histories, Hidden Historians: Why it matters (according to the archivist)

Heather Roberts

I’m Heather, the archivist for this fabulous project. So far, it has been an inspiring adventure into a handful of Manchester’s hidden histories and I’m really excited about what lies ahead. We cannot wait to share with you the outcomes of the hard work of our participating community groups. They are all working hard to create their exhibitions to be displayed at the sensational Archives+ in Manchester Central Library later in the year.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a couple of thoughts about why I think exhibiting archive material is a great idea. More specifically, why I think community groups and independent projects create such important exhibitions.

Your history, your archives, your exhibition

History is merely a story. Everyone has a different story to tell about any part of history. Usually, the only stories that get remembered and passed on are those that are written down and kept. These then become known as archives.

Archives help tell the story of history, they provide the evidence, the proof, that something happened or someone existed.

This is why it is important for you to keep your own archive. Only you can tell your story, whether that is the story of you as a person, your organisation, your work, your building, your area, whatever. If you don’t tell it, then either someone else tells it for you or no one tells it at all.

Find your archives, keep your archives and then share your archives. Perhaps share them in an exhibition.

Unless you’re going for a Victoriana “cabinet of curiosities” style, exhibitions can be much more than just a showcase of “stuff.” They can be a platform upon which you can proudly perform the story of your chosen history. Think of your history as a story, yourself as the storyteller and your exhibition as the storybook.

Community exhibitions and why they matter

Looking through content

History didn’t happen to times, dates and places and buildings. It happened within them, and it happened to people. It has happened, and continues to happen, to all of us.

We’ve all heard something on the grapevine and thought, “Hang about, that’s not right, it didn’t happen like that.” But what do you do if someone asks,“Can you prove that?” It can be difficult when you have no evidence to produce in a confident flourish of righteousness.

This is why using exhibitions to tell your side of the story is so important. Not only does it give you a voice which you control (i.e. your own), but it bestows validation upon what you’re saying (since you’re providing the proof through archives) and puts you in the context of the wider history of your area and subject.

Our understanding of history is always richer and more fulfilling with more than one voice or narrative to tell of it.

An inspiring project

Obviously, I’m biased when it comes to archives – it is my passion after all. This project has been particularly inspiring for me, as all five of the community groups have very different stories to tell but they are all telling their own story, sharing their own history in their own voices. Hopefully, many more people will be inspired to do the same.

About me: Heather Emily Roberts, professional archivist and owner of HerArchivist: Archive and Heritage Consultancy. 

Twitter: @herArchivist

Never Going Underground: The fight for LGTB+ rights

Monday 8 May 2017

Guest blog for Manchester Histories by Never Going Underground Community Curator, Jenny White.

Never Going Underground Community Curators with Ian McKellen, credit People’s History Museum

Photo (above) Never Going Underground Community Curators with Ian McKellen. Photo courtesy: People’s History Museum

I’m one of nine volunteer Community Curators who put together the landmark Never Going Underground exhibition on show at People’s History Museum to September 3rd 2017. It’s been an amazing experience, not least getting to meet gay rights icon Ian McKellen at the official opening.

Until fairly recently exhibitions and events billed as exploring LGBT history have tended to focus on the criminalisation of male same sex acts, gay male sub cultures, and the fight to reduce the age of consent. There might be a token reference to lesbians thrown in, with trans and bisexual histories pretty much ignored. 

As Community Curators we aimed to showcase diverse queer histories, so that any LGBT+ young person on a school trip to the museum could find something to identify with. We wanted to inspire visitors to come away and act for change in some way, and to highlight the importance of community.

Aged from twentysomething to seventysomething - and representing the full spectrum of LGBT+ plus a straight ally - we each brought our own passions, experiences and voices to create a unique exhibition. Supported by staff from the museum, from May 2016 we met fortnightly for progress meetings and training sessions, and were ultimately responsible for all aspects of planning, from object selection, to choosing the designer and writing labels.

