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Workers' Playtime launches at the John Rylands Research Institute and Library

22 Mar 2023

The exhibition explores culture and community in 19th century industrial Lancashire.

Design asset for the Workers' Playtime exhibition

About the exhibition

Workers' Playtime goes beyond the factories to explore the culture and communities created by the workers in pursuit of a better, fuller life for themselves and their children. It is a tale of political, economic and cultural self-organisation in pursuit of mutual improvement and creative expression. Above all, it is a tale of culture and community made by the hearts and minds of the hands themselves. 

The exhibit will be open from 29 March 2023 to 9 September 2023.

Items on display

  • Explore workers' lives outside of the factory including playing sport, trips to the seaside or supporting the growing Co-operative Movement.
  • Uncover the club and societies set up by workers including the Moss Side Debating Society and the brass band from Dobb Lane Sunday School.
  • Read books by Lancashire mill-workers Ethel Carnie Holdsworth, Ben Brierley and Sam Fitton who became popular writers. 
  • Explore the social side of working-class politics and the early history of the Labour Movement. 

The exhibition has been curated by Michael Sanders (Professor of 19th Literature and Culture, University of Manchester). Mike is co-investigator of the AHRC-funded Piston, Pen and Press research project exploring how industrial workers in Scotland and the North of England, from the 1840s to the 1910s, engaged with literary culture. 

Find out more

Visit the Rylands website to find out more about the exhibition