We explored archives and art collections around country, approached activists for memorabilia, and hosted community consultation workshops for input on what to include. We chose items representing a wide range of activism formats including social media, craftivism, direct action, and political lobbying.

Photo (left) Hayley Cropper's Anorak Hayley Cropper’s anorak

By September 2016 we’d bagged some ace items for display including Hayley from Corrie’s iconic red anorak; a video equipment case used by Fox Fisher to make the My Genderation film series; and an original 1928 banned copy of Radclyffe Hall’s Well of Loneliness novel. We’d interviewed a number of activists including the lesbians who abseiled into the House of Lords in 1988 to protest the anti gay law Section 28; and a founder of Movement for Justice group which campaigns for migrant rights.

We were a bit worried that with such a random assortment of items the exhibition could end up looking like a jumble sale. But designers Made by Memo transformed our ideas into a vibrant, bold display, with lots of fabulous interactive and family friendly elements.

African Rainbow FamilyPhoto (right) African Rainbow Family deliver a petition to the Nigerian High Commission calling for the repeal of Nigeria’s anti-LGBT laws, 2015. Photo courtesy: African Rainbow Family

The exhibition covers the UK wide fight for LGBT+ rights, but includes plenty of Manchester specific content, including items from the huge Never Going Underground demo and concert held in 1988.  We’ve spotlighted the work of a number of local LGBT+ support and activism organisations including Rainbow Noir, Action for Trans Health, Biphoria and African Rainbow Family.

Manchester was a centre of suffragist and suffragette activism and we’ve featured a number of queer votes for women campaigners including Esther Roper and Eva Gore-Booth; music hall star Vera ‘Jack’ Holme who worked as Emmeline Pankhurst’s chauffeur; and composer Ethyl Smyth who put her musical career on hold to devote energy to the cause.

The Never Going Underground exhibition is on until 3 September 2017, and is part of a year- long programme of exhibitions, events and learning programmes at People’s History Museum exploring the past, present and future of LGBT+ activism.

Con and Eva: Gendering Revolution

Tuesday 25 April 2017

A major new exhibition about the lives of two sisters, Constance Markievicz and Eva Gore-Booth, has opened at the Irish World Heritage Centre in Cheetham Hill.

10 March to 30 June

Con & EvaCon and Eva: Gendering Revolution examines the lives of two women who played significant roles in the development of revolutionary politics in Ireland and the campaigns for women’s suffrage in Manchester in the early years of the last century. As daughters of the aristocratic Gore-Booth family, Constance and Eva were born into a world of privilege that centred initially on their home at Lissadell House in the North-West of Ireland. With Laura McAtackney (Aarhus University Denmark) and Katherine O’Donnell (University College Dublin), I was part of a team who curated Con and Eva drawing mainly on rarely seen archival material from the Lissadell Collection at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast – this is the first occasion that it has been shown in England.

Both sisters rejected the privileged world of their upbringing for a life of political activism, although often in very different spheres. Constance married an impoverished Polish count, Casimir Markievicz in 1900 and went on to become one of the leaders of the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916. Two years later she was the first woman to be elected to the British House of Commons although, as a member of Sinn Féin and opposed to British rule in Ireland, she refused to take her seat. In 1919, however, she became Minister for Labour in the Dáil Eireann, the Irish revolutionary parliament in Dublin, only the second woman in Europe to hold ministerial status.

In 1896 Eva met her lifelong partner Esther Roper, a working-class political activist from Manchester who was also of Irish descent. She subsequently moved to Manchester to live with Esther in Moss Side: the two became active campaigners for women’s suffrage and the unionisation of women workers in the North West, before moving to London in 1913 where they continued to be politically active in a range of different causes.

Our exhibition Con and Eva focuses on how aspects of the relationship between the sisters supported their very different political careers: Con promoted armed revolution while Eva was a lifelong pacifist. An important aspect of this relationship that also fed into their politics was their different creative activities. Eva was an acclaimed poet and playwright, while Con was a professionally trained artist and an actor. Her talent for visual spectacle was put to great effect when she drove a coach and four white horses into Stevenson Square in the Northern Quarter in support of Eva’s campaign against Winston Churchill’s attempts to restrict the employability of barmaids in 1908. The campaign was successful, and this was also a moment at which Con’s own politics began a radical shift towards the possibilities of mass action.

Con & Eva LaunchThe launch event on 10 March also emphasised the significance of history in the lives of Irish people in Britain today, with an address by the Irish Embassy’s First Secretary for Irish Community and Culture Ruadhri Dowling followed by a lively symposium chaired by Kate Cook, Director of the Sylvia Pankhurst Gender Research Centre at Manchester Metropolitan University. Among other things the symposium made connections between Eva and contemporary Irish queer activism and Constance and the Artists’ Campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment (that makes abortion illegal in Ireland).


Con & Eva Symposium

This symposium and launch was part of Wonder Women, Manchester’s annual feminist festival and was supported by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade through their Emigrant Support Funding Programme and the Sylvia Pankhurst Gender Research Centre.

Find out more at

Exhibition venue: Irish World Heritage Centre, 1 Irish Town Way, Cheetham Hill, Manchester M8 0RY

Guest blog for Manchester Histories by Fiona Barber; Reader in Art History and Art Research Hub Leader at Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University.

Belle Vue Pleasure Gardens Oral Histories

Monday 20 March 2017

As Gorton Monastery hosts a 2 day event on Belle Vue on Sun 19th and Mon 20th March, Jane Donaldson writes about the oral history recordings that formed part of the Manchester Histories exhibition in 2014.

The Belle Vue: Showground of the World exhibition was a collaboration between the National Fairground and Circus Archive and Manchester Histories and part of a wider project on Belle Vue Pleasure Gardens. It was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of Manchester Histories Festival (MHF) in 2014.  The exhibition celebrated the heady days of Belle Vue Zoological Gardens looking at the Zoo, Circus, Sports, Entertainment and Funfair. There were other events and projects that took place around the exhibition and this included an oral history project.Full colour drawn front cover of a Belle Vue Guide featuring a tiger walking through bushes and the words The Showground of the World.

At its height, Belle Vue attracted over 2 million visitors a year.  Founded in 1836 by John Jennison, at its peak it occupied over 165 acres and attracted two million people a year. People flocked to the Gorton site for the zoo, circus, fair, speedway, dancing, boxing, wrestling, fireworks and music for over 150 years.  The exhibition focused mainly on the 1950s until it closed in the early 80s as it was decided that this would be the period which would bring back memories of people’s time there. Black and white photograph of queues waiting to get into Belle Vue in 1946 Image courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives

Everyone involved in the exhibition would be inundated by tales from people they met who had memories of their visits to the Showground, and the passion and love that came across as they recounted theses tales was a pleasure to hear.There were so many stories, of bands that played, of sneaking in, the buses that went there, the dancing, feeding the hippos-the list went on and on.  Even younger generations told stories from their relatives and it seemed that everyone had a story to tell of Belle Vue, whether they came from Manchester or had visited it from another part of the UK.visitors pore over Belle Vue material from over the years. photo courtesy of Jack Hatton

Prior to the exhibition in 2014, a number of interviews were taken by volunteers in order to provide content for the listening devices that formed part of the exhibition.

The volunteers were able to take part in a workshop led by Fiona Cussons (then at MMU) in order to gain the skills needed to conduct the interviews.  Individuals had been identified who would provide content in order to support the five different areas of the exhibition. Speedway racers, sign riders, people who worked in the entertainment buildings, sideshow performers, DJs, photographers, wall of death riders, collectors, From the workshops, and with basic information provided, the volunteers were able to go off, devices and questions in hand to meet with interviewees and find out more about their fascinating times at Belle Vue.

Black and white photograph of 7 members of Belle Vue Aces Speedway standing with one sat in the front on a bike from 1963. Image courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and ArchivesAmong the recordings you can listen to Derek Adrian, who worked at Belle Vue with his dad, first as sign writer then moving on to creating fibre glass for the speedway bikes, who recalls the arrival of Jonah the whale. Pat Pearson talks about working on the Globe of Death. She also worked at the box office, married one of the senior staff and lived on-site, Bernard Collier, who used to ride for the Speedway Aces at Belle Vue mainly in the 1970s, and many more recalling memories of fairground rides, fireworks, dancing, brass band competitions, the flea circus, the Top Ten Club and the music and bands that performed at Belle Vue.

The interviews collected were then edited by Karen Gabay and transferred onto handheld devices that visitors could use to further enhance their exhibition experience.  This provided another aspect to the exhibition and further bringing to life the items in the cases to reinforce the love of all things Belle Vue.

During the festival, more interviews were taken and these included many of the stories that people wanted to tell, their memories lifted by seeing the items in the exhibition. The recordings were due to be deposited with the North West Sound Archive, but soon after the exhibition, the Sound Archive announced its closure.  As a lot of the North West Sound Archives were moved to Archives+ at Manchester Central Library and they agreed to take on the recordings after they had been catalogued.Full colour poster for Belle Vue Gardens Manchester

The items are now available to listen to at Central Library on listening devices for visitors to hear and are accessible during the library opening times. They have been made available via Soundcloud.

More information in the exhibition including some clips from the recordings can be found here.

A selection can be found on the Archives+ Soundcloud and the catalogue can be sccessed through the Sound archive pages of Manhcester Central Library

Healthcare for the poor before the NHS

Monday 13 March 2017

On Tuesday the 18th of April at 7pm at The Friends Meeting House Mount Street Manchester, Dr Michael Whitfield will be giving a talk and presentation about Britain’s forgotten Health-care system.

This event hosted by the Manchester Victorian Society in partnership with Ancoats Dispensary Trust will examine how healthcare was provided for the poor before the NHS came into being in 1948. Ahead of the event Linda Carver, founder of Ancoats Dispensary Trust gives us some background to the subject:

At a time when all is not well in the NHS and it is at a point of crisis, this talk is particularly relevant as it will attempt to examine how people centuries ago tried to find ways to help others who had been affected by serious illnesses.  Hospitals and GPs existed for many years before the NHS but there was also another sort of institution that helped to manage illness and that was – the dispensary. 

At a time when the Ardwick and Ancoats Dispensary (locally known as ‘Ancoats Hospital’) is on the brink of being brought back to life by the Ancoats Dispensary Trust and their partner igloo regeneration, this talk will throw light on why the dispensaries including the one in Ancoats were so important. 

The Ardwick & Ancoats Dispensary locally known as ‘Ancoats Hospital’

The Ardwick & Ancoats Dispensary

Although the Hospital itself was demolished in the late 1980s, the Dispensary remains.  It still has Grade II listed status despite it’s parlous condition and is a remarkable building that played a significant part in the social and medical history of the country. 


The Ardwick & Ancoats Dispensary        The Ardwick & Ancoats Dispensary

view of Ancoats 
during the 1950s

Photograph with permission of Manchester Libraries.  A view of Ancoats during the 1950s

During the Industrial Revolution and the growth of urban populations any medical problem affecting a worker was likely to result in poverty for the whole family.   Admission to the workhouse was feared, so the dispensaries were created to give medical care at no cost to the patient and their family, enabling them to stay at home.


Dr Whitfield is a retired Bristol GP who has written the first book about the Dispensaries  He was a senior lecturer in GP practice in the University of Bristol and has been writing about the history of medicine over the last 10 years.  Dr Whitfield will at the end of his presentation challenge the audience as to whether anything can be learned from the Dispensary system of healthcare. 

Tickets are £10 on the door and copies of Dr Whitfield’s book will be on sale or can be ordered.  Please arrive early to ensure a seat. 

Ancoats Dispensary Trust will have a presence at this event to answer any questions about the progress of saving the Dispensary and its imminent restoration.



Guest blog for Manchester Histories by Linda Carver of Ancoats Dispensary Trust



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